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Across the Chasm

by glynch — last modified 31 Oct, 2016 10:55 AM

Local priest writes book aimed helping ministers care for the families of homicide victims

A priest in Bournemouth has written a free downloadable e-book for clergy who find themselves dealing with a murder, manslaughter or other homicide.

Across the Chasm: Ministering to Those Bereaved by Homicide aims to provide a guide and to encourage pastoral care for all affected by such crimes. It was published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and is available for download in Kindle and e-pub formats here:

The Revd Dr David Wheeler, now retired to North Bournemouth after many years as a parish priest in the Diocese of Manchester, wrote Across the Chasm to share lessons he has learned from nearly two decades of ministry with families of homicide victims.

David’s calling to what can be a challenging role began two decades ago when he was confronted with a horrific pastoral situation.

“Back in 1999, I was asked to take the funeral of a teenager who had been murdered”, recalls David, “After the funeral, his mother said, to me, ‘I need to talk to someone who has been through this.’ I could tell how much that might mean to her.

“At first I wasn’t sure how to make that happen, but the internet had just arrived, and I was able to find out about a peer organisation called SAMM, Support After Murder and Manslaughter, which enables families of murder victims to talk and share with each other for mutual support.

“I was involved in starting an annual service of remembrance for these families in Manchester, and started attending monthly meetings of SAMM. I began to care greatly for the people I met and became aware of the lack of any ministry to them. I was concerned that while Christian ministry to prisoners and those recently released from jail was well established – and I agree it is vital – there is still very little for victims of crime.

“Over the years, I have taken the funeral of a further seven homicide victims, and since retiring to Bournemouth three years ago, without looking for them in any way, I have met a further five families in this position.

“In retirement, I have the time to work in this area, and was invited to write the book by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

“I am aware that most clergy might only take one or two such funerals in a lifetime’s ministry, so nobody could reasonably expect them to develop expertise on these most challenging of pastoral situations. I hope the book will assist clergy and lay ministers in these situations, and point them to where they can find additional direct support.

“I appreciate that even reading a story like this can take people back to very dark places, and I can be contacted on

SAMM also operates a helpline on 0845 872 3440 (local call rates).

The Checklist for ministering to victims of homicide ( PDF document icon pdf) from the book has been reproduced on the Diocesan website.

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