Thinking Anglicans

CofE practical advice on Funerals

I have copied this into plain text from the official page (which may change, so check it directly; this version was datestamped 16.50 Wed 18 March)

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE FOR FUNERALS

In this exceptional time, the Government’s guidance on social distancing and self-isolation will have a major impact on all aspects of everyday life, including the way funerals will be conducted for the immediate future. Christian funerals will continue in the Church of England but inevitably there will be some adaptations to protect everyone.

This means funerals can go ahead, but they may be different from what might normally be expected.

BEFORE THE FUNERAL

It is advised that meetings between the bereaved and the person taking the funeral (officiant) are held by telephone, skype etc rather than face-to-face. If meetings can only be held in person, social distancing guidance will be followed.

PLANNING THE FUNERAL

Although this will be very difficult for everyone, numbers of those attending the funeral will have to be kept to a minimum – we advise immediate family only. This should also be communicated to anyone in the wider circle of friends, family or colleagues in advance. Sadly, those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending in the present circumstances.

Any changes to the normal service will be explained by the officiant to the family.

Where family relatives or friends are unable to attend a funeral service, clergy can still take a funeral at the graveside or crematorium, even if those present are limited to clergy and funeral directors.

Consider whether a memorial service could be held at some point in the future, which is an opportunity for more people to come together once Government guidance permits.

Those who are self-isolating may be offered the opportunity to join the service via a system such as Skype or another audio link. Failing this, a recording could be made which can be sent to anyone unable to attend after the service.

Where no audio link can be achieved, officiants may be able to provide an order of service, either by email or post.

No additional people should be expected to attend the service, such as an organist, verger, sound system operator etc.

DURING THE FUNERAL

Everyone attending the service must adhere to Government guidance on social distancing. Please follow the directions of the officiant and funeral director if you are attending a service.

While naturally those present may wish to shake hands or hug, all present should refrain from doing so in light of guidance on physical distancing.

AFTER THE FUNERAL

In keeping with the recommendations to limit social gatherings, there should not be a wake or other gathering after the funeral, although it may possible to hold a gathering at a later date

If you are organising the funeral of a loved one, we are acutely aware of what a difficult time this will be. We will do our best to explain any changes or delays which may be an inevitable consequence of the current restrictions – for example, to the burial of ashes – but we are here to support you and to ensure a Christian funeral and burial can still be provided.

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Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
6 months ago

Not sure whoever came up with this takes many funerals or has much experience of mourning families. Who counts as immediate family and who decides? Children? Siblings? Grandchildren? Their spouses? You’re easily very soon getting to 50 people. Without clear, centrally set numerical limits this is a recipe for spreading the virus not to say immense pastoral antagonism. Putting both the bereaved (whose emotions will not be thinking of public health issues) and funeral workers at risk.

Edward Prebble
Edward Prebble
6 months ago
Reply to  Fr Andrew

Fr Andrew, I don’t think that absence of a fixed number is as big a problem as you say. Generally this is very good advice. In our New Zealand situation, I am sure similar advice will be coming soon, with particular reference to Maori and Pacific situations, where large funerals have crucial cultural significance. I am suggesting a useful rule of thumb with the church groups I am having to advise. When it comes to official advice or directives from the church or government authorities. If that advice is more restrictive than you expect – no gatherings of more than… Read more »

PeterK
PeterK
6 months ago
Reply to  Fr Andrew

There’s no easy solution, but personally I think ‘Immediate family’ is more helpful than giving numbers. To me, setting a slightly arbitrary number on what may be a large & complex family is at least as pastorally fraught and even less enforceable. Imagine a grieving family trying to work out the ten main mourners, say – putting numerical limits is difficult enough to do at a happy event like a wedding. Hopefully common sense and self-selection will prevail, and there is always the chance of doing a larger thanksgiving service later on. If they do spread it at least the… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
6 months ago
Reply to  PeterK

PeterK Giving a number highlights the seriousness of the issue and is vital to managing the spread. To leave this responsibility to grieving families themselves is not kind and adds to health risks. Quite simply large numbers should not be meeting – especially where shared distress will add to the problem of keeping spatial distancing. I was due to attend a funeral next week – a family of five, all married, all with three or four children, plus grand parents in their 80’s. ‘Immediate family’ starts at around 40.

Peter K
Peter K
6 months ago
Reply to  David Runcorn

David, I take the point – I once took a funeral of a lady with 99 living direct descendants !! I’m taking one next week where numbers have had to reduce. Indeed I’ve heard some funeral directors (maybe with pallbearers aged 70+) are refusing to take church services at all – just graveside. But as Edward says, there’s the issue of size of building, and 10 mourners in a small country church is potentially far more risky than 30 or 40 spread out in a town centre ‘barn’. You’re quite right that a rule from the ‘bad cop’ centre can… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
6 months ago
Reply to  Fr Andrew

Lots of crems will be putting a number on this.

Peter K
Peter K
6 months ago

Absolutely, Jeremy – based on the size of the facility.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
6 months ago
Reply to  Fr Andrew

From my 25 years experience there are some families who simply will not comply with these instructions, and who is going to act as the gatekeeper? Such limitations would also be taken very badly by the Gypsy & Traveller community for their funerals. The culture there is that the whole community is the family. Wise priests with tremendous pastoral sensitivity will be needed to find a way forward in these circumstances.

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
6 months ago

This is very good guidance indeed. It will make hard reading for so many clergy, and it plays against all our pastoral instincts. But, as someone now on the celebrants’ side of this area of work these are precisely the kinds of things we are doing. Pastoral skills will be needed in full measure to help those who will not be able to go and say the final farewell to their loved one (especially perhaps the over 70s losing a husband or wife after fifty or sixty years of marriage) even if those skills are deployed by frequent phone calls… Read more »

Priscilla White
Priscilla White
6 months ago

It is deeply disappointing that the charge for Common License is still £200. Surely the lawyers could lower the fee for this exceptional period

Shamus
Shamus
6 months ago

How does having to meet a surrogate for marriages to obtain a Common Licence comply with social distancing? Shouldn’t a way of doing it online by found? Better would be to make all incumbents surrogates as a temporary measure, and with the proviso that each application is looked over by the lawyers, everything is done online. OK, it might not comply with the absolute letter of the law, but these are exceptional times, and practical exceptional ways have to be found.

David Lamming
David Lamming
6 months ago

I understand that the lawyers at Church House are working on this (i.e. the problem that there will now be no services at which banns of marriage can be read/completed) and other issues (such as deferring APCMs) and that it is hoped there will be announcements on each of these “over the next week or two.” If emergency legislation is needed (e.g. to waive the fee for a common licence) it should be included in the Bill being introduced today in Parliament. With Easter weddings coming up, this is now urgent. (Some couples will choose to postpone their wedding, but… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
6 months ago

Who will officiate at these services? Clergy who are asthmatic, diabetic, immunosuppressed, with heart problems, morbidly obese, COPD, HIV+ or over 70 are already supposed to be self isolating for 12 weeks. That’s not going to leave many left, especially when we reach the peak death toll in a month or so’s time. The mortuaries will be stacking up by then. I can envisage direct cremations being imposed by the Government in those circumstances.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
5 months ago

On BBC Look North tonight: Leeds City Council imposing direct cremations for all future bookings.

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

Well done, Leeds. Flames-4U. That’s what I want: direct crem, piss up after if allowed. It’s good to have some down to earth (sorry) practical instruction as opposed to (archi)episcopal prolixity. The churchy documents seem to have been written without the advice of an ordinary PP to check pastoral practicalities. They’re about the institution. Where have we come across that before? And why do they stray into things that are not the church’s business? PPs were not ordained to police what happens outside church after a service. As for me, since viruses are G-d’s creatures too, I’m embracing them. Love… Read more »

Jeremy Fagan
Jeremy Fagan
6 months ago

I’m not sure of the wisdom if this if, as seems likely, at some point we’ll end up in much stricter ‘lockdown’ and we have to let down families who we’ve said can go ahead. I know as well, that people are likely to just turn up anyway, and with no verger, I’ve no way of stopping them.

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