Thinking Anglicans

Funerals: are they too risky?

Update: Public Health England published new advice on 31 March. See press release, and the guidance document.

The Good Funeral Guide issued a call last Friday for ALL funeral services to cease for the time being. See their blog post Please, stop now. The whole article is worth a read.

…The decision to exempt funerals from the current ban on social gatherings was undoubtedly made for compassionate reasons, but the current lack of clear instruction and direction is leading to anguish and suffering beyond imagination.

By allowing funeral ceremonies to continue in some form or other, bereaved people – and all those supporting them – are genuinely risking their health and even their lives by gathering together to try and have a funeral like the ones we are used to, yet in most cases, grieving people are ending up with a funeral that has been pared down to something almost unrecognisable. Almost everything we are familiar with in a funeral ceremony has been stripped away by the attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19. What we are left with is worse than nothing…

The situation in the Church of England is fully reported today by the Church TimesFunerals in churches are too risky, say bishops.

…Though current government guidance states that funerals may continue to take place in church buildings, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and diocesan bishops, believe that this presents an unnecessary “layer of risk”, owing to the difficulty of cleaning churches.

In a letter to all C of E clergy last Friday, they state: “The medical, epidemiological, and public health advice we have received clearly indicates that this represents an additional layer of risk that we do not need to take. Cleaning a church building after a funeral is much harder to do than a crematorium chapel.

“Furthermore, the ability of a parish priest to control the number of mourners will always be compromised by the proper instincts to care for the bereaved at the moment of a funeral. Of course, this is costly, but we believe the cost is less likely to be in human lives. Consequently, we are continuing to ask clergy to conduct funerals at the graveside or in a crematorium chapel…”

Newly published resources for funerals

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Anne Eyre
Anne Eyre
7 months ago

Having lost 2 great friends this week(not to CV19) I found the reflection helpful .

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
7 months ago

Sorry to hear, Anne. It sounds as if funerals at present are hugely distressing, though people still often want a service to remember the dead. The prayer sheet currently issued is very different from being present and might not be easy to use for many agnostics, atheists and people of other faiths who might have attended a friend’s or relative’s funeral and might take part in an online service. In some cases it would seem pointless even to hold a funeral since not one person would be allowed to attend (for those with no living parents, children or partners). At… Read more »

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