Support the Café

Search our Site

Celebration of life on hold

Celebration of life on hold

Something Episcopalians do especially well is a funeral service. But Covid-19 has put many funerals on hold depriving loved ones of that celebration of life and the communal declaration of the hope of the life to come.

Churches have adapted worship to this period of social isolation. We’re good at worship, and we put our time and energy there. We’re all televangelists now.

But are we prepared for a rising number of deaths?

Deaths in our elderly congregations. Deaths where loved ones cannot be with the dying in their final days. Deaths where spouses locked down in retirement homes cannot be with family, where burials are delayed because spouses cannot attend. The familiar course of grief is disrupted.

Funeral homes are already overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases and we’re not at the peak. Localities are making plans for makeshift mortuaries. If it’s not happening in your locale it will.

Zoom is tolerable for worship. It isn’t tolerable for a funeral.

You likely know at least one person affected by the death of a loved one. It will be many more.

Is your church preparing? As the number of deaths inevitably rises, are you prepared for this new reality imposed on grieving?

Please share with us your ideas. What lessons have you already learned? What resources have you found helpful? Where are you receiving support?


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bruce Cornely

Going out on a limb here, but I think an expedient option would be cremation. Many bodies “stored for later” uses up space that might better be used for treatment of the living. As far as funeral services are concerned, I don’t think the option of online services should be set aside. Having worshiped with videos from St. Thomas NYC and St. Mark’s Cathedral Seattle, I believe that funeral service presented in this way can be extremely worshipful as well as helpful. Consider the setting of a beautiful church, with clergy offering the service with a timely and encouraging sermon, sensitive reading of the words from the Book of Common Prayer, as well as organ music for meditation, hymns for praise and inspiration possibly sung by a small resident choir.
This gives the appropriate liturgical service to which we as Episcopalians are accustomed and of which many are in need. People can worship together in spirit, not in danger, and not having to leave home, as well as being relieved of the possibility unknown exposure to infection.
As well, it also gives encouragement for people to put pen to paper and express their thoughts and feelings in a more permanent way.
I dearly miss congregational worship, but am grateful for the gift of online virtual worship. It holds possibilities for more than the Daily Office and Holy Communion.

Steven Wilson

Yes, we’ve already had this conversation. Small immediate-family-only outdoor services in our garden followed by whatever interment is required. A “community wake” scheduled in mid-June for everyone who’s lost family during this crisis. Lots of cards, phone calls and conversations 8 feet apart through open windows for shut-ins and nursing home residents.


I’m thinking that at some later date our parishes might have a memorial service marking those deaths. It might not be feasible to have individual services for each member as we usually do… and our clergy will need to practice deep self care as we help everyone else through the grief. As a retired clergy person, without direct responsibility for a parish, as long as I’m healthy and can protect myself, I expect to help with families inside and outside the church who need a clergy person when most are exhausted and busy.

Eric Bonetti

Kathy, so glad you and others can be of service during such a difficult time. Thank you!

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café