Funerals and Memorials During COVID-19

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything — a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Gathering to mourn for someone who has died, celebrate their life, and proclaim the hope of resurrection are essential practices of the Christian faith. During the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, our usual grieving rituals have been interrupted. We are unable to bring our church community together as we would wish to honor, grieve, and celebrate the lives of our members and friends who lived faithfully. We cannot join our voices together to sing the hymns and songs that bring us comfort, gather in person to find comfort in the presence of one another, or hold one another as we entrust our loved ones to God’s eternal care. We grieve this disruption with everyone who mourns.

Holding a Memorial Service

Until the State of Emergency and shelter in place order is lifted for Michigan we will be limited in our funeral practices. Graveside services limited to ten people or less are possible, as are zoom services online, with some restrictions. Services can be recorded and shared with a broader set of friends and family members. Services for ten people can be held in the Sanctuary and recorded. Some services bear additional costs for recording and editing. Contact Rev. Rogers for more information at mrogers@firstpresbyterian.org.

Grieving together is important, however, and so other options might be considered. Families might create a “guest book” website or Facebook page where people can leave messages, songs, photos of food offerings, videos of family and friends singing a song, reciting a prayer or poem, photos of flowers, or artwork. Seeing other people’s contributions can help others feel less alone in their grief. You may want to consider something more private to share stories and photos. You can create a private Facebook Group and send invitations or a link to only selected people. In the group you can post discussion prompts or questions: How did you meet? Favorite memory? What did you learn from them? These can be collected and shared over a few weeks or a few months via email or a free newsletter service like Tinyletter. Funeral homes may also have options. We advise against families gathering. Family should limit the size of any home gathering to avoid spreading the virus and consider postposing a memorial meal to a time when the crisis is past. The logistical and safety considerations are too great. First Presbyterian is not able to host a meal or reception following any memorial, funeral, or graveside service at this time.

While we are limited in what we are able to host at this time, we are able to plan for memorials after the pandemic has passed. We would welcome the opportunity to host a memorial service for your loved one at a later date when we can all safely gather and celebrate their life.