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Guidance for weddings, funerals and baptisms 

5 May - 5pm

This latest version of our guidance (5 May 2020) includes changes in the advice around funerals.

We appreciate that following this guidance will cause significant inconvenience and upset to those affected. However, we should abide by it not only because the government will enforce it, but also because we wish to protect the vulnerable. Any social interaction in person risks spreading the coronavirus disease. We have already heard that those who are vulnerable to the disease feel their lives being are cast as less important than the personal convenience of those who ignore the advice. We therefore follow the advice, as individual Christians and as churches, as a witness to Jesus’ concern for the vulnerable.
 

Weddings
  • Weddings must be postponed in line with the clear requirement from the government.

Baptisms
  • Baptisms must be postponed in line with the clear requirement from the government that places of worship remain closed, other than for funerals, broadcasting of worship and providing support to the vulnerable through the operation of foodbanks etc.

We appreciate this feels to be a restriction of individual religious liberty, especially given our emphasis on believer’s baptism. Nevertheless, baptism is not only a sign of the faith of the individual but of their belonging to the body of Christ as expressed by the wider church. So we refrain from baptisms until such a time that the church can gather once more.

In the case of anyone who seeks baptism who is themselves seriously unwell or in danger of dying, please speak to the hospital or hospice chaplaincy team and they will advise what may be done and how they can help.
 

Funerals

For the foreseeable future, funerals are likely to focus on the committal alone.

An order of service for a committal can be found on p240 of Gathering for Worship, or p135 of Patterns and Prayers for Christian Worship. Another resource that is useful for a variety of acute and unusual situations is Alternative Pastoral Prayers: Liturgies and Blessings for Health and Healing, Beginnings and Endings by Tess Ward.

  • We continue to recommend that funerals should take place in crematoria chapels or at the graveside only. However, the regulations do allow for funerals to take place in a place of worship. Before agreeing to use your church building for funerals please consider carefully how you will ensure that mourners and workers involved in the management of funerals are protected from infection. Please realise that holding a funeral service in two locations increases the risk to both groups. You will also need to consider the health and safety of those individuals who clean and steward the building, as well how you will respond if more people than allowed seek to attend. It is strongly advised that you consider the government guidance in full before making a decision to use your building.

The guidance requires the following for a venue used for funerals:

  • Restrict the number of mourners so that a safe distance of at least 2 meters can be maintained between individuals.
  • Determine the maximum number who can be accommodated, but numbers attending should be minimised as far as possible.
  • Ensure that hand washing facilities with soap and hot water and hand sanitiser are available and clearly signposted.
  • Ensure that processes are in place to clean and disinfect the area in which the service has taken place both before and after each service, paying attention to frequently touched objects and surfaces, using regular cleaning products.
  • Manage the flow of mourners in and out of the venue.
  • Maximise the ventilation rates of the premises by opening windows and doors where possible.


The next four bullet points are for information as the funeral director will normally liaise with the family of the deceased about these issues:

  • As outlined in government guidance, mourners should be restricted to members of the deceased person’s household and close family members. Where none of these exist or are able to attend, the funeral may be attended by a small number of friends. However, some crematoria are dictating a maximum number of mourners and you should check this via the funeral director. [FOR WALES ONLY: Guidance from the Welsh government restricts funeral attendance to named mourners who have been specifically invited.  The number of invitations that may be issued will be indicated by the person or authority responsible for the place where the funeral is held. Local funeral directors should be able to advise accordingly.] 
  • Mourners who are symptomatic should not attend the funeral service due to the risk they pose to others.
  • Mourners who are self-isolating due to a possible case of Covid 19 in their household should be facilitated to attend. They should:
  • Not attend if they have any symptoms at all.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 2m between themselves and others.
  • Advise the other mourners that they are self-isolating and ensure that they do not attend at the same time as another mourner who may be extremely clinically vulnerable.
  • Practise careful hand and respiratory hygiene including washing their hands more often, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth, cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin.
  • Use their own transport to attend where possible.
  • Mourners who are extremely clinically vulnerable should be facilitated to attend should they wish to do so.  They are not advised to attend a funeral if there are others attending who are self-isolating due to another member of their household being unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, as they could be incubating the disease.  They should follow the general social distancing advice and maintain a distance of 2 metres away from others as a minimum.  Actions to reduce their risk of infection could include:
  • Advising other attendees that there is an extremely clinically vulnerable person attending and reiterating the need to stay home if they are unwell and be respectful of the vulnerable person’s need to avoid close contact at any point.
  • Advising the mourner to travel to the venue by the safest route possible, preferably in a car by themselves, or someone from their household.
  • Considering the additional risk involved if attending the funeral requires travelling by public transport.
  • Ensuring that mourners who are in a clinically vulnerable group do not attend the same ceremony as mourners who are in household isolation.

Mourners who are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable should adhere to rigorous hand and respiratory hygiene at all times but particularly whilst out of the home environment. Hand sanitiser or sanitising wipes should be used regularly whilst outside the home.

  • The above restrictions on attendance also apply to ministers, so if you are in one of the categories which could then restrict the ability of others to attend it would be better to ask another minister to preside.
  • In the case of those who have died from Covid-19, mourners will not be able to take part in any ritual or practice that brings them into contact with the body.
  • Ministers should conduct funeral visits by phone or video link wherever possible.


The following possibilities are worth bearing in mind:

  • Phone key family members who cannot attend, both before and after the ceremony. You can offer prayer over the phone.
  • Keep track of all funerals and family contact details so that you can visit as soon as it is permitted.
  • Encourage families facing these restrictions to consider holding a service of thanksgiving for the person who has died once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
  • Alternatively, record a reading, prayers, eulogy and message beforehand and make this available to those not present, so they ‘share’ in the service as it takes place. It can also be offered to anyone wishing to later listen in. You can also produce a leaflet that contains all of the above written within it.  A service sheet to commemorate the person who has died may still be printed. You can then print the text of the service inside or add it later and send the leaflets round to all those not present.
  • Some crematorium chapels have the facility to live stream the service, even if it is short. If you want to do this, you should speak to the funeral director to see if it is possible.


Above all, please pray for all involved. It is appreciated that these guidelines will cause much distress for families who are mourning. They will be hard for ministers and churches to keep when everything within us wishes to offer God’s comfort to those who are suffering. Nevertheless, we commit to protecting the vulnerable and so we lean on God’s grace in these circumstances and pray that he will bring the comfort of his Spirit where we may be unable physically to do so.

Ministries Team

05 May 2020



 

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