Policy for Graveside and Memorial Services in a Time of Covid-19

Policy for Graveside and Memorial Services in a Time of Covid-19

April 2020      

Beloved Community,

As we listen to the nightly news reporting what is happening around the globe, in NYC and now in California, it is impossible to ignore the question, “What if someone in the congregation dies?” First let me say, this is a crucial time for all of us to make certain that our papers are in order so that our families or those closest to us might know how to act in the event of our death.

The Five Last Wishes is a legal document pertaining to your wishes for the days leading up to death and a celebration of life when such an event is possible. This will suffice as legal documentation once it is complete with a witness signature. You may access this document the following ways:

For Christians, gathering to mourn the dead, celebrate their life, and proclaim the hope of Resurrection are essential practices of our faith. During the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID19 outbreak, our usual mourning rituals have been interrupted. We think of the women on that first Easter, who went to follow their familiar mourning ritual to anoint Jesus’s body, to find it disrupted. We remember their initial shock and confusion and feel this, too. We’re waiting to feel the hope of Resurrection. In times of trial like the death of a loved one, we turn to the familiar practices from our faith and ancestors. And so, we know that this disruption for a grieving community is doubly hard. I grieve this disruption with you.

Here is what the church is able to offer at this time based on best practices from the Alban Institute, a trusted source for sound guidance for churches and pastors.

We will not risk more deaths in the celebration of life. These guidelines are hard, and necessary to limit the spread of the virus.

We will engage end of life discussions and memorial planning remotely. If your loved one is passing or has passed please let me know as soon as possible. I will be attentive to you via phone, facetime, or zoom. My cell number is 415-525-1620 and my email is curran@sonomaucc.org

Physical participation for a memorial service or graveside internment is limited to 10 people. If you or a loved one should pass, who would need to be present in the immediate aftermath of the loss. You are encouraged to have this difficult conversation now with those closest to you. Remember it is an act of compassion to self-limit at this time. The smaller the gathering the better for the safety of all concerned.

We must resist the desire to visit a grieving family in person and/or be present at services: This is unbelievably hard, because it is what we do best. We take pride in being there for one another in times of loss, but these are unique times and being physically present is not safe. Cards, texts, e-mails and phone calls are the best resource we have to support grieving families during this pandemic.

We are able to host a funeral service at the church but only allow in ten people in the sanctuary.

We are able to host a graveside service outdoors and require that all people practice social distancing of 6 feet between one another. We are able to accommodate 10 people present.

We are not able to host a meal following the funeral 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.

Thank you. Bless you.

Rev. Curran Reichert