The article below was shaped by a Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) Sprint on “Death & Dying Among Friends During Covid-19.” We’d like to thank Sprint Members David Morrison, (Lancaster Meeting); Tedford Taylor (Yardley meeting); Michael Kachur (Friends of Philadelphia Montly Meeting); and George Schaefer, (Abington Meeting) who also serves the community as PYM’s Care & Aging Coordinator.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, Friends are urged to consider the advices and queries below as they formulate their meeting’s pandemic funeral and memorial plan:
Burial Advices & Queries:
During the burial, Friends are advised to consider holding an outdoor memorial meeting for worship that observes appropriate social/physical distancing. If staff are hired to assist with the burial, they should remain safe while performing their duties.
- How will a graveside interment be hosted observing proper social/physical distancing? How many people can be safely accommodated at the burial site?
- Should a memorial meeting for worship be held outdoors after the burial interment, weather permitting? If the weather changes, how will the memorial proceed?
- How will the meeting decide that burials and interments are not possible at this time? How will this decision be communicated to members and their families?
Funeral Advices & Queries:
Friends are advised to develop a specific policy for the funeral and burial of a member who has died during the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. This policy should include guidelines for handling the body and ensuring the safety of vulnerable persons.
It is also advised that if the meeting has a practice of viewing the deceased or has been providing funeral direction services for members (either at their home or in the meetinghouse) that these practices should cease immediately due to the risk of infection and the safety and care required in handling Covid-19 infected corpses.
Only professional funeral directors licensed in the respective state should be involved in the transporting and handling of a Covid-19 corpse buried at meeting.
- How will funeral planning be conducted remotely?
- If the meeting is willing to host a funeral service (allowing no more than 10 persons to be present) how will social/physical distancing be observed and assured given the physical limitations of the locale?
- Would the meeting arrange a memorial meeting for worship to honor the deceased to be conducted remotely? Would live streaming and/or recording of the memorial be permitted?
- What leadership role will the meeting pastoral care and worship committees provide in a remote memorial meeting for worship?
- How will the meeting decide that funerals and memorials are not possible at this time? How will this decision be communicated to members and their families?
Reception Repast Advices & Queries:
It is advised that meetings consider cancelling the holding of post-funeral receptions especially those during which light refreshments are served. The logistical and safety considerations are currently too great for a meeting to host eating and drinking on their premises.
- How will the meeting decide that post-funeral and post-memorial receptions are not possible at this time? How will this decision be communicated to members and their families?
- When a burial is requested get in touch with the funeral director or a local funeral home to learn about the latest guidelines regarding Covid-19 burials in your State;
- Consider asking Friends and/or their families to make a list of the 10 people they would want at the funeral service or graveside burial and sharing this list with the meeting; if friends or relatives will be traveling for the event, consider asking that the appropriate self-quarantine practice be observed to reduce risk to others;
- Considering the number of member/volunteers in meeting, it may be necessary to limit (weekly, monthly, etc.) the number of burials, funerals and memorial meetings the meeting can safely oversee. It may also be necessary to suspend and postpone these events until they can be conducted with safety for all.
- Encourage Friends to prayerfully consider the ethical questions involved in end-of-life planning especially as it involves the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the use of medical resources such as life-sustaining devices that are in limited supply.