Minister offering online memorial services for the bereaved

A minister in Perthshire is offering online memorial services in place of public funerals due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

They would be recorded by Rev Dr Marjory MacLean alone in a church after consultation with bereaved families, then posted to the congregation's YouTube channel for a few hours on the same day as the committal service.

It would enable people who would ordinarily attend services to pay their respects to watch the service in the safety of their own homes.

Rev Dr Marjory MacLean
Rev Dr Marjory MacLean

Dr MacLean, minister of Abernyte, linked with Inchture and Kinnaird and linked with Longforgan, decided to act after restrictions on traditional funerals were put in place by the Church of Scotland due to the COVID-19 crisis.

She said: "Often a funeral in our tradition consists of what is essentially a memorial service and a separate very short committal service, often attended only by the family.

"While committal services are very constrained at the moment, this idea allows the memorial service to be attended by anyone."

Social distancing

The Church of Scotland has decreed that no funeral service can take place in church buildings, which have been closed for practically all activities.

Attendance at services held elsewhere must be limited to immediate close family – parents or the spouse and the couple's adult children, but not their partners.

Social distancing guidelines for those who are not of the same household – no closer than two metres – must be adhered to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus which can have fatal consequences.

Dr MacLean, convener of the Chaplains to Her Majesty's Forces Committee, said she had already recorded several services for families.

She said: "If we can do Sunday services using social media platforms like YouTube, then why not memorial services in place of traditional funerals?

"From the family's point of view, the usual conversation takes place with the minister by phone or video conference to plan the service and give directions about the tribute and so on.

"A period of time, perhaps a few hours, is agreed upon as the time the service will be publicly available on our YouTube channel.

"The family sends that information and the link to anyone they know would have attended the funeral.

"It could be followed up by something like a scheduled Zoom call for the whole family to share their memories and even each raise a glass to the person whose life has been celebrated in this way.

"I would commend this idea of online memorial services at this difficult and testing time."

Great comfort

Rev Dr George Whyte, Principal Clerk of the General Assembly, is supportive of the move where possible.

He said: "The very restricted attendance now allowed at funeral services means that even people who are very close to the deceased will not be able to be present.

"This is a chance to be reminded of the good memories of shared life and the appreciation of their friend or loved ones gifts.

"I'm sure that for many of them to be able to hear a tribute on the day the funeral takes place would be a great comfort in their loss."