Scottish minister offers online funerals for loved ones during Covid-19 crisis

Families and friends unable to say a final farewell in person to loved ones who have died during the coronavirus lockdown will now be able to pay their respects through virtual funerals.

A minister is offering online church memorial services in place of public funerals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rev Dr Marjory MacLean, minister of Abernyte, Inchture and Kinnaird and Longforgan in Perthshire, decided to act after restrictions on traditional ceremonies were put in place by the Church of Scotland in order to comply with social-distancing advice.

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After consultation with bereaved relatives, the reverend will record a personalised service alone in a church which can be posted online to coincide with the committal service.

Church of Scotland minister Rev Dr Marjory MacLean is offering special personalised online funerals for people mourning loved ones during the coronavirus lockdown

The move will allow mourners who would ordinarily have attended services to pay their respects from the safety of their own homes.

Dr MacLean 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.”

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

Attendance at services held elsewhere must be limited to immediate close family members – parents, spouse and adult children only.

Social-distancing guidelines demand that people not living in the same household should stay at least two metres apart in a bid to avoid the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Rev Dr George Whyte, principal clerk of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has welcomed the digital tributes.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Dr MacLean, who is also convener of the Chaplains to Her Majesty’s Forces Committee, is already preparing for the first pre-recorded online memorial service.

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.”

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