In June, Governor Sununu allowed for both churches and funeral homes to resume their in-person services under certain restrictions. This letter from the NH Council of Churches, Caring Clergy and the NH Funeral Directors’ Association encourages open conversations and careful planning between church leaders and funeral directors to meet the many requirements:
Dear Good People Who are serving as Clergy:
We greet you in the uncertain time of Covid 19 and thank you for the important work you all do. We are a collection of people representing the NH Funeral Directors Association, the NH Council of Churches, and Caring Clergy who have been in conversation about how to conduct funerals now that restrictions have been lifted on both faith communities and funerals.
We know of the importance of a funeral or memorial service to honor a loved one, grieve together, and look for support and help in a difficult time. So we recognize the vital role funerals play and also know there will be a backlog of them in the near future.
We are writing to you to urge conversation now between funeral homes and faith communities because we believe that we have much to offer each other.
Physical Locations As restrictions are being lifted, the guidelines suggest social distancing of at least 6 feet and no more than 50% capacity (which may not necessarily be the same thing). That will limit numbers significantly in many funeral homes but faith community buildings may offer more space that can be used to gather people. Some of your faith communities are not yet ready to open, but there are some who are doing so. We are hopeful that many of our faith communities will see this as an opportunity to open our buildings to people outside our faith communities if they need a bigger space for a service. For some faith communities, this may serve as a halfway step for you before fully opening. This will require extra cleaning and we would expect additional fees to cover this may be required. Faith communities may also be able to provide volunteers to deliver hospitality or supervision.
Funeral Officiants Because many funerals have been delayed as a result of Covid 19, there will be a backlog of funerals now they are again possible. We believe that some of you clergy would be willing to officiate at additional funerals. We also are developing a list of clergy outside of the church who could serve as supplemental resources.
So, as you are thinking about reopening, we are urging you to have conversations with the Funeral Homes in your area. And we suggest you think about what your ideas are around the use of your facility and being an available officiant at needed funerals. And again we underscore this is an amazing opportunity to reach out and serve those outside of the church.
As our world cautiously reopens, may you stay safe and continue to do the important work you do.
Peter Morin, NH Funeral Directors Association
Rev. Gayle Murphy, Caring Clergy
Rev. Jason Wells, NH Council of Churches