A group of MPs from the Conservative Party have been urging the Church Of England to soften their strict restrictions slightly, to allow small funerals to offer dignity and a sentimental send off for loved ones during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Churches were closed indefinitely in March, with funerals being restricted to only graveside and crematorium services. The prime minister’s spokesman said the issue was “ultimately a matter for the Church of England” but added that the guidance was “clear that funerals are able to go ahead in places of worship and crematoria where it is possible to do so”.
The MPs say the Church should “consider, most intently, the pain and anguish of those families unable to have a funeral”, asking for their compassion “to shine through in your considerations and deliberations today”.
There is now a three stage process in place for the churches to reopen as the Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to decline over the weeks ahead. The first stage would see churches facilitating the streaming of funerals to those who are not immediate family members. Followed by the second and third stage which will see the widening of ceremonies available and the amount of people in attendance being extended further than few.
Reverend Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s adviser on healthcare policy, said: “The death of a loved one is painful under any circumstances and the current situation has made this all the more difficult for those who have been bereaved.
“The House of Bishops has been meeting frequently and advice is reviewed regularly and updated as circumstances allow.
“The Church of England has consistently stated that it will always ensure that, where requested, a priest is present to conduct a funeral service, either at a crematorium or at the churchyard.”
“The advice not to conduct funeral services in church buildings – and it is advice, not instruction – was given because of concerns about parishes having capacity to conduct funerals safely, including being able to deep-clean church buildings between services.”