What do I do about pastoral care during a time of pandemic?
What do I do about wedding and funerals?
What do I do about wedding and funerals?
These are challenging questions in a challenging time. One of the strengths of church has always been its gift of community. And it is in community that we find the care for our souls, minds, and bodies. There are moments when people’s need for the care of their church and their pastor is crucial and pivotal. Death is one of those. Crisis is one of these. Both are woven into the fabric of this pandemic. Many pastors are struggling and want to know how to provide pastoral and spiritual care.
We are guided by principles that draw upon the wisdom and insight of health care professionals. We want to be aware of the risk of becoming ill. They teach us how. We want to be aware of the risk of becoming a source of infection to others (either as an individual carrier or from a contaminated surface in our buildings.) They teach us caution.
We have learned that this is a constantly changing situation with daily updating guidance and guidelines to ‘flatten the curve’. They come to us constantly from local, state and federal officials in both government and the health care industry. So because this pandemic creates such a fluid situation that could change in a day or a week, we offer these as our current recommendations:
- We encourage churches to continue to suspend in person worship in keeping with the guidance from Federal and State officials. We are grateful for the adaptations and creativity that our churches are sharing with each other during this time. You can find more resources for online and creative worship approaches on our website.
- We encourage pastors to take care of themselves and their families. Following the guidelines for physical distancing and healthy practices is a start. There are times when the stress and burden and fear can be paralyzing and overwhelming. That is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. In this time of crisis there is a heightened need to ensure that pastors attend to the sabbath that provides rest and renewal. And there is a heightened need to connect with colleagues who share our struggles and offer support. (Visit this section of our website for information on pastoral check-in hours being held by the Mass. Council of Churches)
- We encourage churches to suspend church meetings and events, rites and rituals that would gather more than 10 people at the same time in the same place. You can find some guidance for conducting business and committee/board votes on this section of our website.
- We encourage pastors and church leaders to refrain from in person visits with church or community members. We encourage instead that pastoral and spiritual care be conducted via phone calls, online video conferencing, letters, emails, etc. Many people are finding creative ways to form authentic and powerful community through online tools. In this time of social isolation created by physical distancing, we encourage all of our church leaders to discover and share new ways to safely gather people using the online technology and social media that are available to us.
- We encourage churches to refrain from weddings and funerals that would gather more than 10 people at the same time and the same place. You may find additional guidance from your local funeral directors and local health agents related to public gatherings. Some links you may find helpful:
- Our National UCC has developed a very helpful guide for pastoral and spiritual care during pandemics available via Google docs here.
- Our siblings in the Presbyterian offer this additional insight from https://www.pcusa.org/covid19/
“Funerals:. The PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship sought guidance from Thomas G. Long, author of Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral and The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care (with Thomas Lynch), and provides the following guidelines based on his response. ‘At the time of death, have a very small group of family accompany the body/ashes to the place of interment. Once people are gathering in public again, have a memorial service that begins with recounting the story of the earlier interment. The body of the deceased is honored and accompanied; concerns about public health are met; and there will one day be a time for a wider, public witness to the resurrection’. See other useful information from the National Funeral Directors Association.”
The Rev. Don Remick is Bridge Conference Minister