When Someone Dies in a Time of Social Distancing


Greetings in the name of our Risen Lord! This week we are hearing news that the COVID-19 virus seems to have peaked in Ontario and other provinces. We fear that we are still far from a return to our usual routines but remain hopeful. We are especially encouraged that so far there are fewer deaths than many models had been predicting.

That said we are profoundly aware that friends and colleagues still have to face the reality of socially distanced deaths and funerals in their congregations. We are also aware of those who have family members, particularly in care facilities, who they are unable to visit or care for in person. For all of us, the big question is this, “What if my loved one dies and I can’t be there?”

Recently we were made aware of a resource from a friend and Church of Scotland pastor, Rev. Dr. Caroline Lockerbie. Caroline’s mother is in lockdown in an Ontario care facility, and Caroline lives in another province. With the support of others in the Church of Scotland, she has written a short committal liturgy for cremation. This liturgy is designed for a number of uses. 

  • First it can be read by a caregiver or chaplain at the time of death at that location. 
  • Secondly, it can be read by the family even if their loved one’s remains are not present. 

This liturgy is not really designed to be used by a minister, but by anyone else who may have to fill in in an emergency. Likewise it is not designed to replace a funeral or memorial service, which would be held at a later date; it is meant to provide comfort and care at the moment. Please feel free to share this resource with your families and/or care givers. Likewise, feel free to change edit the liturgy or even write your own.

We have attached two versions of the service, Caroline’s and another written by the Rev. Shuna Dicks. We have also attached links to resources provided by the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the (American) National Funeral Director’s Association. The NFDA resources include webinars on tele-counseling and grief at a distance. (You will have to search both pages a bit, sorry.)

Finally, we just received another document, from the Church of England, entitled Death, Grief and Hope; Straight Answers for Young People During the COVID-19 Crisis. It is also attached.

It is our hope and prayer that none of you will need to use these resources but, the reality of our current situation is that you likely will. We hope these resources may be of some help and comfort. You remain in our prayers and please know that we are always happy to connect by email, phone or Zoom.


John-Peter Smit

Click here for a Short Committal Service for Cremation prepared by Rev. Dr. Caroline Lockerbie

Click here for a Short Committal Service prepared by Rev. Shuna Dicks

Click here for the link to Presbyterian Church in Canada Resources

Click here for a link to important information from the National Funeral Directors Association

Click here for Death, Grief and Hope: Straight Answers for Young People During the Covid-19 Crisis

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