Covid 19: Funeral

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Today I took two funerals at our local crematorium. They were both pre-booked before the lockdown and neither of the deceased contracted Covid 19. 

They were both local families who had requested my services but neither attended the church.

Usually I would meet the family in person at their home a week before the funeral to discuss arrangements, prepare the eulogy, read scripture and pray. If they are willing I would then return a second time to confirm the details (ensuring that I have the correct names of all the Grandchildren etc), read scripture and pray. 

I would then meet the family in the home of the deceased the morning of the funeral for “Family Prayers” before leading the procession (with the hearse) to the end of the road. A Welsh Valley tradition. 

The service and committal are both usually at the Crematorium, (very occasionally at the church). 

In such a close community such as the Welsh Valleys, funerals are very well attended. I have rarely done a funeral with less than fifty mourners (and as many as 2,000). 

Following the service I would receive an invite to the wake (usually at the local rugby club). I do go on occasion – if appropriate. 

The following week I hope to meet the family again with a printed copy of the Eulogy in a card and offer further literature about our church and the hope we have in Jesus.

But in light of the Coronavirus and the national lockdown I can no longer follow this process.

So here are some practical pointers that I hope will be of assistance if you are conducting a funeral service during lockdown.

Before the Funeral

Pray.

This is going to be tough and made even harder under the heightened anxiety of the lockdown.

Prepare everything over the phone

Phone technology is more familiar to older relatives (and friends) of the deceased. Nobody will feel left out. Zoom and other video conferencing apps can cause added anxiety in a potentially difficult situation. I would not use them unless recommended by the family.

Make sure you have contacted all the family and friends that wish to be involved.

Your initial contact may give you all the information you need, but it is worthwhile to call wider family and friends out of courtesy to see if they have anything to add. 

Follow Government guidelines

New regulations limit the amount of mourners that can attend a funeral. Our local crematorium has stipulated a maximum of five guests. Make the family aware that you are up to date with the guidelines. This will save any embarrassment on the day if others wish to come.

Liaise with the Funeral Director about who can come.

Please be sensitive, deciding who can come can cause a family feud at a most difficult time.

Make the effort to contact all those in the immediate family (and close friends) who cannot come because of the restrictions (especially elderly relatives). Help them feel involved by asking for any anecdotes that they wish to add to the eulogy, or simply share with them what you hope to say on the day. Assure them that you will give their condolences during the service. Offer to send a copy of the Eulogy and Order of Service to those who can’t come.

The Funeral Service

The families grief will be amplified by the tragedy of seeing row after row of empty seats. Be conscious of this. 

Arrive as early as possible to give you more time with the family. Expect additional members to attend to view from afar. Make sure you go and speak to them – even if they are five minutes walk away in the car park.

A gentle handshake or a pat on the arm speaks volumes, but this cannot be done. Social Distancing limits our ability to communicate, so more time is necessary to show your support to the family verbally. They will need it.

Thank God for the five in attendance and preach Christ as you would normally to a full house, to quote Rev. Richard Wurmbrand “Preach to the unseen angels”. You will have a small but captivated audience with no where to hide, they are in deep grief and pleading for hope. Jesus is always the answer. Take your time, embrace the silence. 

When it comes to the hymn. Offer the family to stand and simply ponder the words if they do not feel comfortable singing in an empty room. Gauge their response, if they are not singing, remain mute.

At the end of the service

Still respecting ‘Social Distancing’, offer your condolences again to the family then politely and promptly depart, do not linger. 

Wash your hands when you get home. 

Follow up with a phone call over the coming days.

Love them. Pray for them.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Eastern Valley Superhero Holiday Club

But Jesus said,Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

The Gospel witness in the Eastern Valley is close to extinction, in our own community of around 10,000 people it is safe to assume that less than 100 of them attend church regularly (1% of the population). The majority of which are elderly in small congregations (I hear as low as three people) across a handful of churches. Without God’s intervention, we can assume that most of this witness will not be with us in the next ten years. Now is the time to Sow with Tears!

When the Lord brought my family and I to Abersychan just two years ago, Noddfa seemed to be coming to an end. It had just fifteen members, all (bar five) were in their 70’s and over, some were even too frail to make church on a Sunday.

Regular readers will know that since then the Lord has blessed us. Last year we had six baptisms and the congregation has grown significantly made up of all ages, matching the demographic of where God has called us to serve.

The auxiliary ministries have also grown; Sunday School, Monday Club and the Mothers and Toddlers have welcomed a five-fold increase. By God’s Grace we are now in a healthier position.

We have tried many different activities to reach out to the community over the last two years, all with mixed results; family friendly services, BBQ’s, Firework nights and this week we put on a holiday club for the children.

Unlike the other evangelistic meetings (that I have forced onto the community), the holiday club was different, we were asked by the community (at the school gates) to run it, so we joyfully obliged.

The theme was a Superhero Training Academy and the lessons were based on Ephesians 6, the Armour of God.

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The children would register each morning before starting a ten minute sing-a-long. The groups were then split into two. One would stay in the chapel to learn the memory verse (Ephesians 6:11), then hear a story (relevant to the days piece of Armour). Then the children would take part in a treasure hunt, quiz, word searches or colouring in.

Meanwhile group two would be in the back hall building craft (the Armour of the day) and enjoying a drink and biscuit.

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Then after 45 minutes, the two groups would swap (via a conga line) and we would repeat.

For the younger children, we provided a crèche area for the parents who wanted to stay.

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At the end of each day we asked the parents to join us for a recap of what was taught and gave out the worksheets and prizes for the children to take home with them.

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(To avoid copyright issues) Monday was ‘flying-black-rodent-man’ utility belt of truth, Tuesday was ‘Viking-Thunder-god’ helmet of Salvation, Wednesday was Sword of the Spirit (there is no Superhero I know of with a Sword, so I wowed the children with a perfectly safe replica). Thursday was ‘Captain star spangled banner’ shield of faith and we finished on Friday with ‘Ferrum-man’ Prayer in the Spirit.

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On Friday the children all went home with their Armour of God (modeled below) and a keep sake book with all that they had learned this week.

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I have to admit that I did very little towards this week. I currently have to balance the ministry with secular work, so I could only be there on the Wednesday. All the hard work was done for God’s Glory by church members and some of the mum’s (you know who you all are – thank you so much).

The Wednesday Team

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I also want to thank Councillor Giles Davies for his support and promotion, Emmanuel Newport for their prayers and Ebenezer Cwmbran for all the Superhero decorations – the church looked great!

My wife is now looking forward to putting her feet up for a day or two after a busy week, but the fun has only just begun! We welcomed over 30 children over the course of the week and now we seek to build on these relationships with them and their families, so they can feel welcome to join our other activities and ministries and Noddfa.

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When we were planning this week, we wanted to get the parents involved as much as possible. We did not want to fall into the trap  of providing a drop off centre for children but give ourselves the opportunity to interact with their wider family as much as possible.

Teaching the Gospel should never be reduced to simply a children’s activity, parents need to hear about Jesus to, so we worked very hard to invite them in and get them involved as much as possible (even if it was just at the end). All in the hope that they will see that church is not just for the very young or for the very old, neither is it boring, but it is a welcoming place of learning and of family that radiates the love of God.

As fun as we tried to make this week for the children we need to remember that what we are teaching them is not simply moral lessons, but serious truths that have eternal consequences.

Our Valley is arguably ‘post-Christian’, we are back to an Acts situation. We can no longer rest on society to bring people to us, neither assume Bible knowledge on those outside the church – the Gospel is simply not getting taught anymore.

People need to hear afresh that there is a God and that He loves them, He is worthy of their time and worship, His Word is truth and that the Bible is not simply about good moral teaching but an important message of Grace needed to be heard by all, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  1 Tim 1:15.

A super huge big thank you for all those who helped and came along, you made it a very special week for us all. (We are hoping to do another in October).

We run a similar ministry every Sunday Morning during the service (11am-12noon) for the children feel free to come and join us for some quiet time under the teaching of God’s Word.

For more information visit our website: www.NoddfaBaptist.co.uk