Issue 147    Sept 1st   to December 1st 2020

Funerals and memorial services during the COVID crisis

One of the many sad effects of the COVID crisis has been the limitations imposed on funerals. The current government advice for England is a limit of 30 attendees, whether at the crematorium or at a gathering afterwards in a private home or garden, but it has previously been as low as 10 mourners. Social distancing of 2m apart is still required and it’s heart-breaking to see relatives unable to hug or console each other. That’s if they can attend at all; earlier in the crisis travel restrictions impeded or curtailed family members from travelling to a service.

However, there have been some more positive developments. Almost all crematoriums offer video-streaming of services, and this has become more popular as people get increasingly familiar with Zoom meetings and the like. Another partial solution has been to perform a low-key funeral at the crematorium for a small number of family mourners, then follow it some weeks later with a memorial service, perhaps also combined with the committal of the ashes, in a cemetery, natural burial ground or even scattered in a river.

I work as a Humanist funerals celebrant, accredited by Humanists UK, in the areas around Newbury, Hungerford, Marlborough and Swindon. The Funeral Director still organises and directs the overall funeral (hence the name) but I am the person who researches the life of the deceased with the family and presents a fitting and meaningful tribute to the person who has died. Humanist funerals are an alternative for people who don’t want a religious element to the service. Instead, our focus is on a celebration of the life of the deceased – that’s why we’re called Celebrants. You don’t have to be a Humanist to have a humanist funeral; they’re for anyone who believes that we don’t need organised religion to lead a good and valued life. There are no hymns or prayers but there is always a moment of reflection, where any religious mourners can offer a silent prayer or thoughts of their own, together with some appropriate music.

The best feedback I get during funeral services is when I describe some characteristic of the deceased and see mourners nodding in agreement. Even if it’s touching on their annoying habits as well as describing their good points! Above all, a Humanist ceremony is designed to celebrate the entire life of the deceased, not comment particularly on a crisis at the end of their life.

If you would like me to discuss arrangements for a Humanist funeral with you, without obligation, my website with contact details is 

Or simply give me a call on 01488 649564.

Simon Hodkin