All Quaker meeting houses are currently closed. Sadly, Quakers are unable to hold funerals or memorial meetings in them. This is in line with Government guidance on staying at home and public gatherings.

Could this be the path to a new sense of unity, the community of those who had known pain, and thence had found depth, so that creeds and traditions became but signposts to an acceptance of sadness and an entry into a depth where we found harmony with each other? Was this the way forward to a deeper unity with people of other religions or indeed of none? Perhaps we could start with the simple discovery that words divide and sadness unites

Robert Tod, 1989 Quaker faith & practice 22.82

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    Uniting in sadness: Helping one another through sickness, death, dying and grief

    Quakers in Britain and Woodbrooke are developing help and support for the challenges which we all face in the pandemic.

    We are working on ideas for upholding one another, funerals and memorial meetings during and after the pandemic. We will be updating these pages over the next few weeks.

    Quakers in Britain and Woodbrooke will be offering a range of online conversations on these topics over the next few weeks – please see below for details.

    If you have particular experience in this field and would like to be involved, please email supportmeetings@quaker.org.uk. For instance, experience in Death Cafés, bereavement counselling, or being a celebrant or funeral director etc.

    Also use this email address to send any thoughts, questions, ideas or experiences which you think might be helpful.

    Advice about funerals and pastoral care

    There is advice and guidance available in Funerals and Memorial Meetings: Volume 2 of the Eldership and Oversight handbook series. It gives an outline to planning a funeral or memorial meeting and step-by-step guidance including helpful things to remember.

    Dying, death and end of life resources

    Quaker Social Action have practical guide for organising a funeral during the pandemic, including ideas to help mark the cremation or burial of a loved one when people are unable to attend.

    Quaker Social Action is an independent charity, founded by Quakers in and with continuing Quaker involvement. It has a particular concern campaigning to prevent funeral poverty, and supporting people to access affordable funerals.

    Visit Quaker Social Action's 'Down to Earth' section of their website.

    Current advice on funerals and other gatherings

    Taken from Coronavirus Quaker eldership and oversight advice updated 31 March 2020 (PDF)

    As of 24 March 2020, the Government has advised that no in-person gatherings are to take place until further notice. This includes gatherings such as:

    • worship
    • weddings
    • other Quaker celebration meetings

    The exception to this is currently funerals but there are strong restrictions on how they are to be conducted and the expectation is that there will be very few people in attendance.

    We are now encouraging families and meetings to explore other options. Quakers often hold memorial meetings for Friends who have died sometime after their death and funeral. There is no set time period between death and a memorial meeting and this often allows the rawness of death to have passed allowing a celebration of an individual's life to take place at a memorial meeting.

    Try to focus on the needs and wishes of those who were closest to the person who died. If it feels right and your community is comfortable with a suitable technology it may be possible to hold a memorial meeting in that space.

    We will be developing support for holding online memorial meetings. Practical guidance on arranging and holding funerals is available from the National Association of Funeral Directors.

    Caring for the bereaved

    At this time supporting bereaved Friends will be a real challenge and one that meetings will need to consider carefully. Bearing in mind that not everyone's needs are the same, think about the following:

    • How can you make an opportunity to listen to what the needs of anyone bereaved are?
    • Can your Quaker community offer care and support to a person or people who you will not be in contact with face-to-face? If there is more than one person in the affected household, can you offer them support which is tailored to their individual needs?
    • Can you arrange a daily or regular call or conversation with someone in your eldership and oversight group?
    • Can you arrange daily worship in a small group?
    • In what way can you be alongside anyone bereaved?
    • Is there someone who can offer some practical support such as liaising with the funeral director
    • Could someone prepare food and arrange for it to be left in a suitable place outside or near their home?

    Helping your Quaker community to prepare for your funeral

    This is a time that we all need to help support those Friends who have responsibility for conducting funerals. It is important that as Friends with eldership and oversight responsibility we have conversation with Friends about their wishes. It is particularly important now in case arrangements need to be made by a person not known to an individual who has died or their family. We have a helpful form to help aid these conversations.

    Conversations

    Monday 6 April at 7pm

    This Zoom event is for Friends with eldership, oversight and pastoral care responsibility to think about what Britain Yearly Meeting and Woodbrooke could offer.

    To book a place, email supportmeetings@quaker.org.uk. Places will be limited. We are likely to run it again and offer other opportunities soon.

    Image of lilies by D H Wright is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Featured blog

    Quaker funerals: community and contribution

    6 April 2018 by Paul Parker

    Paul Parker explores what happens at a Quaker funeral – a simple meeting where all present are able to share reflections and memories.