Funerals at St. John’s, Toorak, during the COVID-19 pandemic church closure period

UPDATE as at 18 OCTOBER, 2020

On Sunday 18 October, the Victorian Premier outlined a number of changes to restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne; however, churches must remain closed. The government has advised that churches may continue to hold funerals as long as those present do not exceed ten people not including the celebrant, and those attending adhere to social distancing requirements of one person per four square metres and keep 1.5m distance from each other.

When a loved one dies, we want to provide them with the best possible occasion to say farewell and entrust them to God’s care. However, during the current restrictions, it is necessary to place limits on what is possible in this regard. Until such time as government restrictions change or are lifted, St. John’s is able to offer the following to the families of those who have died:

  1. St. John’s clergy are available to conduct funerals at St. John’s church, at a funeral chapel, or at the graveside.
  2. In the case of funerals held at St. John’s, a maximum of ten people may attend, each of whom must sit in designated seats to maintain strict social distancing requirements. Family members who live together may sit together. In the case of funerals held off-site, all must abide by the social distancing rules in place at the local venue.
  3. On arrival at St. John’s, all who attend the funeral must give their name and contact details to the funeral director or St. John’s Covid-Safe Officer before entering the church. Hand sanitiser will be available.
  4. All consultations about the funeral service will still be by telephone or Zoom conference. Currently, we cannot arrange face-to-face meetings with family members prior to the service.
  5. The funeral service will need to be “basic” and brief, with a maximum of one eulogy of no more than five minutes (500 words). This should be provided to the priest in advance, and may be delivered either by the priest or a family member. We encourage you to publish the text of fuller eulogies and other tributes online, or to reserve them for a later memorial service.
  6. No requiem Eucharist will be possible.
  7. It may be possible to arrange for organ music at the service, but no other music can be arranged at present. The St. John’s choir is not available to sing at a funeral; however, a soloist may be available.
  8. You may privately arrange casket flowers, but please keep other flower arrangements simple. They need to be brought in a vase which must then be removed by the person organising the funeral.
  9. Memorial services with no body present can also be accommodated for those who have recently died. In such cases a funeral director should be present to assist the clergy and family.
  10. Please note that due to physical distancing requirements, there can be no pall bearers.
  11. It is strongly recommended that masks be worn.
  12. We recommend that once government restrictions are lifted, families arrange a more substantial memorial service at St. John’s for their loved one, which will be an appropriate occasion for tributes in the usual way

To organise a funeral at St. John’s during this period, please speak first to a funeral director, and then contact the church on 9826 1765.

The Rev. Dr. Peter French