One key feature of the traditional funeral is the opportunity for family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, to come together in person. Whether it’s a religious or non-religious ceremony, cremation or burial, that sense of being together is central.

So what do we do when coming together is the very thing that’s not possible? At the moment we are still in lockdown . Here in Scotland that has reduced opportunities to travel and gather. Funerals are still taking place but with very reduced numbers. This means that hard decisions have to be made about who can and can’t attend. Strict social distancing is being enforced at crematoriums and cemeteries.

One answer that some celebrants and funeral directors are exploring is to use Zoom, FaceBook, Vimeo and other internet software to conduct “web ceremonies” or “virtual funerals”. To get people together online and to deliver a eulogy, play music, read poetry, say prayers or share stories and memories.

macbook with candle

Just a year ago that might have seemed farfetched but lockdown has forced us to rethink how we work and interact. At the start of the pandemic I conducted a funeral in Perth that I streamed using Zoom to include family members in Canada. Last month (March 2021) I did more online services than “attended”.

There are lots of technical problems to overcome but I now see that this works. It can even bring some benefits. There’s an opportunity to bring family and friends together. To work creatively and to allow more participation than is possible in the traditional ceremony. To create an online space that allows for dignity and respect.

Even after lockdown ends, I think the Zoom funeral or memorial is here to stay.

So how does it work? I have made a video of a virtual web ceremony for a fictional person just to give you an idea. But I am also happy to have a chat to outline what is possible.

Or I can arrange for you to talk someone in a family I’ve worked with.

I’d also love to talk to other celebrants to share ideas and skills. I work with local celebrants in this part of east Scotland. But the beauty of the web ceremonial idea is that we can collaborate further afield and across borders. I’ve recently worked with London based Humanist celebrant, Carrie Thomas and with Emma Curtis of Ceremony Matters.