Coronavirus (COVID-19) - An open letter to SSDC regarding Yeovil Crematorium from Reverend Tim Cook
An open letter from Reverend Tim Cook regarding the temporary suspension of services at Yeovil Crematorium:
I feel I am able to offer some thoughts on how services are provided at Yeovil crematorium as I have been involved with them for several decades practically and seen many people come and go along with changes. I have also worked with other crematoria and churches in my travels.
Whilst the current closure of the chapel is very sad for us all - we must also remember that churches are closed and it is not just Yeovil crematorium chapel. More so, some UK crematoriums had a complete closure with no mourners allowed to be present.
That was not acceptable and inappropriate of course.
In Yeovil this is not the case and a genuine and humane option given to allow at least immediate family or perhaps in other cases close friends to attend a short service. This is better than nothing or a large gathering that may risk passing on the virus in a fairly confined chapel and waiting room etc that Yeovil is.
I had a gathering at the cemetery recently for an infant and with a dozen attendees we had the service beamed to 30 others via the Internet plus music via a mobile phone and speaker. We all need to accept limitations.
Frankly social distancing in Yeovil chapel is not easy to do. I judge it to be far too risky especially if services follow each other.
As a person at risk and with two adult children at risk, I am very aware of risks. Indeed, I read of the very tragic death of a Dorset GP tonight. We simply can't take chances is my firm belief and I am known for compassion and understanding as a priest.
I am hugely aware at how painful this whole situation is for families directly and I know of the importance of closure for people at a funeral. I would add many people cannot attend as they are in lockdown.
None of us like these necessary limitations to our lives.
Indeed, it is not very nice to tell people that we have what amounts to a truncated service, however with many years of experience and perhaps being the most flexible person around, the time outside the doors can still be meaningful and valid for the closest relatives.
That is part of my role to help people see this and not fall victim to a self-fulfilled prophecy that it's 'a second rate service'. In my opinion in the vast majority of cases this will allow the main mourners to attend. In reality most of us only have a rather small very close group of friends or family. Of course there are many exceptions and judgements to me made. It's not easy. Perhaps looking ahead places like St John's could hold memorial services as the town civic church. Or families could
gather for a celebration over lunch, all at some unknown date in the future.
So I feel comments from some people do not look carefully at the facts and wisely judge risk.
Perhaps two comments. If services are kept to no longer than 15 minutes, it may be helpful if two pieces of music were allowed to be played. This would give people more of a sense of a proper service and allow them to mourn more easily. Secondly, many members of the family have things like FaceTime and WhattsApp on the mobiles so we can connect with others not present.
It may also for those a little older be sensible to place a couple of chairs outside for those who may need them. Finally the canopy is chilly and if a hearse is parked in a certain way, mourners can stay
in the sun for most, often it is not. The gloomy chilly canopy can be avoided with thought. It is also at times a case of 'less can be more' I say that as somebody with a reputation for waffling on! In short clever use of the time is needed and perhaps by good old fashion priestly follow up to families where appropriate.
So I am afraid whilst several improvements could perhaps be made, we had to just accept that COVID-19 is here and it's messing up our lives in so many ways. This very sadly includes funerals and its sometimes painful.
It's also hard and this has nothing to do with SSDC or the Crematorium that restaurants and pubs are closed so after a funeral people cannot share a time together. So all in all it's perhaps a bigger picture that needs to be looked at.
I for one, with great sadness, feel that the current short service is the wisest offering that can be made all things considered, perhaps with some adaptation like music that would assist and cause little extra work or pressure.
It is not easy to have to implement such changes but I am supportive and I know may others who would not feel at all safe in the chapel at this time!
Better in God's fresh air.
Pax et bonum
Please find below our latest guidance with regard to Yeovil Crematorium:
In light of Government guidance and in consultation with local funeral directors, South Somerset District Council made the difficult decision to suspend public services at Yeovil Crematorium effective from Monday 23 March.
Our primary concern has to be the safety of the public, funeral directors and their staff, and our own workforce. We have carefully assessed the Government advice and we do not believe we can safely offer services in our chapel at this time following the guidelines which the Government has set out.
We understand how difficult and sensitive this decision is. It was made with the support of many local funeral directors and our team is doing all it can to ensure that safe, dignified and respectful ceremonies can still take place. These are difficult and sensitive matters to deal with and we have seen recent reports which paint an untrue picture of what is happening at Yeovil Crematorium will cause unnecessary concern and anguish to families who are already suffering through bereavement.
We exist for our communities and our response to Covid-19 has focused on their needs. This has seen us go above and beyond to ensure we are there for the most vulnerable.
We are caught in the middle of Government legislation, advice and public statements made by ministers. Ultimately, we have to take decisions based on published guidance for public safety and how they specifically relate to our venue which is a vital one during a pandemic
After carefully reviewing all available information, we had to make a difficult decision although we understand that other authorities may be able to take a different view depending on the size and nature of their venues and number of staff.
Comments, such as those made by Revd Cook, will continue to influence what we can offer at the Crematorium. We have been evolving what is offered at the Crematorium since the suspension of services was announced and this work will continue.
We recognise its important role within the community for those who have lost their loved ones. We have reviewed and will continue to review this decision on more than a weekly basis and hope that the circumstances with COVID-19 will enable us, in consultation with the Funeral Directors, to return to services attended by mourners in the Crematorium building in the very near future.