All Souls' Day amid Covid-19: The value of remembering


For generations, writes Revd Canon Dr Sandra Millar, the Church of England has been there at this time of year to help people remember those they love but see no longer, whether they have died recently or long ago.
Litchfield Cathedral is lit up by laser beams

Grief and bereavement include moments to pause and remember.

These can happen at any time during the year, but early November, known in the church as All Souls' Day, provides a special focus, which can be very helpful. 

After the public nature of a funeral, and when all the concerns of friends seem to fade, having a space just to sit with your own thoughts, offer prayers, and find comfort in knowing that God is present in our lives can be immensely comforting.

This year it is more important than ever as so many have been unable to attend a funeral.

Last year the Church of England was involved in 115,000 funerals, around 25% of all funerals, and an average attendance at a funeral is around 50 people, meaning about 6 million people go to pay respects, show solidarity and mourn someone who has been part of their life. 

Two lit candles.

This year, those numbers are drastically reduced as since March there have been around 300,000 funerals taking place with restricted attendance. This means that  many people have been unable to process their thoughts and feelings at a funeral. 

Taking a moment to pause around November 1st to remember all those who have shaped our lives is both important and helpful.

It could be at home through lighting a candle and saying a prayer or in the spaces provided indoors and out at great cathedrals or village churches. 

But wherever, it is despite restrictions in place with across our nation, churches are still very much there for grieving people.

They are there for funeral services, making it unique and special. They are there after the funeral to lay ashes to rest, or for memorial services.

They are there to help families remember over All Souls’ and All Saints’ Day, physically in whatever ways that is possible, and they are there online, creating different kinds of spaces for people to remember in new ways.

And although the way we remember might be different, the message of hope that death is not the end will remain the same, along with the prayers of God’s people for all those who grieve.

  • Sandra Millar is the Church of England's Head of Life Events.