COVID-19 Funeral Guidelines

Hello Dharma Friends! As you know everyone has been working to ensure the health and safety of our communities and, as a result, we have suspended services and other activities at the temples and amongst our Sangha groups.

One of the concerns that has come out of this is how we can handle services when someone dies. Our temple and ministers are very sensitive to the grief and hardship that come with the death of a loved one and will do everything we can to provide comfort at those times, however, as with other services, we are being asked to remain cautious.

The following are the guidelines for death-related services which were sent to us from the Office of the Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America and which the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temples will be adhering to.

Makuragyo (death-bed) Services

At this time, given the circumstances, it is not safe for a minister to go to a hospital to conduct a makuragyo service. Families and temple leaders must understand the risk involved to the minister and be willing to forego the makuragyo at this time, or have it conducted in a private room at the funeral home the next day.

Funerals and Memorial Services

Recent CDC directives have indicated gatherings of more than 50 are discouraged. Today, (March 16), the White House statement was “gatherings of more than 10 are discouraged.” Obviously, we cannot cancel funeral services all together, but for the time being, if a funeral is not going to be postponed, then it must be limited to small, private funerals of immediate family only. If funerals are conducted, the following is recommended procedure:

  • No handshaking or hugging the family.
  • No oshoko. (Having people all put their hands into the same incensecontainer is a risk.) Instead, have people come to the front, gassho, and bow to the casket or urn.
  • Encourage family members present to sit spread apart, rather than next to each other.
  • No otoki (food) after the service.
  • Wipe the pews with disinfectant wipes before and after the service, as well as the lobby door handles, etc.

Hoji (Memorial) Services

Preferable to postpone. If the family decides to hold the service, then it must be limited to a small number of people. Same as funerals, wipe pews before and after service. Perhaps eliminate oshoko at memorial services or do as funerals and have family come forward, gassho and bow.