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Grief moves online

St Columba Church minister Donald Hegan hosts a funeral service on Zoom.

Funeral directors are expecting a surge in memorial services in the Bay of Plenty after weeks of low-key send-offs.

People have been unable to gather to farewell loved ones and limited to gathering in their bubbles at the gates to local cemeteries.

Mike Savage Celebrant and Funeral Care says services had been limited to no more than 10 people and they had to be from the same bubble. He had conducted four funerals over the lockdown period.

“It does make it a little bit difficult and people are grieving because they have not been able to attend a service.”

Even cemeteries had been closed to the public so the small bubbles of mourners had to pay their final respects at the gates.

“They could only go to the gate of the crematorium or cemetery. The hearse will stop and they can say goodbye.”

As a result Mike says there will be a lot of people wanting to have memorial services once restrictions on public gatherings had eased.

Mike and other ministers and funeral directors had been using video links to broadcast services to the wider public.

St Columba Church minister Donald Hegan hosted a service on Zoom the weekend before last which was very successful.

He says it gave people overseas – in Holland and Canada – the chance to be involved too.

“The funeral went for one and a half hours and I would have no qualms with doing this again. I thought it was very good and the people who joined appreciated what was done with the use of this medium.”

Before they started the funeral proper he talked with those who came online about what would happen in the service, they should stay muted through the service until they wanted to speak and he would indicate when it was the right time.

They were able to play hymns and music, although there was a few technical glitches and issues with time lag.

He has also been pre-recording church services on a Saturday and making them available for his congregation to take part on Sundays.

“We have people ringing in to share their experiences, offering prayers and doing bible readings. Then I might have to do some editing and then it is put up on our website for Sunday.

“Those without internet we offer a USB stick plugged into their TV or stereo system.”

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