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Home  >  Medical Research Archives  >  Issue 149  > Same but Different: The Perceptions of Faith-Based Funeral Providers in a Pandemic
Published in the Medical Research Archives
May 2023 Issue

Same but Different: The Perceptions of Faith-Based Funeral Providers in a Pandemic

Published on May 26, 2023




Background: Media reports, academic research and anecdotal evidence detail the changes in dying, death and funerals since the COVID-19 pandemic commenced in late 2019. We could find no evidence of the experiences of faith-based celebrants in regard to funerals they had conducted.

Method: Forty-eight funeral celebrants from six Christian denominations plus members of Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish faiths, predominantly based in Victoria Australia were interviewed individually by video conference or phone. The researchers separately analysed all transcripts before reviewing the themes together. The results are informed by a discussion of the anthropology of religious rituals and the term ‘pararitual’ is introduced for those performative aspects which “complement the formal liturgy”.

Results: The participants reported that formal faith-based rituals had only changed subtly, though the almost universal use of live-streaming meant that respondents had to interact with those on-line plus the congregation. They reported much greater changes in the pararituals, especially in the absence of a post funeral gathering and were concerned that these absences might impact the grieving processes of the bereaved.

Conclusion: Although the rituals of faith-based funerals were not found to have changed significantly the participants considered that there would be ongoing changes in funerals after the pandemic including live-streaming, minimal rituals or even none. The impact of such changes remains to be seen in both personal and community expressions of grief.

Author info

Eleanor Flynn

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