Making Live Streamed Services Meaningful

15 March 2021
Rebecca Noble
Picture of a coffin with white bouquet of flowers

Guest blog by Susan Flipping, with the Institute of Civil Funerals 

History tells us that all pandemics, although terrible at the time, come with silver linings in their wake. We are all hoping the COVID-19 outbreak will be no different. 

Already, many people with a computer or smart device are able to ‘attend’ a funeral from their home or workplace, using a live streaming link displayed directly on a MuchLoved tribute page.

This technology has brought comfort to thousands who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to participate in the ceremony, either because of lockdown restrictions or because it’s too far to travel. But setting up the technology is only a part of the solution.

In my capacity as a celebrant from the Institute of Civil Funerals, I believe that every officiant – whether it’s a civil celebrant, a humanist celebrant or a faith person – can make the experience as positive as possible by communicating directly with live stream mourners via the camera and by considering how to involve them. Here are my top five tips to make a live stream service as positive as possible:

  1. Give the audience guidance - even before the ceremony begins. Suggest that people watching behave just as they would have done if they were attending in person. They can change into something smart or an outfit the person who’s died would appreciate, turn off their phones and have a moment of reflection before the ceremony begins.
  2. Include those watching. Ask the officiant to welcome people watching via the webcast at the beginning and give them a special goodbye at the end too. Consider whether there is anyone who should be mentioned by name.
  3. Consider who’s attending. Think about where the live stream viewers are and what they’re doing. Has someone on the other side of the world got up in the middle of the night to ‘attend’? Is there a group of people who’ve taken an early or late lunch break at work to be with you? A brief acknowledgement reminds everyone that their presence is valued and, if the officiant can manage a few words in the language of any non-English speakers, so much the better.
  4. Make the camera part of the service. There can be another glance at the camera whenever sharing a memory or story contributed by someone who isn’t in the chapel in person. 
  5. Offer inclusive activities where you can. What about an action that everyone can join in with? A candle-lighting is perfect and details can be added to the tribute page along with the live stream link. Everyone, whether watching over the internet or in the chapel, can feel connected performing the same act of remembrance at the same time. You could also include a prayer or blessing that everyone can say together, again adding the words to the tribute page along with the website link, so that everyone can follow together. 

I have found that families are pleasantly surprised at the possibilities of including remote family and friends and have always reported back favourably. Small changes can make a big difference.


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