By Neasha Shuler, Howard University News Service
Westchester, NY — COVID-19 has forced us to live a new reality. One where mourning the life of your loved one now comes with rules, restrictions and limitations. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted not only the economy and daily functions of life, but it is also affecting how people mourn and grieve.
To help stop the spread of coronavirus, various U.S. states have enforced stay-at-home orders and banned gatherings of 10 or more people, including religious and funeral services.
Families who have lost loved ones from any cause, not just COVID-19, have changed how they would normally memorialize that person and celebrate their life. In many cases, families are asked to postpone funeral services and if not, limit the number of people who can attend. This is the case for the members of Christian Cathedral of Praise (CCP), a small church located in Westchester County, New York.
Pamela Chambers was an outstanding member of the congregation. She was the women’s ministry leader and overall a strong addition to the church family. CCP moved to a different location in 2018. During this transition, Chambers was a big contribution to the development of the church.
“Sister Chamber was such a profound person. She did construction work, she actually helped to demolish the building. That entire banquet hall, Sister Chambers painted it, she painted it all by herself,” said Clova Robinson, a minister at CCP.
As the members of the church mourned her passing, they spoke of her benevolent nature.
“She was just such a unique, wonderful, kindhearted person. She was very passionate about the work of ministry, she ushered with the spirit of excellence and she just did so much. She will be greatly missed” said Pastor Andrea Henry of CCP.
Bishop Milton Henry of CCP said they would postpone the church service to honor her. The funeral service, a private ceremony, was held on Saturday April 11th, 2020. While this is the best option for the circumstance, most members of the church could not attend.
Across New York City, funerals homes have already restricted the number of people allowed to gather for memorials and funerals. Even when a few family members are allowed to attend, they are still required to stay 6 feet away from one another at all times.
Federal guidelines recommend social distancing, which means grieving families have had to ditch traditions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
Members of Christian Cathedral of Praise are devastated that they will not have an in-person funeral service to talk about Sister Chamber’s accomplishments.
“I am a bit upset,” said Joan Bryan, a member of CCP’s congregation. “She put so much into what she did, she was there when the building started, and she was there every single day. She planted a garden out front and took care of the plants. It’s breaking our hearts because we don’t get to honor her the way we want to.”
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many institutions have decided that live streaming is the best way to connect while still adhering to the federal guidelines of social distancing. Now, even live streaming funeral services have become very beneficial at this time. Unfortunately, the private funeral service for Pamela Chambers was not available for streaming.
Despite the drastic changes COVID-19 has brought to their everyday lives, Henry tries to remain positive.
“Personally, I’ll tell you what. I’m not scared but I am concerned. My wish is that everybody would be safe, our hope is in God and I’m glad for the fact even in this time we are anchored in Jesus, so I am not fearful but I am concerned,” he said.