Expectations for Pastoral Care for the Sick and Dying

Zoom Conversation Recording

There's was an opportunity to gather online to discuss the new expectations for pastoral care for the sick and dying in detail and to learn more from clergy colleagues who are already deeply engaged in this work. Click here to watch a recording of this webinar.


April 3rd, 2020

As we continue to adapt to a new reality in our lives and ministries, I am writing today to offer some further guidelines for the faithful and safe practice of pastoral care, ministry with the dying, and funerals. When I became your Bishop I never imagined I would write to you asking you to refrain for a season from visiting the sick, homebound, and the dying, but that is one more in a series of strange and painful things being asked of all of us in this moment. As hard as it is for me to accept, right now loving the world, caring for those most vulnerable and marginalized, and following the way of Jesus means keeping our physical distance.

I am so deeply grateful for all of you, and for the many ways you continue to follow in the Way of Jesus through expressing the express the Way of Love in this extraordinary time. As we begin another Holy Week together, and journey again with Jesus to the cross and the grave, I pray that in this present darkness, the light of our resurrection hope will shine all the brighter in our lives and in our world.

Pastoral Care for the Sick

  • In-person, face-to-face pastoral care is prohibited until further notice, following the protocols of the MN State Health of Department. NO hospital or in-person visits to people who are sick or dying. Please do not endanger yourselves or put your people at risk by your presence.
  • Connect with the sick by telephone or video.
  • Share prayers for use by the sick and their loved ones from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and Enriching Our Worship 2 (EOW2) by email or post.
  • For those in hospitals and medical facilities, connect with the chaplains in the facility to ask about how they might provide direct spiritual care. Staff chaplains often carry oil for unction. 


At the Time of Death

  • The Prayers at the Time of Death, BCP p. 462-466  are suitable for lay people to use. Share these with the family member, hospital chaplain, or even a nurse if you can reach them by phone. 
  • Clergy or pastoral caregivers may offer such prayers over the phone with the receiver at the ear of the patient if allowed. If that is not allowed by the hospital rules, you may pray these prayers on their behalf, with or without the family on the phone.



  • A small graveside service may be held to inter the body. Such a service must be outdoors, with no more than 10 people, keeping 6 feet apart, and must be brief.

  • Burial rites and memorial gatherings are to be held at an acceptable time after shelter-in-place requirements have ceased.
  • Cremains may be kept in the church until burial rites are held IF you receive them while abiding by current infection-prevention guidelines.
  • Note: In the scenario in which death rates increase, our funeral homes will be providing a crucial and highly stressful service. They may be at or near their capacity, literally, to help. Protocols may prohibit the immediate family from having a viewing, for example. This may be profoundly difficult for them to understand. If a parishioner dies, consult with the funeral director about what is and is not possible. You will be a key line of communication with the family and a key provider of pastoral care about what can and cannot happen.
Bishop Brian N. Prior
Bishop-Elect Craig Loya

Dial a Priest

Dial A Priest is a free service that will connect you to an Episcopal priest, who can offer the "Ministration at the Time of Death" from the Book of Common Prayer by telephone to hospital patients. For access, please dial: (213)423-3600.