The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Hyperlinked in the hereafter

Using a password from some funeral homes, mourners can open a 2-inch window on their computer to become "virtually" present at a funeral held miles away. Online funerals are just one way the Internet touches yet another aspect of our lives: death.

Donald Heinz, an ELCA pastor and author of The Last Passage: Recovering a Death of Our Own (Oxford University Press, 1999), is cautiously accepting of online funerals.

"If people in the same town decided to participate online rather than physically, that would be a tragedy," says Heinz, dean of humanities at California State University, Chico. "But it's the people without access who would benefit, people who are less mobile, snowbound or sick." Heinz emphasizes that online participation "isn't necessarily better, just an alternative" for those who can't attend in person.

Yet the Internet can do only so much — somebody still has to be physically present to bury our dead.


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February issue


Embracing diversity