Guidelines for Memorial Gardens in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut
Approved by the Bishop and Diocesan Executive Council 9/8/2010
We all share the goal of a Diocese made up of healthy, vibrant parishes, and a wish that memorial gardens associated with those parishes would remain in place forever. The history of our Church teaches, however, that our desire cannot be guaranteed to come true. Throughout history, parishes have closed and new parishes have flourished; other parishes have remained strong through the centuries. More challenging still, some parishes that have appeared weak at times have grown and prospered in unexpected ways, while others that appeared indomitable have later faltered. Simply put, it is impossible to predict today what parishes will be thriving and in what locations 30 or 100 years from now. As a necessary result, we cannot predict the long-term future of any memorial garden.
Memorial gardens associated with parishes in the Diocese need to be formed and maintained in manner consistent with this reality. The following guidelines are suggested ways in which parishes may provide the pastoral care of a memorial garden while safeguarding fiduciary duties to parishioners in future generations.
- The parish should develop and maintain written policies with respect to the memorial garden. The policies should be available to all parishioners and should be provided to any anyone considering placing cremains in the memorial garden.
- Connecticut law does not regulate the establishment, maintenance or closing of memorial gardens. This fact should be made clear to anyone considering placing cremains in the memorial garden.
- Memorial gardens are not cemeteries. For that reason, cremains should be buried in biodegradable containers or otherwise placed such that they will be permitted to return to nature over time.
- Care should be taken to record and, to the extent possible, maintain contact information for families of those whose cremains are placed in the memorial garden.
- No parish may guarantee or promise that the memorial garden will be maintained for any specific period of time or for perpetuity.
- Parishes should not charge a fee, require a donation, or in any way link a gift or donation to the placement of cremains in the memorial garden. Doing so could be construed as a contract that the parish and/or the Diocese may not be able to satisfy in the future.
- Under Canon VIII.3 of the Diocesan Canons, parish property cannot be encumbered, such as through a deed restriction or easement, without written consent of the Bishop and the Standing Committee. In light of the impossibility of guaranteeing the existence of a memorial garden in perpetuity, such approval is unlikely.
- Anyone considering placing cremains in the memorial garden should be informed that closing and deconsecrating any church and any memorial garden is a last resort undertaken only with great care and consideration. When such steps are necessary, they are taken with abiding pastoral care for those families affected. Arrangements are made for the relocation of the memorial garden to other consecrated property, usually at a nearby cemetery. A recommittal service is held to which the families that can be contacted are invited. Families, if they choose, are also free to move representative soil from the memorial garden to a location meaningful to them. Thus, although no one could guarantee the future of any memorial garden, relocations of memorial gardens occur rarely and with great pastoral care.