The Moderator or the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Rt Rev Dr William Henry, and the Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev Trevor Gribben, have written to PCI ministers to advise, guide and update them in the wake of the Coronavirus-COVID 19 emergency.
In a separate statement, Rev Trevor Gribben said, “As an all-Ireland church we are monitoring closely this evolving situation across the island. Guided throughout by the public health authorities in both jurisdictions, we will also be keeping our approach under active review. Last week we issued some general guidance to ministers and congregations emphasising a common sense approach and advising that the most important thing that can be done is to follow all the public health guidance that is provided by the authorities.
“At the same time, in the interests of the health and wellbeing of our residents and staff, our Council for Social Witness followed the advice given by the majority of our Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland and restricted visitor access to all our homes and care services. This also included our supported housing scheme in Dublin. While our new guidelines are necessary, we sincerely hope that families and friends of the loved ones that we care for will understand and support that decision and work with us.
“In our letters, we wanted to assure our ministers of our personal prayers as they minister and give leadership in their congregations and communities. At a time of heightened anxiety for many in our congregations, their ongoing pastoral care, whether face-to-face, or by phone, is of tremendous significance. The ministry of prayer, as we carry one another’s burdens, has huge significance at such a time as this.
“We also stressed that it is vital that we follow the advice and comply with the specific recommendations given by the HSE in the Republic of Ireland and Public Health Agency (PCA) in Northern Ireland. For instance, in relation to the Taoiseach’s guidance that indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 should not take place, we emphasised the need for this to be followed in all circumstances. This at present does not apply to our congregations in Northern Ireland,” Mr Gribben said.
Their letters concluded by saying, “This is a rapidly changing situation. It is therefore important to stress that congregations should follow all public health guidance provided by state authorities.
“Finally, in moments like these we are reminded of the powerful words of the Psalmist in Psalm 46:1-5, which reminds us of the refuge and the strength we find in the Lord. As we look to God, and encourage others to find their hope in Him, let us help and pray for one another.”
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