In preparation for the further easing of lockdown restrictions the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has issued guidance to congregations as they consider the practical steps necessary before resuming worship services and other activities.
The 11-page document entitled “Guidelines for getting ready to gather again” considers issues like planning ahead for re-opening, preparing church buildings and the practicalities of practicing socially distanced worship.
Speaking after the guidance had been issued to all congregations Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk to the General Assembly, said,
“The past three months of lockdown across the island of Ireland has presented unprecedented challenges. For our ministers and congregations this has included the enforced closure of church buildings and an inability to meet together for worship face-to-face. While undoubtedly this has been a painful experience for many, I have been encouraged to see how our people have adapted to share God’s Word creatively online, and keep in contact with members and others in the community through phone calls, emails and old-fashioned letters.
“As lockdown restrictions gradually ease our congregations must think carefully and responsibly about the practical preparations necessary to facilitate the return of worship services and other aspects of church life. Each congregation’s circumstances will be different and they will come to a variety of decisions about what activities to recommence, and how quickly this can happen. It is important that churches continue to pay attention to guidance issued by the Northern Ireland Executive and the government in the Republic of Ireland along with the relevant statutory agencies.
“We recognise that some members may feel anxious about returning to church services and other activities, and for a time it may be necessary to operate a mixture of digital and socially distanced face-to-face gatherings. The guidance, which includes sections on planning ahead, preparing church buildings and practicing social distancing in worship, also encourages individual members to stay SAFE at church by Sticking to the rules, Assessing the risks, Fostering good routines and Encouraging individual responsibility.
“I would like to thank those who have worked hard to develop this guidance. The simple instruction to suspend all activities was perhaps more straightforward to follow and implement than the gradual return to church life will be. However meeting together with brothers and sisters in Christ is central to Christian life and a primary expression of church as the family of God, and we look forward to having the opportunity to do so once again”.
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