As we come to terms with the implications of these new regulations, we are acutely mindful of the wide-ranging impact on retail, hospitality, leisure, sports and most other areas of community life, and how this materially affects the livelihoods and well-being of many in our community, including our church members. This is a major pastoral concern for us and our congregations. The suspension of public worship in churches for two weeks, introduced as part of this package of measures, is a cause of significant regret and concern to us.
Regarding public worship, we continue to make representations to the Northern Ireland Executive in Belfast, and to the Irish Government in Dublin. We have been reminding legislators of the importance of balancing our essential liberty to worship, with the need for protection of the community and people’s livelihoods, from the devastating effects of this serious pandemic, and will continue to do so. We have made the point that face-to face-gatherings for worship are essential for the spiritual well-being of people everywhere, and for the good of society.
At a meeting with a government minister and officials held this morning, we have received assurances that the two-week period of these restrictions is all that is planned, and we have reinforced the strong view to the Executive that such measures be limited to this period only.
For the time being, while public worship may be suspended for these two weeks, the church is not closed. We will worship together using online and other media. We will pray for our people, our governments and our communities during these uncertain times. Our presence as salt and light in our communities will continue as we share the love of Christ and care for those around us.
The Advent promise that Christ is coming to live among is unchanged, even if our customary celebrations may be curtailed in some measure this year.