As the lockdown eases, I have met people who have expressed to me their desire to be together in church on Sundays. The good news is that we will be allowed to return to worship together in July in both the South and North of Ireland with an attendance ceiling of 50 and 30 respectively. Plans are underway for that to happen in order to make our church buildings safe places to gather for worship. Like shops and public buildings we will be observing: Social Distancing, Hand Hygiene and Coughing and Sneezing Hygiene.
So what will it look like when we return to church? You should expect:
• Hand sanitisers at the entrance which we urge you to use.
• To be guided to an available pew.
• Face masks and gloves to be worn by people if they wish.
• To bring your own Prayer and Hymn Books.
• Service sheets to be available.
• In the absence of Sunday Clubs, due to social distancing advice, to bring something to occupy children who will be welcome to worship.
• Bread only to be distributed at Holy Communion for the time being.
• To place contributions to the ministry of the church in available baskets.
• The names of those attending church to be taken incase people need to contacted about Covid-19.
We would ask you NOT to attend church services if:
• You feel generally unwell or are undergoing a course of medical treatment.
• You are displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
• You have been diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection in the previous fortnight.
• You are aware that you have been in close contact with a person who has a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection in the previous fortnight.
• You have been advised by a doctor to self-isolate.
In anticipation, I want to thank those who have made it possible to open our local church buildings. Due to social distancing guidelines, however, it may not be possible to reopen all our churches in July. I ask for your patience in this and for you to attend those churches that are open. With a further easing of restrictions, hopefully it will not be long before all our churches will reopen.
I close with the words of the Psalmist:
I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’