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UK News

Police caution Baptist church after it shuns Covid restrictions

by Will Maule

A church in Northern Ireland has been "spoken to" by police after it refused to obey the latest Covid-19 restrictions. Tandragee Baptist Church in Co Armagh was reported to the authorities after meeting at their building for a weekend service and thus violating the latest restrictions which came into force on Friday. 

Under the current lockdown, which will last until 11th December , places of worship may only be permitted to open for private prayer, weddings, civil partnerships and funerals, with a maximum of 25 people in attendance. Drive-in services are also allowed.

It is believed that around 80 people attended the service at Tandragee Baptist on Sunday, with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) saying they received a report of a suspected potential breach of Health Protection Regulations that night. 

"The church was spoken to by police and they were encouraged to follow the regulations that are in place," the PSNI said in a statement, according to the Belfast Telegraph. 

In comments made to the Ulster Gazette, the president of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland, Trevor Ramsey, defended each individual church's right to determine how they interact with the restrictions. 

"Sometimes, through our association director, we will provide guidelines or help or advice to a local church if that is what they are looking for, but they're not duty bound to accept that advice, nor are they obligated in any way to follow it," he said. 

"Very often people don't fully understand this idea of each of our churches within the 'family' being independent, and sometimes that isn't an ideal situation because you can get quite a variety of responses to a particular situation." 

Ramsey said that all he can do in the current situation is "attempt to facilitate or help" churches who request it. 

"When the current lockdown was announced on Thursday, 19th November, as a two week circuit breaker, we were supposed to close our buildings," he added. "I immediately hosted an online gathering with pastors and again some chose to join that while others didn't.

"This was simply a matter of getting together to talk about what we might do. Again, there was a variety of ideas and suggestions because where there are two Baptists you'll get three opinions."

Ramsey confirmed that no disciplinary charges will be brought against Tandragee for breaking the Covid restrictions. 

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