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Christians urged to 'love thy neighbour and act responsibly' as services reopen in Northern Ireland on Monday

by Heather Preston

On Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed that church services would be able to take place from 29th July as planned, following an indicative date being set out last week.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has welcomed this announcement whilst highlighting the importance of churches maintaining good health and safety measures.

Rev Albin Rankin, minister of Stormont Presbyterian told Premier: "It will be fantastic to meet again, though it's going to be different, the degree of interaction will not be as before.

"It's about individuals assessing the risks and acting responsibly. If you're symptomatic or feeling unwell, we're encouraging you not to come so that you can recover, but also so that you don't transmit something to somebody else," he added.

Assisted by Rankin, the PCI has drafted guidance to help congregations stay safe as churches begin to reopen.

He says he hopes the guidelines will enable congregations to "think through the practicalities" of creating a safe environment to worship as lockdown measures ease.

"We need to get into the habit of following a different set of protocols - we won't be able to move around and chat as we did before. We can only make the place safe if everyone contributes and everyone is adhering to the same message.

"Our core message, of course is to love God and to love our neighbour. And here's a very practical way of demonstrating that love for our neighbour."

Although congregations cannot expect things to return to normal any time soon, Rankin says he is hopeful that being able to meet together will be a "huge encouragement" that will "boost the spirits" of congregations.

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