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Church News

Church services to return to Northern Ireland this month

by Cara Bentley

Church services will be allowed to return in Northern Ireland in ten days. 

First Minister Arlene Foster said on Thursday (video below) that places of worship should plan to be open from the week beginning 29th June. 

This will be confirmed next Thursday and is dependent on the virus not spreading further. 

This followed a meeting between Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and senior representatives from churches and other faith communities. 

Hairdressers and nail bars will be allowed to open the following week beginning 6th July and vulnerable people can stop shielding. 

The Presbyterian church, which operates in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, has praised the decision to resume public worship, with general secretary Rev Trevor Gribben saying: "Nearly 100 days have passed since our congregations were last able to gather together for Sunday worship and other activities, and as we see more areas of community life gradually emerging from the worst impacts of Covid-19, this announcement will be appreciated across the denomination, and we give thanks for it.
"Each of our congregations must think carefully and responsibly about the practical preparations necessary to facilitate this long awaited and prayed for return. Those decisions will be taken by the local Minister and elders, dependant on local factors."

The church released guidance earlier this month in anticipation of the announcement, which will also used by churches in the Republic of Ireland where gatherings of six people are allowed indoors and 15 people outside. 

The guidance tells church leaders to only hold meetings if absolutely necessary, to encourage standing orders when church members want to give as offering plates should be temporarily cast aside and to urge people to go straight to their (socially distanced) seats rather than mingle in a foyer. 

It advises against handshaking and handing out notice sheets, Bibles or hymn books. 

Rev Trevor Gribben added: "The circumstances of each local church will be different and we are supporting our congregations to make the necessary decisions to enable gatherings to take place safely, by providing detailed guidance in preparation for re-opening."
In Scotland and Wales, individual prayer in churches will be allowed from Monday, as announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday and Mark Drakeford on Friday, while in England this has been allowed for a week already. None are allowed public services yet.




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