Statement from the Church of Ireland Bishops in Northern Ireland in relation to Public Worship

Following the Northern Ireland Executives decision to extend the current Covid-19 restrictions to Thursday 1st April 2021, representatives of the Churches met earlier this week with Ministers from the Executive Office, the Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer. At that meeting the Chief Medical Officer stressed that it would make a significant difference and be of huge benefit to public health and safety, if churches were willing to continue, for the time being, not to gather in-person for services and other meetings.

In the light of the Executives extension of the current restrictions, and on the basis of the continued and unequivocal public health message that people should continue to stay at home,  we have agreed that all in-person Sunday gatherings for worship, along with all other in-person church gatherings, should remain voluntarily suspended for the time being in all Church of Ireland parishes in Northern Ireland until Thursday 1st April 2021 – with the exception of weddings, funerals, arrangements for recording and/or live-streaming, drive-in services and private prayer (as permitted by regulations). 

 We have also agreed to further assess the situation immediately after the next NI Executive review of current lockdown provisions on Thursday 18th March 2021, in the cautious anticipation that, from Friday 2nd April (Good Friday) onwards, our parishioners in Northern Ireland could return to in-person gatherings for worship, with all necessary precautions and mitigations in place. This recognises the importance of Easter, the significance of which was acknowledged by the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer at their most recent meeting with Church representatives.

We welcome that a similar approach is also being taken by the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and, in a slightly different form, by the Roman Catholic Church.

+John Armagh

 

+Andrew Derry and Raphoe

+David Down and Dromore

+George Connor

 

Let’s Journey to the Cross – Jesus in the Temple

Let’s Journey to the Cross – Jesus in the Temple, age 12. (A reflection by our Diocesan Children’s Officer, Kirsty McCartney).
This is a Bible story that has always confused me – not Jesus being with the leaders and discussing the Bible – but the fact that Mary and Joseph did not realise that Jesus was missing for a full day, and then took another three days to find him! It is only when you think that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were travelling with a caravan of people – it was not just the three of them, but hundreds of people making this important journey to celebrate the Passover – that I can see how it could have happened.
Jesus knew what he was doing – he was not deliberately disobeying his parents, but rather spending time with God and learning more about him. When they returned home Jesus obeyed his parents, learned from them, and continued to grow, ready to take on his ministry.
Jesus travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. It has been a while since we have been able to travel for any celebrations, but we have hope that in the weeks and months ahead this will change again. Spring is coming and signs are everywhere to be seen – as you journey this week have a look for signs of Spring and thank God for them.
A Prayer for Let’s Journey to the Cross (Linda Hughes)
Lord, as we travel through this season, we are aware that Lent can be a difficult time.
We like to do things in our own time and find it hard to be disciplined.
Forgive us when we fail to do the right thing or when we find that we are eager to receive your love and forgiveness but are reluctant to return them back.
As we travel through Lent may we be encouraged to open our hearts and listen for your voice so we can discover what you want us to do and trust in your unconditional and everlasting love for us.
Amen.

Transferor Representatives’ Council Thanks Schools for Commitment, Professionalism and Service

The Transferor Representatives’ Council (TRC) has written to the principals and boards of governors of all controlled schools in Northern Ireland to thank them and all of their staff for their continuing work.
 
In particular, the TRC thanks principals, teachers, all other school staff, and governors “for their commitment to pupils and their mental health and wellbeing, the delivery of education, their dedication to the schools and for their service at this time of global disruption and anxiety.” The letter adds: “Their professionalism is recognised and their service deeply appreciated.”
 
The Chair of the TRC, Miss Rosemary Rainey OBE, said, “At a recent meeting of the TRC Executive, many heartfelt tributes were paid to school principals, senior leadership teams, staff and governors for the manner in which they had all responded to the additional demands and extra workloads associated with the delivery of the curriculum to pupils throughout the current pandemic.
 
“In writing as we did, we wanted to commend principals and staff for putting in place arrangements to enable remote learning and for maintaining regular communication between teachers, parents and pupils. Together, the TRC recognises that boards of governors have continued with their responsibilities for oversight of the curriculum, finance, health and wellbeing of pupils, the provision of education for pupils with special educational needs, and maintaining links with the community. We also wanted to recognise those teachers who have undertaken further professional development to enable pupils to learn by means of online teaching and supervision over the past year – all of which is a credit to them and the profession.”
 
All school governors in Northern Ireland serve in a purely voluntary capacity and, in respect of controlled schools, boards of governors are representative of the Department of Education, the Education Authority, the TRC, and parents and teachers.
 
The TRC concludes by encouraging “everyone who believes in the power of prayer” to keep school principals, senior leadership teams, teachers, support staff, pupils and school governors on their regular prayer list: “All need support, encouragement and pastoral care at this time.”

‘Journey to the Cross’ – an initiative by our Children’s and Youth Ministries

The Diocese of Derry and Raphoe’s Children’s and Youth ministries have launched a joint venture for Lent. They are encouraging children and young people from Sunday Schools, youth groups, etc., to metaphorically ‘walk together’ to cover the distance from here to the Holy Land during the season of Lent.

It is essential, of course, that this happens in a manner consistent with the COVID guidelines appropriate to their parish’s jurisdiction and, where appropriate, with full parental consent.

People are asked to email kirsty@derryandraphoe.org to sign up.

Day of Prayer for young people and youth ministry

The Church of Ireland Youth Department is encouraging parishes across the island to set aside Sunday, 14th February, to pray for young people and everyone who serves them through youth ministry.  The last Sunday before Lent is designated by the House of Bishops as a Day of Prayer for Young People and Youth Ministry.

National Youth Officer Simon Henry says: “The CIYD Day of Prayer has gone from strength to strength over the past few years with widespread engagement across the island. Now more than ever, we need to continue to pray for our young people and engage them in prayer to foster and encourage a real and life–long relationship with God our Father. God is our ever–present hope in trouble and let us use the Day of Prayer to remind our young people of that this year.”

A book published by CIYD for this day in 2019 is available with lots of ideas of how to pray – just email admin@ciyd.org to get a copy; the book is also available in a PDF format.

 

“Towering legacy” of Foyle Hospice founder Dr Tom McGinley

Bishop Andrew has joined the tributes to the founder of Foyle Hospice, Dr Tom McGinley, who died today.
 
“It is with great sadness that I learned, today, of the death of Dr Tom McGinley. I never had the pleasure or the privilege of meeting Tom or of getting to know him, but I certainly know of his achievements.
 
“Tom was a man of vision; more importantly, he was a man of action, who used his considerable gifts for the benefit of all. When he first conceived of the Foyle Hospice, many years ago, it seemed almost unimaginable. Now, it is an indispensable part of the fabric of this community.
 
“The Foyle Hospice is a wonderful and tangible monument to a great man, but the enduring gratitude of this whole community will prove an equally significant part of Dr McGinley’s towering legacy.  
 
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Healing Service

Welcome to the second in a series of Healing Services organised by the Diocesan Ministry of Healing Committee for Derry and Raphoe. The Service is led by Rev Canon Katie McAteer, Pastoral Director of the CCCMSP Group of Parishes; Canon McAteer is assisted by Diocesan Reader, Mr Brian Seaton.

Statement from the Archbishop of Armagh

The Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has issued the following statement:

“The publication of the Research Report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland further reveals the suffering of women and children in relation to their experiences in these homes.  We are grateful to the academic research team for the work that has gone into this report, which will help the Church reflect in greater depth on the issues highlighted.

“Having had a chance to read the relevant chapters of the report, I acknowledge with shame that members of the Church of Ireland stigmatised women and children in a way which was very far removed from Christian principles and which resulted in an unloving, cold and judgmental attitude towards pregnant women who deserved better.

“The birth of a child should always be a time for happiness, and that many young women experienced it as joyless and cold is a matter for bitter regret.  I am sorry and apologise for the role we played in treating unmarried women and their children in this way.  They deserved much better.

“The Church of Ireland will be giving the report further careful consideration, and we would encourage any individuals or agencies who have relevant knowledge and records to co-operate fully with the independent investigation.”

 

Statement from the Church of Ireland Bishops in Northern Ireland in relation to Public Worship

As you will be aware, yesterday afternoon the Northern Ireland Executive took the unanimous decision to extend the current Covid-19 restrictions until Friday 5th March 2021. This decision was based on the strong recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Advisor, as a result of the continued extremely high level of transmission of the Covid-19 virus throughout the community (which over these last four weeks had not reduced to the level that had been hoped for), along with the increasing numbers in hospital and in intensive care.

In light of this decision, and on the basis of the clear and unequivocal public health advice that people should continue to stay at home, we have decided that all in-person Sunday gatherings for worship – along with all other in-person church gatherings – should remain suspended in all Church of Ireland parishes in Northern Ireland until  Friday 5th March 2021, with the exception of weddings, funerals, arrangements for recording and/or live-streaming, drive-in services and private prayer (as permitted by regulations).  This same step is also being taken today by the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

While we acknowledge that there is both cost and disappointment in this for many, we see this decision as part of our response to the command of Jesus to love our neighbours. We continue to encourage as many people as possible to stay at home for the sake of health, life and the Common Good.

Ultimately, as followers of Jesus, we are people of hope. As we journey through these dark and difficult days, we live in that hope, looking to the light that we find in Jesus.

We very much look forward to that time when we will be able to meet together, once again, for worship. Lent will begin this year on Ash Wednesday, the 17th February, which will be during this new period of extended restrictions. Lent is a penitential season when we journey in heart and mind with Christ in his suffering. As we contemplate the cross, may our hearts and minds be open to the healing and transforming power of God’s presence with us. In the resurrection light of Easter may we then find new hope not just for our own lives but also for the world around us. 

+John Armagh

+Andrew Derry and Raphoe

+David Down and Dromore

+George Connor