The following advice has been issued to Church of Ireland clergy in the Northern Province this afternoon following consultation with the General Secretaries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland:
1. Until further notice, all parish organisations and activities should cease.
If some meetings are required (for example a meeting of Select Vestry), or deemed important to hold, these should follow current Public Health guidance:
– those who display symptoms such as a high temperature and/or a new continuous cough, or have been advised to self–isolate, should not attend;
– those in vulnerable groupings should be discouraged from attending.
‘Virtual meetings’, including decision taking by e–mail or other similar means, are permissible (and indeed encouraged) in the current circumstances.
2. Until further notice, all Sunday and midweek services (gatherings for worship) should be suspended.
– Please note the emphasis on ‘gatherings’ being suspended – creative means of enabling members to avail of worship resources should be sought. If appropriate, church buildings can be left open so that parishioners can visit for private prayer provided public health guidelines on hygiene and sanitation can be observed.
– In the interim, clergy may be able to provide electronic resources themselves or could perhaps liaise with colleagues and sign–post resources provided by others.
– The Church of Ireland website will highlight some central resources and, if possible, give some more guidance regarding other liturgical material that is available.
3. Until further notice, steps should be taken to ensure that numbers attending funeral services and weddings are kept as low as possible.
– Consideration should be given to all funerals being private (for close family and friends only), with no public announcement of the funeral arrangements.
– Where there are formal government restrictions on numbers attending indoor or outdoor events, these should be strictly adhered to in all situations, including both weddings and funerals.
– In weeks to come, if additional restrictions are brought in regarding the funerals of certain categories of people, these should be followed.
– At this stage, it is not possible to ascertain a realistic end date for the above restrictions, hence the phrase ‘until further notice’. However, be assured that this formal advice will be withdrawn as soon as government guidance permits.
– Similar advice is being issued today by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland.