Covid virus drives worshippers ‘up the walls’ to St Augustine’s

Bishop Andrew Forster joined scores of parishioners from St Augustine’s Londonderry and further afield for a ‘Drive-in Service’ to mark Pentecost Day. The service – which took place in glorious sunshine – was led by the Rector of ‘The Wee Church on the Walls’, Rev Nigel Cairns, and the Bishop preached the sermon.

The service was held in Bishop Street car park, adjoining St Augustine’s Parish Hall and opposite the city’s courthouse. A team of volunteers, dressed in ‘high-vis’ vests and PPE gear, oversaw a one-way, ‘car ferry’ type system, that meant cars were directed in one entrance and afterwards out a different way.

Social-distancing guidelines required all those present for worship to remain in their cars during the service, and parish volunteers ensured none of the worshippers fell victim to the soaring temperature.

Bishop Andrew welcomed the congregation to what he called his ‘back garden’ (the car park occupies what would previously have been the back garden of the old Bishop’s Palace). He said, St Augustine’s was known as ‘the Wee Church on the Walls’. “Today, we’re the wee church without walls,” he said. “I always think about St Augustine’s as the Wee Church with a big heart and today we’re showing our big heart because we’re together, worshipping God on this Pentecost Sunday.

“This is definitely a first for me,” the Bishop said, “and I would imagine it’s a first for many of you as well, but God is here and we worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Rev Cairns echoed the Bishop’s welcome to the first ‘Drive-through Church’ in the inner city, and thanked all those who had helped make the service possible. He said St Augustine’s would be gathering for worship in the same location again next Sunday.