‘Give careful thought to your ways,’ Bishop Andrew says, as COVID-19 virus spreads

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, has urged people to follow the advice of public health experts and do their bit to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. His appeal followed the introduction on Monday of new COVID-19 restrictions in the Derry City and Strabane District, and the Irish government’s decision to move the entire Republic of Ireland to Level 3 restrictions.

Bishop Andrew said rapidly changing restrictions and guidelines could sometimes seem confusing, but there were broad rules about which there was no ambiguity: the need to sanitise our hands, the need to wear masks and the need to observe social distancing.

You can tread the Bishop’s statement in full below:
“We have all been shocked by the recent sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in parts of the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe. It is clear that the virus is spreading rapidly and that drastic action is needed to stop it.

“Politicians north and south have a difficult job to do in reconciling the medical and scientific advice with economic requirements, and in balancing people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Economic considerations are undoubtedly important, but people’s safety is paramount. I pray that God will grant our leaders the gift of discernment when making difficult and occasionally unpopular decisions.

“The COVID-19 virus is making enormous demands of us as a society – how we work, how we socialise, how we behave, how we grieve. At times it has been a huge ‘ask’, and the toll on people’s morale – even on their mental health – has been severe. These are very difficult days and it is easy to become discouraged.

“But little things can make a big difference and we can all ‘do our bit’.

“Even with rapidly changing restrictions and guidelines that can sometimes seem confusing, let’s remember there are broad rules that we’ve all been made aware of and about which there is no ambiguity: the need to sanitise our hands, the need to wear masks and the need to observe social distancing – ‘hands, face and space’.

“In the Bible, the prophet Haggai offers advice to the people who are refusing to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. He says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” Obviously, the context was different to that in which we now find ourselves, but the advice holds true. In fact, Haggai mentions this instruction not once but twice: “Give careful thought to your ways.”

“So, we would do well to heed that advice now. Please listen to the experts. Follow their advice. And please do the little things: ‘hands, face and space’. That’s how we look out for each other. That’s how we love our neighbour.

“There’s one other practical thing we, as Christians, can and should do in this pandemic: turn to God. I urge you to pray for the scientists who are searching for a vaccine; pray for the politicians who are trying to manage this intractable situation; pray for the healthcare staff and essential services workers who are looking after us in these very difficult times. Pray for the anxious and the fearful, and for those who are ill because of Covid.

“Pray for one another, too. Give careful thought to your ways. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance, and one day we will defeat this virus.”