Following further briefing today by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, and the Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Ian Young, and in consultation with the Executive Office, as Church Leaders we fully recognise the very serious position that Northern Ireland finds itself in at this time with the extremely high level of transmission of the Covid-19 virus. The escalation of numbers in hospital and intensive care is placing immense pressure on our healthcare staff; the number of deaths, and the very clear warning from health officials that over the next weeks, the situation is going to worsen significantly, is of grave concern to us all.
We recognise that clergy and parishioners have together worked steadily to implement protocols which have ensured that public gatherings for worship have been as safe as possible since the re-opening of our buildings in early summer. We also appreciate that the Northern Ireland Executive has acknowledged over the last 10 months the importance of people being able to gather in person for worship. The ongoing engagement between faith communities and the Northern Ireland Executive is warmly welcomed and is something which we believe has been, and continues to be, of benefit to wider society.
However, in light of the current serious and worsening situation and in line with clear public health guidance that people should stay at home, we have decided that all public gatherings for worship and all other in-person church activities should cease for our particular denomination, until Saturday, 6th February 2021, subject to review in late January, with the exception of weddings, funerals, arrangements for recording and/or live-streaming, drive-in services and private prayer (as permitted by regulations). We note and welcome the fact that the same position has been adopted by the Presbyterian Church, Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Church and others in Northern Ireland.
In making this decision for the ‘greater good’ of all within our community, we continue to remember in our prayers the sick and bereaved, all who are suffering, and those whose lives have been directly impacted by Covid-19, praying too for those in positions of responsibility who are faced with making difficult decisions at this challenging time.
+Andrew Derry and Raphoe
+David Down and Dromore