Applause for political ‘giant’ who “made peace visible for others”

There was spontaneous applause outside St Eugene’s Cathedral, this afternoon, as the remains of the Nobel peace laureate, John Hume, were placed into a hearse following his Requiem Mass in Londonderry. Onlookers outside the church railings began clapping, surprising members of the Hume family and other mourners, who turned to those applauding and signalled their appreciation for the gesture.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, joined the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Eamon Martin, the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev Dr Donal McKeown and Rev Canon Dinny McGettigan at the front of the cathedral for a service that was broadcast live on television and online.

Attendance in church was restricted to around one hundred mourners because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The mourners were led by Mr Hume’s widow, Pat, and four of their five children. Their eldest son, Aidan, who lives in Massachusetts, did not fly home because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions and followed the funeral online instead.

Among the political leaders present at the Mass were the Irish President Michael D Higgins, the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. The Queen was represented by the Lord-Lieutenant of the City of Londonderry, Dr Angela Garvey.

Others in attendance included the current SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, former leaders Mark Durkan, Alasdair McDonnell and Baroness Ritchie, Alliance leader Naomi Long, former Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson and the PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne.

Bishop McKeown read out messages from dignitaries including the Pope, the Prime Minister, the Dalai Lama and former US President Bill Clinton.

Boris Johnson said the world had lost “a giant of a politician” whose unending determination and courage had paved the way for peace. Northern Ireland was a safer, stronger and better place because of what Mr Hume did, the Prime Minister said.

President Clinton described John Hume as Ireland’s Martin Luther King and said his chosen weapons were “an unshakeable commitment to nonviolence, persistence, kindness, and love”.

A message shared on behalf of Pope Francis praised Mr Hume’s “untiring efforts to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace among the people of Northern Ireland”, while the Dalai Lama said his fellow Nobel laureate’s message about peace and non-violence in the resolution of conflict would long survive him.

U2 singer Bono also sent a message. “We were looking for a giant and found a man whose life made all our lives bigger,” he wrote. “We were looking for a great leader and found a great servant – we found John Hume.”

Mr Hume’s son, John, delivered a moving eulogy which drew applause from the congregation. He provoked laughter when recalling his father’s famous sweet tooth and expressed pride in his father’s achievements.

“If dad were here today, in the fullness of his health, witnessing the current tensions in the world, he wouldn’t waste the opportunity to say a few words. He’d talk about our common humanity, the need to respect diversity and difference, to protect and deepen democracy, to value education, and to place non-violence at the absolute centre.

“He might also stress the right to a living wage and a roof over your head, to decent healthcare and education.”

In his homily, Fr Paul Farren compared Mr Hume to the Good Samaritan, who had “crossed the road” to help someone whom he regarded as a neighbour and friend.

“We should never underestimate how difficult it was for John to cross the road and do what was intensely unpopular for the greater good,” Fr Farren said. “Even in the darkest moments, when people would have been forgiven for having no hope, John made peace visible for others.

Fr Farren said John Hume never lost faith in peace and never lost faith in his ability to convince others that peace was the only way. “If ever you want to see a man who gave his life for his country, and his health, that man is John Hume,” he said, “and the world knows it.”

Fr Farren also referred to Mr Hume’s political achievements which, the priest said, had saved many lives. “There are people alive today who would not be alive but for John Hume’s vision and work. And it could be any one of us.”

Mr Hume – who was a founder member and former leader of the SDLP, former Foyle MP and Northern Ireland MEP – died on Monday at the age of 83. He was laid to rest in Derry’s City Cemetery in a simple wicker casket.

 

 

Church leaders pay tribute to late Nobel peace laureate John Hume

The Church of Ireland Primate, Most Rev John McDowell, and the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, have expressed condolences following the death of the former SDLP leader and Nobel peace laureate, John Hume. Archbishop McDowell said Mr Hume would be remembered for his unambiguous dedication to peaceful means while Bishop Forster described Mr Hume as “one of the giants of modern Irish history”.

Archbishop McDowell’s statement in full:

“Firstly, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies and prayers to John Hume’s wife, Pat, and to the wider family.  For many people, even looking on at a distance, Pat’s care for John, especially over the period of his last illness, was exemplary and inspiring.

“John Hume will be remembered not only as a significant politician in Ireland but also for his unambiguous dedication to making political change happen by purely peaceful means.  Because of the manner of his approach, this required enormous patience and sympathetic understanding and those of us who are the beneficiaries of his legacy can only regret his passing while, at the same time, being thankful for his gargantuan efforts in the cause of peace and good relations.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

Bishop Forster’s statement in full:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of the Nobel peace laureate, John Hume – one of the giants of modern Irish history.

“John achieved what many people had thought impossible by plotting a course through the previously uncharted waters of peace in Northern Ireland. He mapped out a route which addressed what he called “the totality of relationships in these islands”: between Unionists and Nationalists; north and south; Britain and Ireland. The approach he prescribed gave rise to our modern peace process.

“Those of us who grew up during the Troubles recognise that Northern Ireland is a better place now because of the courage and commitment of people like John Hume. We owe him and them an enormous debt for what they achieved on our behalf. We would now honour John best by completing that quest to build a better society and a peace that endures.

“I offer my sincere condolences to John’s devoted wife, Pat, and to their five children, and assure the family that they are to the fore in my prayers at this very sad time.”

The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, has also paid tribute to Mr Hume:
“During turbulent and troubled times, John Hume put his shoulder to the wheel in the service of dialogue and peace,” Archbishop Jackson said.
“He did so for people right across Ireland who lived in fear of the present and in hope of a brighter future.
“His legacy of painstaking dialogue is recognised internationally and was honoured in his lifetime by the joint award with Lord David Trimble of the Nobel Peace Prize. The fruit of his legacy remains the Good Friday – Belfast Agreement.
“We honour his memory, give thanks for his courage and pray for all members of his family.”

 

Restoration work to start next month on Raphoe Cathedral

Work on the long-awaited restoration of St Eunan’s Cathedral in Raphoe is to begin next month following the appointment of the construction firm, J.A. Gamble and Co Ltd, as the main contractor for the project.

Details were finalised at a meeting last week between the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, members of the Cathedral’s Select Vestry, architect Karl Pedersen of Mullarkey Pedersen Architects and Richard Gamble of J.A. Gamble & Co Ltd.

“I am delighted that we are now about to start these major renovation works to our historic Cathedral church,” Dean Barrett said. “This has been a long time coming. The Select Vestry have been planning these restoration works for a number of years and a huge amount of work has already taken place, especially in fund-raising for the project.”

The improvement work was originally meant to begin last April but the project fell behind schedule as the Covid-19 outbreak forced the closure of churches throughout Ireland. A number of fundraising events for St Eunan’s also fell victim to the pandemic, including a concert in St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry, a Bible-reading marathon in Raphoe Cathedral itself, and various smaller fundraisers.

However, last month’s announcement of an €80,000 grant from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht allowed the Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Project to get ‘back on track’ – albeit slightly behind schedule.

“We are so very grateful to the people of Raphoe,” Dean Barrett said, “and to so many other people and organisations who have very generously supported our fund-raising campaigns. The recent award of an €80,000 grant from the Historic Structures Fund and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme – administered through Donegal County Council – is a wonderful boost to all of our efforts, and has enabled us to start the works straight away.

“The plan is that between early August and the end of the year, the whole roof of the church will be replaced; the top of the Cathedral tower will be repaired; stonework, timbers and leadwork will all be restored, and significant electrical work will be carried out to the interior of the church.

“For fourteen hundred years,” Dean Arthur said, “Christians have been coming to this site to pray. The present church, itself, is over 800 years old. If we’re to preserve worship on this ancient and historic site, then this restoration work is absolutely essential. The restoration project is challenging, in the current financial climate, but I have been delighted by the response. I thank parishioners for their patience and generosity, and for their commitment to St Eunan’s Cathedral. And I thank the wider community, too, for their support for the project.

“The scale and ambition of the project have undoubtedly stretched us as a parish,” the Dean said, “but I feel a sense of privilege, too, that we have been able to contribute in such a meaningful way to Christian worship in Raphoe and to write our own chapter in the history of St Eunan’s Cathedral. To God be the glory.”

The photo below shows: (front, l-r): Richard Gamble (J.A. Gamble and Co. Ltd. – Main Contractors), Karl Pedersen (Mullarkey Pedersen Architects) Very Reverend Arthur Barrett (Dean of Raphoe);  (rear, l-r): Renee Goudie and Jim King (Raphoe Cathedral Select Vestry); not in photo – Geoffrey Devenney (Raphoe Cathedral Select Vestry).

 

 

 

 

 

 

St Columba’s Church in Ennis’s Service to feature on RTE News Now this weekend

Revd Kevin O’Brien, the Rector of Ennis with Spanish Point and Kilnasoolagh, has been asked by RTÉ to produce a Service to be broadcast on RTÉ News Now on Sunday 19th July at 2pm.
 
Revd O’Brien has been producing Services every Sunday on YouTube during the lockdown and will continue to do so even though churches are beginning to reopen. These can be seen on www.clareanglicans.ie
 
Revd O’Brien said, “Our online services have been watched by a large number of viewers both in West Clare and much further afield and we feel it is important to continue them even though our churches are reopening, especially to help those people who do not feel ready yet to attend in person. Also, we see online participation as a new and growing way of many people ‘going to church’ into the future – we want to be there for them”.
 
“We are grateful to RTÉ for giving us the opportunity to widen our number of worshipers still further by broadcasting it on RTÉ News Now.”
 
The Service will be broadcast on RTÉ News Now on Sunday 19th July at 2pm and will be a Service of Morning Prayer for the 6th Sunday after Trinity. It will be led by Revd Kevin who will also preach. Members of the three churches will be involved in providing readings and prayers. The service will be introduced by the church organist Nigel Bridge playing a piece of music of his own composition. The programme ends with a traditional piper playing Easter Snow.

“It’s great to be back” – Bishop hails return of in-church worship

“It’s great to be back,” Bishop Andrew Forster told parishioners in Holy Trinity Church in Dunfanaghy, on Sunday morning, as they gathered for worship in their parish church, in north-east Donegal, for the first time in almost four months. Holy Trinity was one of a number of churches throughout the Diocese to open their doors for collective in-church which is permissible again following the relaxation of public health restrictions north and south of the border.

There was a much smaller than usual congregation, in Dunfanaghy, given the new restrictions placed on attendance, and there was strict adherence to Church and state guidelines concerning hygiene and physical distancing. There was new signage in the church and hand sanitiser for members of the congregation. There was strict social distancing in and between pews, and there was no hymn-singing – only an organist to provide sacred music. People also had to ‘sign in’ as they arrived, to facilitate track and trace measures.

Despite the restrictions, and regardless of the damp, blustery conditions on the way to and from church, there was no dampening the spirits of the parishioners who were delighted to be back in church for Dunfanaghy’s first Sunday Service since before St Patrick’s Day.

In going to Holy Trinity to preach, this morning, Bishop Andrew was fulfilling a commitment made before the arrival of the coronavirus. “Lockdown has reminded us,” the Bishop said, “of something that we had already known, that Church is not simply about a building. We’ve always said that; we’ve told the children at Sunday School that Church is not a building. And yet so often we see Church bound up in bricks and mortar. Lockdown has reminded us that we, the people of God, are something very different from bricks and mortar, that we’re a family, and the family of God is worshipping and loving and serving.

“And during lockdown,” the Bishop continued, “the family of God has continued to worship, and to love and to serve, wherever we are and whatever our calling has been. But yet, this building – bricks and mortar as it is – becomes sacred space to us, special to us, and that is why we longed to get back to church together, because it is for us a place of prayer, a place that brings together those landmark moments in our life – both of joy and of heartache – and it’s because a church building is a place of worship and love and service that, in turn, it helps us to worship and love and serve wherever we go. So, in other words, that’s a very long way of saying it’s good to be back isn’t it? It’s good to be together again. It’s good to be in the place that we are loved”

Bishop Andrew talked to the congregation about the impact of Covid-19. It had led to unprecedented use of the word ‘unprecedented’, he said. Describing himself as a ‘huggy’ person, he said he could no longer embrace people or shake hands. We were now having to stand back from our normal interactions. “It’s changed everything,” he said, “how we act, how we think, how we live our daily lives.

“In many ways, life is often like the twin tracks of a railway. On one track, during this time, we felt instability, and uncertainty, and fear, and illness and even death. But on the other track we have seen kindness, and generosity, and community, and hope, and love and faith in a way we have never experienced before. So, there’s so much that we can celebrate in this. And often in life it’s like those twin tracks, isn’t it? On the one hand we feel this uncertainty and fear, and on the other hand we feel a growth in faith and prayer and love.”

Bishop Andrew said Sunday’s Gospel illustrated this ‘dualism’. In the reading, Jesus identified the confusion that was at the very heart of humanity. “Maybe, in lockdown, we’ve begun to see again what really matters,” the Bishop said, “that it’s not just about accumulation of wealth or success or our own wellbeing; that life is about community, it’s about love, it’s about worship, it’s about serving, and we’ve begun to see that again.”

Sunday’s Service was led by the Rector of Dunfanaghy, Raymunterdoney and Tullaghobegley, Rev David Skuce, assisted by Parish Reader Patrick Knowles. Rev Skuce reminded the congregation that the coronavirus was still present in the community. He urged his parishioners to continue to exercise caution as they returned to worship and as they went about their lives generally. “Don’t be like the cattle released from the byre after the winter, running wild into the field. Do things gradually, be careful and take it easy.”

 

‘We’re all key workers for God’ – Bishop Andrew tells On The Move

Bishop Andrew has encouraged young people taking part in this year’s ‘On the Move’ to think of themselves as key workers for God. The Bishop was speaking during ‘Worship Wind-up’ which launched Day Two of this year’s Diocesan youth outreach programme. ‘On the Move’ has itself moved online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

+Andrew told the watching young people that all of us were key workers in God’s kingdom. “God has a plan for your life,” he said, “and he wants to bless you and use you.” As the teenage participants focus on today’s theme, key workers, the Bishop suggested they consider a number of activities for the afternoon ‘Get Moving’ section of the programme. He said they could give a gift to a key worker, to show how highly they were thought of; they could make a ‘Thank You’ poster for a shop of business which had served the community throughout the lockdown; and they could bake a cake or buns for a key worker, as a sign of appreciation.

Thursday evening’s ‘Wind -down’ programme includes an online quiz.

 

‘Be someone. Do Something. Head somewhere.’ Bishop Andrew launches On The Move 2020

Bishop Andrew has launched the Diocesan Youth Outreach, ‘On the Move’, which is being delivered online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. He encouraged young people beginning this year’s ‘On the Move’ to, “Be someone. Do Something. Head somewhere. Know that you are a child of God.”

Each day, from Wednesday 1st July to Sunday 5th July, young people  and grown-ups gather together online for a programme of events: in the mornings ‘Worship Wind-up’ involves Bible-teaching and prayer; ‘Get Moving’, in the afternoons, involves participants in challenges and activities focused on an area of community concern; and in the evening ‘Wind-down’ young people share photos, enjoy online fellowship and reflect on the day’s activities.

Launching this year’s programme from his home, on Facebook Live, Bishop Andrew said ‘On the Move’ was one of those things we normally did together. “We were meant to be in Donegal Group of Parishes, with a group of young people like you, enjoying a great time of service together but, of course, that wasn’t to be because of the pandemic.

“So, the DRY Board – Derry and Raphoe Youth Board – got together and thought ‘How do we do ‘On the Move’ in a way that still engages with people, in a way that’s still important, in a way that will be great fun?’ And they’ve come up with this super, online version of ‘On the Move’ that I’m really pleased to launch, today, and to be part of with you today.”

For the first time, Bishop Andrew suggested, grown-ups like him could become involved in ‘On the Move’, since the online activity was being overseen by parents and guardians.

The focus of the first day was people who were shielding because of the pandemic. Bishop Andrew encouraged younger members of his online audience to do a number of things that afternoon: write a letter to someone who was shielding, letting them know people were thinking about them; design a poster as a gift for a local nursing home which was caring for people during the crisis; stop and pray for people in the parish or community who were shielding.

 

Archbishop Welby honours pilgrim bishops

The Bishop of Derry, Most Rev Dr Donal McKeown, and the former Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, are among more than 30 people recognised in this year’s Lambeth Awards which were announced this morning by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The awards acknowledge “outstanding contributions to the Church and wider society”. In total, 32 awards were announced to people from fields including evangelism, the Religious life, safeguarding, ecumenism, theology and interfaith relations.

Bishop Good and Bishop McKeown have each been given a Langton Award for Community Service. The citation accompanying Bishop Good’s said it was “for giving strategic leadership to the local church to engage fully with the community, throughout his ordained ministry, most of which was in the complex community of Northern Ireland.” Bishop McKeown’s citation said his award was “for his exceptional and sustained dedication to the cause of peace and social cohesion in an environment of traditional interdenominational tension.”

The other recipients, this year, include people from New Zealand, Kenya, the USA and the UK. The awards are usually presented at a ceremony at Lambeth Palace, but this year’s ceremony has had to be cancelled because of Covid-19.

Archbishop Welby said: “This is the fifth year of the Lambeth Awards, and I am constantly impressed and humbled by the work that recipients have accomplished, sometimes in the most challenging circumstances. Not all are followers of Jesus Christ, but all contribute through their faith to the mutual respect and maintenance of human dignity which are so vital to spiritual and social health.”

Bishop Good said: “I am humbled and grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for honouring me with a Lambeth Award for Community Service, and doubly blessed to receive this honour alongside my friend in Christ, Bishop Donal McKeown. This simultaneous recognition of the work of two bishops is a source of great encouragement.

“The pursuit of peace is a noble endeavour, but the journey is frequently challenging and can feel lonely. I’m thankful for having had Bishop Donal as a trusted companion in what became for us a joint quest.

“+Donal and I do what we do because of a sense of calling. Jesus told his disciples to love one another, and that is a command we have sought to live up to and to share as best we can, whatever the cost. In this, we have been privileged to follow in the footsteps of inspirational predecessors.

“I hope that the Archbishop’s generous gesture towards us will inspire peacemakers elsewhere in God’s Kingdom.

“To God be the glory.”

Bishop McKeown said the Lambeth Awards would serve as an encouragement to Church and wider civic society.

“It is a privilege to receive this Award along with Bishop Ken,” Bishop McKeown said. “He laboured long and faithfully in this corner of the Lord’s vineyard. Anything I have done in my few years here was built on the foundations that others had laid before my arrival.

“As the disciples on the road to Emmaus discovered, the Truth can be encountered by those who walk together. +Ken and I sought to walk together as a symbol of the pilgrim Church, making space for Christ to make our hearts burn within us.

“Community is built by good relationships – and by emphasising our long, shared history rather than our more recent divided past. Along with the other main Churches in the area, we tried to look at the common heritage of St Columba. That enabled us all to look together at some of the recent contentious centenaries so that our young people could face the future with hope rather than fear.

“It was wonderful to welcome Archbishop Welby to Derry in February 2018. I trust that this Award will be an encouragement to both Church and wider civic society. And I look forward to building on the existing links with Canterbury long into the future.”

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Most Rev John McDowell, led the tributes to the two Bishops following news of their awards. “These Awards are an eloquent tribute to two good and faithful servants of Christ’s Church on earth. +Donal and +Ken have modelled an example of discipleship and Christian witness that should serve as an encouragement and inspiration to us all – in the Church and in society at large.”

The current Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, joined in the tributes. “I congratulate Bishop Ken and Bishop Donal on receiving their Lambeth Awards,” Bishop Forster said. “They have been hard-earned and are richly deserved for the bishops’ efforts – both individually and in partnership – to heal division and build bridges in our community. They are a fitting reward, too, for the Bishops’ constant and faithful witness to Christ’s gospel.

“In the same way that they have been inspired by their predecessors, Bishop Donal and Bishop Ken have set a towering example of Christian Church leadership for all of us who follow, for which I thank God.

“I congratulate them both. I applaud the Archbishop of Canterbury, too, for his perceptiveness and generosity in acknowledging the often-unsung work that is being done by the Churches here to promote peace and reconciliation.”

 

Rector leads the way on Garvagh’s 350k ‘Prayer Walk’ relay

The parishioners of Errigal and Desertoghill sacrificed their day of rest, today, to join their rector in a fundraising Prayer Walk as part of their parish’s celebrations marking the 350th year of ‘Worship and Witness’ in St Paul’s Church in Garvagh.

From 10am onwards, the church families of St Paul’s and Moyletra were ‘on the move’ – literally – as between them they completed a combined total of 350 kilometres to symbolise the church’s historic milestone.

The total distance was achieved through a variety of relays, with the Rector, Rev Carmen Hayes, leading the way by completing ten 3.5km circuits herself – the equivalent of almost 22 miles.

Family groups and individuals signed up for allocated time slots, on Sunday, so that social distancing could be observed throughout. Some parish members completed their stints earlier in the week.

There was a wide age range among the participants, who included children, parents and grandparents. The walkers set off from the church car park to a point beyond the town’s limits and back again, completing a circuit of three and a half kilometres.

It was wet and drizzly for most of the day but that did not dampen the spirits of the worshippers, nor of their intrepid Rector. Signs posted along the route encouraged participants to think about things within their community – such as local churches, schools and essential workers – and to pray for them as they walked.

Monies raised by Sunday’s walk will be used to improve the church hall next to Garvagh Church.

Bishop Andrew calls for patience and understanding as church reopening resumes

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has called for patience and understanding as churches begin the process of reopening for public worship. From Monday 29th June, places of worship in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be allowed to resume public services after a three-month suspension imposed because of the coronavirus crisis.

Rt Rev Andrew Forster said he welcomed this step towards “a new normal” but he said with freedom came responsibility and a need to do things “the right way”. In doing the right thing during the coronavirus, the Bishop said, we were actually loving our neighbour because we were wanting to make sure our neighbour remained safe and that those around us remained safe. “The way we open our churches, and the safeguards we put in place, are all about loving our neighbour,” the Bishop said.

Bishop Forster used his Sunday afternoon reflection on Facebook Live to share his thoughts on how worship would look when church doors open again.

“Although in Ireland, at the moment, the virus seems very much under control – which we’re so thankful for – we know the virus is still there,” Bishop Andrew said. “Right across the world, we’re hearing terrible stories, from countries like Brazil, and Peru and Mexico, and of growing cases in the United States as well, and we need to keep praying for those countries, keep praying for our own country, and keep praying for a vaccine and cure.

“We’ve made really positive steps in coming out of this pandemic, but we know it’s still there, and we need to be cautious and we need to be careful as we move into ‘the new normal’, into the new future.

“From tomorrow, both north and south, churches are allowed to begin the process of reopening and we really welcome that. It’s been such a hard time being away from our normal Sunday worship and being away from the churches that we love. We welcome this step towards a new normality.

“We’ve been given the freedom to meet again, but we know that with freedom comes responsibility. At the moment, going back to church places a lot of responsibility on you and on me, on select vestries and on clergy, and on all those who will attend churches because we’ve got to follow all the public health guidelines and we’ve got to follow the guidelines that the Church of Ireland has put together for that.

“I really welcome the opportunity to be back at church but I want you to know that there’s no set date by which this may happen, because select vestries – and clergy in particular – have to make sure that in their parishes it’s right and it’s appropriate and it’s safe to open, and that’ll take time. I’d ask you to be patient with that,” Bishop Andrew said, “as we move through to this new system.

“Whenever we go to church, whenever it reopens, it’ll be very different from when we last left church, because we’ll have social distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, contact tracing; it’ll feel very different but yet we know God will be with us. God will be with us in church as he’s with us at home.

“Over the next while, connecting with church will in some ways be – one of those buzz phrases at the moment – a ‘mixed economy’, so there will be church services that you can attend but there’ll also be online services, and we’ll want to point you in the direction of those because it will take time.

“I would appeal to you to be patient, to be understanding, to be cooperative with all the systems that are put in place, and to be safe in how we go back to church.

“It seems amazing to have to talk in those terms,” the Bishop said, “about the resumption of church services but this is a freedom that we have to hold responsibly and to do the right way. To be honest, I can’t wait to be back in church, and I’m sure a lot of you feel exactly the same way, but we need to do this the right way and not just rush things.”

Bishop Forster plans to be in Dunfanaghy, next weekend, for his first in-church service in almost four months. He asked this afternoon’s online congregation to pray for parishes, as they got to grips with both state and Church guidelines for reopening. He also appealed for patience, understanding and cooperation once worship resumes.

“It’ll be so good to be back together,” the Bishop said. “To be honest, none of us knows when we will be back together ‘normally’, when we can sit in our own pews again, when we can be close to people, when we can do all the things we love to do again; none of us knows when that will be. But God will be with us in this, as he has been, and he will continue to be with us, and continue to equip and help us through this new normal.”

Bishop Forster gave thanks for the relaxation of the safeguards people had been living with in recent months. He also thanked God for ensuring that while the doors of churches had been closed the Church had remained open and alive and serving.