Restarting In-Person Services – Responding to the Tyrone Courier

 

“Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church in common with the policy of our governing body, the Presbytery of Ulster, has been taking the Covid-19 pandemic very seriously in light of the sixth commandment which requires us to protect our own lives and the lives of our neighbours.  As a Church, however, we view the public act of worship as something that is essential for our spiritual as well as our mental health.  Therefore throughout this pandemic we have been endeavouring to strike a balance by taking all sensible and practical precautions, observing the regulations laid down by law while caring for the spiritual and mental health of our people.

Since the onset of the pandemic a year ago Clogher Valley Presbyterian Church has been in a constant state of restriction and we do not foresee a return to normal worship anytime soon.  

On occasions the restrictions have involved a regrettable pausing of in person meetings. During these periods, as was the case in the Spring of 2020 and more recently in January and February of 2021 worship continued through online ministry and Zoom prayer meetings.  Rev Peter McIntyre also hosts a weekly Sunday radio broadcast on Radio Star Country and has produced a series of videos entitled “Hope for the Journey” which received thousands of views.  Despite the challenges of lockdown more people have been reached with the message of the Gospel than would have been the case in normal times.

On the occasions when we are able to gather in-person Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church adheres to all Government and health regulations in accordance with our risk assessments.  Only a portion of the congregation can gather each Sunday morning with attendees coming on a rota basis to ensure social distancing.  With hand sanitising while entering and leaving the building, with designated seating and exits, with mask wearing required (except for those who are exempt), with no hymn books in use to avoid contamination and with a fog machine sanitising the building afterwards these are far from normal times.  For those who cannot attend, the services are streamed live.  Sunday school, Children’s Bible Club and Youth Fellowship continue to operate remotely via Zoom.  The Church has invested in order to minister via online in these challenging times.   Therefore we are able, for example, to combine an in-person mid-week Bible Study & Prayer Meeting with a Zoom prayer meeting enabling those who cannot attend to share personally with those who can.

During the course of the pandemic the congregation has been meeting in-person from July 2020 to January 2021 (except for the two week lockdown imposed by the Northern Ireland Executive in November / December 2020) and from 3rd March 2021.  The Northern Ireland Executive has not imposed a lockdown upon churches during this current phase of the pandemic, which we wholeheartedly agree with because as Christians we are absolutely committed to acting with due care and attention balancing our responsibility to pastorally nurture the physical, spiritual and mental well being of our people.  Our return to restricted in-person meetings from the beginning of March was based upon the reductions in infections, of hospitalisations and of deaths as well the “R” rate – all of which we considered to be an answer to prayer.  The worshippers in Clogher Valley are supportive of this approach.  In person meetings are missed greatly and the opportunity to personally gather is greatly appreciated despite the restrictions we are under.

If the Northern Ireland Executive extends restrictions in the future, according to the health and scientific advice, Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church will abide by the rule of the Presbytery of Ulster which will consider this matter with the utmost care and attention.  We take our duty as Christian citizens very seriously as the Apostle Paul teaches us so to do in Romans 13.

We are much in prayer that our nation will turn to God, that the sick and bereaved will be comforted, that our doctors and nurses will 

be strengthened, that our businesses will be able to return to some normality and that there will be a merciful conclusion to this most difficult time.\”


Peter McIntyre

19th March 2021

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