An evangelical pastor fighting for life in hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus is showing signs of improvement, his church said yesterday.
Pastor Mark McClurg of Newtownards Elim Church is in intensive care in the Ulster Hospital after testing positive for the virus last week.
Two people in Northern Ireland have died from the virus, and 128 people here have tested positive for the infection.
Last night an update posted on his church's social media page revealed medics felt Pastor McClurg was starting to make progress in the fight against the virus.
"He has been able to sit up this morning, and though exhausted he and the doctor believes he is making progress, however slow and small it may be," a church spokesperson said.
"Any improvement is a blessing, and a result of prayer.
"He appreciates the prayers of the family of God, both local and worldwide.
"He is humbled and confident that prayer will prevail and bring him through.
"Please continue to uphold him and his precious wife and family. Pray without ceasing."
Yesterday, Bangor Elim Church called on its congregation to pray for Pastor McClurg's speedy recovery.
"As you may be aware Mark was hospitalised early this week and on Thursday he tested positive for coronavirus," a church spokesman said.
"I am writing to ask for urgent prayer.
"Mark has had an uncomfortable night and the hospital have decided that ventilation may be the best course of action in order to give Mark's body and heart some rest from the stress he is currently experiencing.
"Please pray for God's intervention and healing power at this time.
"Please pray for (his partner) Claire and the children who are also self-isolating at this time, also his brother Sam and all the family.
"Obviously, visiting by anyone including family is not permitted, and this in itself is incredibly distressing for everyone closest to Mark."
A second pastor, Lee McClelland of Ark Church on Belfast's Cliftonpark Avenue, is also in intensive care after testing positive for the disease.
Hundreds of heartfelt messages and prayers for both men have been posted by worshippers.
Paul Cairns, who knows both, wrote: "Praying for friends of mine - Pastor Lee McClelland and Pastor Mark McClurg; both servants of the Lord that need your prayers, both in intensive care with confirmed coronavirus.
"More prayer more power!"
Another worshipper, Denise McKendry, wrote: "We thank you Lord for the slight improvement in Mark and for answered prayers.
"We continue to pray for him and his family as well as all the others who have been brought down by this virus.
"Heal them Lord and let them see that you are the light shining through this dark time."
Pastor McClurg's brother Sam, who is a pastor at an Elim Church in Rathfriland, issued a statement.
"On behalf of Mark and Claire and his family we want to thank everyone who has been praying for him," he said.
"A lot of people are texting messages of support directly to Mark, and whilst this is encouraging, Mark needs to focus his strength on beating this virus.
"His condition in ICU hasn't improved since Tuesday, so continue to pray for his lungs and breathing and for time for his body to beat this virus.
"God is in control."