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Presbyterian Church sets out guidelines for return of services

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Preparations: Rev Trevor Gribben

Preparations: Rev Trevor Gribben

Preparations: Rev Trevor Gribben

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has issued guidance to congregations as they consider the practical steps necessary before resuming worship services and other activities.  

In the 11-page document 'Guidelines for getting ready to gather again', the Church considers issues like planning ahead for reopening, preparing church buildings, and the practicalities of practising socially distanced worship.

The Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church have already issued guidance on how the return to services should be managed as lockdown restrictions caused by coronavirus ease.

The guidance for Presbyterians recommends churches to be marked out for social distancing, and notes that shaking hands remains "inappropriate" as a way of welcoming people to worship. Singing is also discouraged, and the passing of an offering plate among worshippers "must not be your practice for the foreseeable future".

The document says that in relation to the administration of the sacraments, guidance is still being considered by Church leaders and will be communicated "in due course".

Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk to the General Assembly, said the lockdown restrictions had been a "painful experience" for worshippers.

"The past three months of lockdown across the island of Ireland has presented unprecedented challenges," he said. "For our ministers and congregations, this has included the enforced closure of our church buildings and an inability to meet together for worship face-to-face. While undoubtedly this has been a painful experience for many, I have been encouraged to see how our people have adapted to share God's Word creatively online, and keep in contact with members and others in the community through phone calls, emails and old-fashioned letters."

He said the return to normal church services posed more complex problems than the sudden closure had.

"As lockdown restrictions gradually ease, our congregations must think carefully and responsibly about the practical preparations necessary to facilitate the return of worship services and other aspects of church life," he added.

"Each congregation's circumstances will be different and they will come to a variety of decisions about what activities to recommence, and how quickly this can happen.

"However, meeting together with brothers and sisters in Christ is central to Christian life and a primary expression of church as the family of God.

"And we look forward to having the opportunity to do so once again."

Belfast Telegraph