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Belfast pastor to defy Covid lockdown restrictions and keep his church open

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Rev Paul Burns, of the Adullam Christian Fellowship Church on Sandy Row in south Belfast

Rev Paul Burns, of the Adullam Christian Fellowship Church on Sandy Row in south Belfast

Rev Paul Burns, of the Adullam Christian Fellowship Church on Sandy Row in south Belfast

A pastor says he will defy lockdown rules and keep his church open despite the impending two-week circuit breaker restrictions.

The Executive announced a raft of measures last week including the closure of all places of worship except for weddings, civil partnerships and funerals from Friday.

Despite the new rules Rev Paul Burns, of the Adullam Christian Fellowship Church on Sandy Row in south Belfast, says he will keep his church open to those in need in defiance of the restrictions.

He said: "As a minister the church is separate to the state. We are a separate entity. Therefore, the government has to respect that.

"We will work with the government, we will work with communities, we will work with government associations but there comes a time where the church has to say, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'

"I know what people are going through and people at the moment want hope, they want to get out of fear, they want support and the church is that support.

"We are with them, we're not denying coronavirus exists but what we're saying is don't take away the people giving hope to the nation.

"If someone comes over to us and they're in a bad way we will be open to them to administer the sacrament and the church will be open to pray with them.

"We will not turn anyone away who is in need or who is suffering."

Justifying his decision, Rev Burns claimed a woman due to be baptised at his church today faced death and torture in her home country if she had not travelled to his ministry from Africa for the ceremony.

He said: "I'm doing a baptism service today.

"A young lady had to travel from the middle of Africa.

"That woman, if she had stayed in her country, would have been killed or imprisoned, and her child taken off her.

"What was I meant to say to her if the baptism was next Sunday, instead of this Sunday? 'I'm sorry you've travelled here. You've risked your life to come to a Christian country… but I'm sorry, the British government and the Northern Irish Assembly says I'm not allowed to bring you in and give you support when you've travelled so far?'

"No, I will be opening because I'm taking the commandment of my Father. And we are doing the right precautions."

The new measures due to come in to force on Friday include the closure of non-essential retail and the hospitality industry remaining closed for a further fortnight.

The restrictions were agreed by the Executive on Thursday, with schools allowed to remain open, after Health Minister Robin Swann argued the measures were needed before the end of November to halt the spread of the virus.

However, Rev Burns says closing his church in the run-up to Christmas would demonstrate a lack of faith.

When asked whether potential coronavirus outbreaks being linked to his church would worry him, Rev Burns claimed he has a track and trace system in place and knows "every name and every telephone number" to contact if needed.

"We're not causing coronavirus," he added.

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