Methodist Church in Ireland
To all Ministers and Circuit Stewards
We want to begin with the prayer attributed to St Patrick which seems appropriate for these days:
“May the strength of God pilot us. May the power of God preserve us. May the wisdom of God instruct us.
May the hand of God protect us. May the way of God direct us. May the shield of God defend us. May the host of God guard us.”
Patrick’s prayer stands as a powerful reminder of God’s presence, strength, power and wisdom in
the midst of every situation and circumstance. That strength of course is not just for ourselves but so that we might serve, honour and bear witness to God, Creator, Saviour and Spirit in the world. The people of God are invited to bear witness to God in every circumstance.
In the light of evolving Government advice, both in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland we issue the following formal advice to all Ministers and Circuit Executives:
1. Until further notice, all Sunday gatherings for worship should cease
We are making this decision on the basis of evolving Government advice in both jurisdictions and in light of the facts that that local churches are understandably seeking clear guidance and out of our desire to protect those who may be vulnerable within our congregations.
Please note the emphasis on ‘gatherings’ ceasing, creative means of enabling members to avail of worship resources should be sought. Our encouragement is to think and pray about how you might worship together even if you cannot gather physically in one place. You will know what is best in your contexts but it might be appropriate for ministers to open the church building for private prayer on Sunday (strictly adhering to HSE or NHS guidance if you do so), using live-streaming, podcasts etc. From tomorrow there will be a section on the irishmethodist website with resources for keeping congregations connected through these weeks and months, ideas for how we might continue to bless our communities and ideas for worship with links to services and resources for children and young people. We encourage you to help each other by sharing ideas and resources for that website through your District Superintendent. We know and need to keep reminding each other that God does not call us to hide away but to continue on mission with God in every circumstance. We are trusting that despite the challenges of these days there will be stories to tell in the coming weeks of the ways in which God continues to be at work among and through His people.
2. Until further notice, all congregational organisations and activities should cease
Again, we are encouraging prayerful imagination and action, you may be able to use Skype for prayer meetings, encourage the Church to pray at the same time each day or week, even if not gathered together, or continue to send out prayer points so that corporate prayer continues, if in new forms.
Many children’s and young people’s activities have already stopped but we do request that any that have not should stop now. IMYC will be putting resources on our website with regard to worship activities for children and support especially for young people who are facing examinations.
With regard to Church Councils and Circuit Executives again we are asking that you do not gather together. Necessary work does continue, so if you are not able to consult via email, Skype etc we are asking Circuit Superintendents, Circuit Stewards and Society Stewards, as appropriate, to act as an Executive Committee and bring any decisions which need to be progressed to the District Superintendent.
The District Synod for the North Western District was last week, however the District Synods for the Southern and North Eastern Districts are now cancelled. District Superintendents and Secretaries will be in touch about how we will process necessary business.
The same applies to the up-coming Connexional Committees. We will not meet together physically but do encourage consultation by electronic means. We will send more details on ways in which we will progress the necessary business of the Church in the coming days.
3. Pastoral care remains of crucial importance at this time.
The actions necessitated by the spread of Covid-19 mean that many are in danger of social isolation with resultant challenges for good mental health. We must care for each other. Ministers and others charged with pastoral care can continue to offer support through phone calls, emails etc. We are grateful for the many churches who have already started thinking about how we care for those who are required to self -isolate. There are opportunities here for service. Please also be alert to Safeguarding guidelines on working with vulnerable adults. Again, there will be a section on the website which will guide you through those issues.
4. Steps should be taken to ensure that numbers attending funeral services are kept as low as possible
We are preparing further guidelines on pastoral care generally, on weddings, and in particular on funerals which will be circulated in the coming days. However consideration should be given to all funerals being private (for close family and friends only). Where there are government restrictions on numbers attending indoor and outdoor events these should be strictly adhered to, along with the relevant HSE or NHS guidelines. If you have particular concerns in the meantime please bring them to your District Superintendents, who are your first line of support.
Please note that at this stage it is not possible to ascertain a realistic end date for the above restrictions. However, be assured that this advice will be withdrawn as soon as the government guidance from the relevant jurisdiction permits.
Similar advice is being issued today by the Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and by several dioceses of the Church of Ireland.
We will be sending out regular up-dates and further guidance. There will be many more issues which we need to address together.
God continues to be at work in the world. We continue to pray that all would know and feel God’s love and close presence at this time and that the Church would continue to point to Jesus.
(on behalf of the MCI co-ordinating group: The President, the Lay Leader, the District Superintendents and the Director of Ministry)