This afternoon the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor, along with the two NI Executive Junior Ministers met with the Faith Leaders’ Forum.
In light of the unequivocal medical and public health advice received at that meeting we believe that it is right that all Sunday gatherings for worship and all in person church activities in Methodist Churches in Northern Ireland should cease at the present time. At this stage you should plan that this will be our position until 6th February, although this will be reviewed towards the end of January.
It is significant that we are taking this action along with the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church and some other traditions. In doing this we are taking the initiative and acting ahead of what the Executive may or may not regulate in terms of closure of church buildings generally.
Weddings and funerals may still go ahead in church buildings, the number who may attend remains capped at 25 and includes those involved in the service and children under 12. Church buildings may also be used for recording and live-streaming of services and for private prayer. Drive-in services can still be organised (as permitted by the regulations).
Many, if not the majority, of MCI congregations are already meeting online or through Drive-Ins. Some of you will be frustrated that it took so long to make this announcement, others will feel the loss in this. We hold each other in prayer at this time. We are grateful to you and to God for the way in which Methodist people have already evidenced capacity to respond to Lockdown with prayerful imagination and action.
Young people have borne a particularly heavy load through these last months, and even through this last week. We are so grateful to you and the many youth and children’s workers and leaders who are remaining connected through online activities. Why not join with IMYC staff next week, each day online at 11am to pray for children, young people and young adults? You will find a link to sign up in IMYC’s most recent email and on their social media.
As always your District Superintendents are available to support you in any way they can.
Yesterday, 6th January, marked Epiphany when the Church remembers the Journey of the Magi. This prayer was written for Epiphany. I hope that these words bless you as they blessed me.
“Lord, the sight of the guiding star,
brought hope, courage and joy
To those who had journeyed to find you.
When our journey seems long,
When hope seems far away,
When our courage is failing
Fill us with faith and trust;
Shine your light on our fears,
Lift our hearts with your joy.”
The invitation before us is exactly the same as the invitation which God has graciously given throughout the generations; to faithfully, and in the power of the Spirit, bear witness to Jesus in our context. Our context has its particular challenges, and opportunities, but God’s invitation and God’s enabling remain the same.
May God bless you
Rev Dr Heather