Covid-19: Suspension of 'in person' Gatherings to Continue

Following on from the Northern Ireland Executive’s decision to extend the current Covid restrictions to Thursday 1st April 2021, the Secretary of Conference and other senior Church leaders from other churches met again on, Monday 22nd February, with Ministers from the Executive Office, Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).

At that meeting the CMO stressed that it would make a significant difference, and be of huge public benefit, if churches were willing to continue at this time not to gather in person for services and other meetings.

In the light of the Executive’s extension of the current restrictions, and on the basis of the clear and unequivocal public health advice that people should continue to stay at home, the CMT, has agreed that all in-person Sunday gatherings for worship, along with all other in person church gatherings, should remain suspended in all MCI congregations in Northern Ireland until  Thursday 1st April 2021 - with the exception of weddings, funerals, arrangements for recording and/or live-streaming, drive-in services and private prayer (as permitted by regulations). 

The CMT also decided that it would further assess the situation immediately after the next NI Executive review on Thursday 18th March 2021 in the cautious anticipation that, from Friday 2nd April (Good Friday) onwards, Methodist congregations in Northern Ireland could begin to meet again for in-person gatherings for worship, with all necessary precautions and mitigations in place. This recognises the importance of Easter, which was acknowledged by both Ministers and the CMO at yesterday’s meeting.

We welcome that this same approach is also being taken today by the Presbyterian Church, the Church of Ireland and, in a slightly different form, by the Roman Catholic Church.