Where Four or Six are Gathered

In the last few days the Northern Ireland Executive have now issued the following guidance which set out the first steps in loosening of the lockdown in Northern Ireland. The ability to get out and see friends and family in small groups of 4-6 is certainly welcome news and some changes have been announced for Churches too:

  • ‘Drive-through’ and drive-in church services can take place;

  • Churches can open for private prayer;

  • Groups of 4-6 people from different households can meet outdoors,

all subject to maintaining social distancing.

This certainly provides some scope for churches who have access to wide-open spaces and may wish to take advantage of such opportunities – one pastor in Bushmills has already said he plans to preach from the back of a potato lorry this Sunday with all his congregation sat in their cars.

Not all churches will have access to space like this and not everyone has access to a car. However a small group of people (up to 6) could meet together outside to read the bible, worship and pray together.

Considering how any changes can be implemented safely is an important first step. Despite the amazing technology we have at our fingertips to keep us in contact, many have felt the effects of losing out on human, face-to-face contact. This allows Churches to consider how they might introduce, an albeit limited degree of physical, rather than virtual, fellowship again.

The Head of Public Policy at the Evangelical Alliance, Danny Webster, wrote an article suggesting that churches across the UK should not rush into this, but think through carefully how and whether to avail of the new freedoms which are being opened up again at this stage.

As your church community begins to consider how it might make the most of these new opportunities, here are three things you might consider:

  1. How can you provide clarity and guidance for your congregation about the freedoms and responsibilities they can exercise as they potentially meet in small groups?

  2. How can you facilitate any new initiatives safely and effectively? Can some smaller groups of people meet locally outside to pray together (check out our walk and pray resource for inspiration)? Do you have the space and means to do a drive-in Church service safely and while maintaining social distancing?

  3. How might any such changes affect those who are vulnerable and shielding. If you’re going to run a drive-in service or encourage small groups of people to meet, can this complement rather than replace collective worship and care for those not able to attend.

We have been so encouraged and impressed by the response of the local Church in Northern Ireland in terms of it’s worship, witness and service. We know the Church will continue to respond with discernment and creatively as we continue to make Jesus known together. If we can help in any way please feel free to get in touch: [email protected]