12 May 2020
A statement from the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin.
Over the past few days An Taoiseach, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the devolved administration in Northern Ireland have each published some form of “road map” to guide us out of the current severe restrictions which had been put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the road maps differ somewhat from one another, they all point to a gradual and a graduated easing of restrictions. Each is set out in stages and presupposes that movement to the next stage will require satisfactory progress against certain criteria. It is acknowledged that there may be setbacks.
We want to thank all of those in the Church of Ireland community and far beyond who, by their sacrifice of personal liberty, have made progress to this point possible. We especially wish to thank all of those who have self–isolated and all who have strictly observed the guidelines laid down by public health authorities. It has often been far from comfortable to do so.
We wish also to commend those who have been involved in reaching out into their parishes and communities to maintain the work and witness of the Church; through online services of worship; through parish initiatives to maintain a sense of togetherness; and through action with other groups and projects. In short, by serving God, “not only with our lips but in our lives”.
The burden of work and of suffering during this period of emergency has not fallen equally on us all. As the picture becomes clearer and the statistics more complete, we want to pay tribute to and give thanks for all who work in care homes throughout the island. Their selflessness and resourcefulness in caring for very vulnerable people under difficult circumstances cannot be praised highly enough. The workers, residents and families in that sector, along with all who work on the front line in hospitals and in the community, remain at the forefront of our prayers. We continue to pray also for all who are ill and those who have been bereaved of loved ones at a time when funerals and grieving cannot follow their usual patterns.
As progress is made, there is an inevitable eagerness to return to our old patterns of worship. That is our hope too in the long run. In the meantime, as with any other gatherings which have the potential to spread the Covid–19, progress towards that goal will be gradual. A return to even small gatherings for worship will require close observance of both social distancing and hygiene requirements as laid down by the public health authorities. Even where such gathering for worship is permitted, it may well require each parish to carry out an evaluation and risk assessment.
For now, we thank God for the vocation he has given us to worship him, to care for his people, for our neighbours and for and his world. We thank you for being faithful in living out that vocation in troubled and uncertain times and for moving forward in faith, in hope and in love.
The Most Revd John McDowell and The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson