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Statement of the Archbishop of Dublin on the reopening of churches on 29 June 2020 and Pastoral Letter to the people of Dublin & Glendalough

From the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson

The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, has issued the following statement as churches prepare to reopen for public worship from June 29:

“I welcome the opportunity that Faith communities have been given to gather for worship once again from today, Monday June 29. I am thankful to Government and State agencies for making the re-opening of churches and other places of worship for public worship possible three weeks ahead of the expected timeframe.

“This opportunity comes with a need for renewed vigilance on the part of everyone, including those who attend churches. The relaxation of restrictions brings a new urgency for personal responsibility.

“We in the Church of Ireland must commit ourselves to following the developing Guidelines, now and into the future. I encourage everyone to comply with the requirements of social distancing, hand hygiene and other provisions designed to ensure the safety of all members of society, particularly those who are vulnerable.

“I trust that the on-going involvement of church people in their everyday living will continue to contribute to the new sense of neighbourliness and kindness that has come to the fore in the darkest days of Covid-19. I thank all in our parish communities who have continued to ‘be the church’ while church buildings have been closed.

“We continue to give thanks for the tireless work and selfless commitment of all frontline workers. We remember in prayer and in sorrow all who have died and all who have been bereaved in their very painful mourning over the last months.

“Finally, I encourage all members of our church communities to take the opportunity being presented to us by the re-opening of church doors to open our hearts to the needs of our society as together we all emerge from a very deep darkness into new light. Working with all partners and stakeholders in Faith communities and in local and national society, we must now shape a fresh future together.”

Archbishop Jackson has also written a pastoral letter to the people of the United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough:

Today, June 29th, is the first day for which the restriction on the use of places of religious worship has been lifted during the on-going COVID 19 crisis. As part of our compliance with the phased rhythm of Reopening Ireland, we want to make the very best of this opportunity to return to church safely. We want to encourage, where it is possible and where it is safe, people who come to church to come back to church. We want it to be a positive and a joyful experience. For most of us, the first opportunity to worship in church will be on Sunday July 5th. With the needful social distancing, it will take some time for us to become accustomed to the new and required arrangements. I can only sympathize with people who will say: But church is not the same as it was … I can only reply honestly: But nothing is the same as it was – and the church is doing its utmost to come safely into the new light. We are at the very beginning of Phase 3. Our contribution through compliance with HSE Guidelines, as adapted and applied for use in churches, will help everyone hugely to move forward. Patience continues to be needed. Care and kindness continue to be needed also. Coming out into the light is a new experience for all.

What will it be like to be back in church? We need to wait and see and come and see. There is no pressure on anyone. It is important that you should be at ease with the decision you make. There is plenty of time to think it through and to try it out. My hope is that the various ways clergy and others have used during The Lockdown to minister alongside people in their homes will continue. I suggest that we prepare spiritually and prayerfully as well as practically and strategically. Tucked away in The Book of Common Prayer under: Special Occasions are prayers for use at a Dedication Festival. We use them at the dedication of a new church, at the anniversary of dedication of a church or on any other suitable occasion to which they adapt easily. The prayers are spiritually enriching. I offer you a version of one of them adapted to our current needs. I encourage you to say it each day in your home if you can as we move back into church. And I look forward to meeting many of you once again in the church that is yours and mine – and most of all God’s church.

Almighty God,
to whose guidance and glory we offer the re-opening of churches in these days,
we praise you for the many blessings
that you have given to those who worship in our churches,
and we pray that all who seek you there
may find you, and, being filled with the Holy Spirit,
may become a living temple acceptable to you
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The prayer invites us to look for God, in the eager expectation of finding God in our churches. The prayer asks of God that we, being filled with the Holy Spirit, become a living temple. Our mind and heart are drawn to the final verses of St Luke 24.52, 53 which connect lovingly The Ascension and The Day of Pentecost: And the disciples returned to Jerusalem full of joy, and spent all their time in the temple praising God.

My prayer is that the return to church for each of you will be filled with joy and praise.