Lisburn Cathedral reopened its doors to worshippers last Sunday, July 5, for the first time since lockdown.
Worship also resumed in St Patrick’s Parish Church, Cairncastle. In both cases, measures had been taken to implement all requirements of the Return to in-house Worship protocol published by the Representative Church Body on June 22.
All parishes in Connor Diocese and across the wider Church of Ireland are working on implementing their reopening plans at different stages in the coming weeks.
The rector of Lisburn Cathedral, the Very Rev Sam Wright, Dean of Connor, said: “It was wonderful to welcome 50 people back to Lisburn Cathedral last Sunday who had pre-booked to attend worship. There were a good mix of families, couples and people who came on their own, and they were very happy to be back in the Cathedral after a break of over three months.
“There was a real warmth of fellowship between those who came to worship that to some extent overcame the two metres of social distance between them.”
Dean Wright said that in his welcome to the service, he commented that after almost 400 years of worship on this site the three month break during the Covid-19 restriction had probably one of the longest breaks from Sunday worship in the cathedral.
The hymn and songs lead by the music groups appeared on screens and those people watching the live stream online were invited to sing out, while those in the Cathedral remained seated and did not sing. “This took a little time to get used to,” the Dean said.
Cathedral curate, the Rev Danielle McCullagh, preached. In her sermon, she commented on how good it was to be preaching to a live congregation again. She spoke on the rebuilding of the Church based on Colossians 1:3-14. Paul wrote to the early church at Colosse encouraging the early believers to “Go after being Fruitful.” If we are to be fruitful we will need to ask ourselves: 1. How Fruitful am I? 2. Who is Jesus to me? 3. What do I need to do in my relationship with Christ?
Dean Wright said: “Danielle closed by challenging us as we emerge from lockdown to bear fruit through our prayerful obedience to Jesus and in building his Church.”
The song that followed Danielle’s talk was Build my Life – a prayerful response to message from the scriptures.
“After the Creed in our prayers we gave thanks for the NHS on the 72nd anniversary of its establishment, we prayed for all leaders including our Bishop-designate George Davison and for God’s comfort for those who mourn, particularly those who had been bereaved during the past three months,” Dean Wright said.
The worshippers then left by the side door having entered through the main doors and were asked to return to their cars without delaying to chat to minimise any risks and to keep each other safe.
“This was a first small step back into worship, it was a great joy to be gathered with people in the Cathedral,” the Dean said. “We missed those who would usually have been worshipping at our two morning services. It was also good to see an increase in the numbers joining worship online and through our phone-in service.”
Lisburn Cathedral will host its second drive-in service at Lisburn Rugby Club on July 26 when Bishop-designate George Davison will be preaching.
“The Church at this time needs to provide a variety of means for people to worship Christ as Lord to enable them to be fruitful in their faith,” Dean Wright added.
Prior to reopening, the Dean was interviewed by BBC journalist Maggie Taggart for Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme. You can pick up the interview, which begins 1 hour and 51 minutes into the show, HERE.