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On Thursday, the Radio Ulster Talkback programme debated the question of whether in this period of social distancing and restrictions churches should be allowed to open in some form; perhaps just for private prayer.

Last week it was cemeteries. Garden centres have also been mentioned.

 On Wednesday evening; I had started to think about this; how we live in a kind of ‘open church’; blessed with places of quiet and light where we can pause for thought and prayer.

We shouldn’t need a church; we don’t need a church – not now; not when this deadly virus is about its work.

The more we open, the more the lockdown and social distancing are compromised and weakened and the more we risk the frontlines in our hospitals.

It is not hard to find a quiet place to pray. 

For now, the churches should remain closed.

It strikes me that much of this debate is driven by the politics of the last conversation; what MLA is getting grief about closures.

The former Methodist President Harold Good spoke to me on Thursday about the need for consistency.

He mentioned the creative pastoral initiatives the churches have introduced to maintain their relationships with parishioners and also allowing those parishioners to engage with each other.

“The Church doesn’t want to put itself into a place of privilege or controversy,” he said.

Meaning that in this lockdown, the same rules should apply across the board; that for now we all need to live within the restrictions.

So, consistency should be the guide in this – not the politics of that last conversation whether about cemeteries, churches, garden centres or whatever comes next.

The Executive is the leadership team in politics. It needs to begin to work out the next slow steps – what will be possible and when; how to hold to a consistent position – how to manage expectations.

Of course, there will come a point when all of us will have to come out of lockdown and begin to live alongside this virus.

Firstly, we need to know with what it is we are living and this remains learning in progress.

Count the dead; listen to the stories being told from those hospital frontlines and remember that most of us have the easy parts in this fight against Covid 19.

The lockdown restrictions are there for good reason.

#socialdistancing #staysafe.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at


  1. B&Q at Holywood Exchange car park bunged today and a long line of customers all social distanced patiently waiting their turn. Undoubtedly people traveling from near and far to browse and spend.
    Is this the “wrong” message in the state of Current lockdown?? Why is this different to other considerations and are we in danger of confusing and comprising an already volatile and deadly situation #justsayin

  2. O'shaughnessy on

    My own memories:

    Shoes polished on a Saturday night,
    The whistle ‘The Moon Behind The Hill’.
    Whispered wakings on a Sunday morning.
    The bus at the crossroads at Whitehill.

    We had happy times,
    With the wind on our backs,
    Me on a stick in the frame of your bike.
    Over the Moss Road. Over home.
    Your breath on my neck.
    My life in yor hands.

    Over the hedge we could see Slemish,
    Smell wet grass and burning turf.
    Hear the chirp of the crickets,
    And watch the swing and the swirl
    Swifts and swallows.

    On Saturdays you took me
    To ‘dress’ the altar.
    We called it the ‘Chapel’.

    It was cold but still, there was
    a captivating trace
    of incense in the air
    That made me want to be there.

    Polished brass, starched linen,
    The sweet sex-cut scent of roses:
    And beeswax.

    As clear as your skin,
    As smooth as your brow,
    As pure as your soul,

    On the night you died.

  3. davy green on

    Watch Sinn Fein now wanting to follow Irish Government latest plan for stepped movement away from lockdown
    I make no comments as to the merits of this plan-but at least it is a plan

    Oberservation 1-If the DUP or UK proposed such a plan Sinn Fein would take to the airwaves to condemn in no time at all-Michelle would do one of her heart to heart interviews on The View
    Observation2 -“-All Island Plan?-What discussions-if any-were held between the Dublin Government and NI Executive on this plan-or is NI just expected to follow this route?
    Observation3-As Sinn Fein are so preoccupied with health and openly critical of Robin Swann-why did they chicken out of taking the Health Portfolio back in January-or do they prefer to criticise and avoid hard decisions?

    Over to you Mr Rowan

    Over to you Mr Rowan

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