CofI Gazette – April 2020

April 2020

The April 2020 issue of the Church of Ireland Gazette can be downloaded HERE for free. This is our response to the global health crisis and the measures implemented by governments in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to curb the spread of Covid-19.

While the ePaper and printed editions of this issue have been distributed as normal, we are conscious that parish Gazette representatives and individuals who normally collect their copies from their parish church or local shop will be self-isolating. We do no want anyone to feel they need to leave home or put themselves in danger to circulate our magazine.

You are welcome to read the pdf version online, or print off a copy.



What strange times indeed.  Weeks ago, it would have seemed unimaginable that schools, restaurants, theatres, shops and – painfully – churches would all have shut their doors in a bid to prevent the spread of a deadly disease. It will be an Easter like no other.

Already, a world without coronavirus, without social distancing, a world with normal human contact, an embrace, a handshake, a world where supermarket shelves were fully stocked and where we ate dinner with friends, seems hard to comprehend.

Doing the right thing can be difficult. Before heading on a school ski trip – when coronavirus was just a nasty bug in a faraway country – my 14-year-old expressed concern that she might catch it when she was away. Shame on me, I laughed. I wasn’t laughing when, days after her return from northern Italy, the 80 students on the trip were sent home to self-isolate.

After consulting a GP, she did return to school, but we genuinely did not know the right thing to do. There was no shortage of advice on social media, some of it very aggressive.

Social media has good points and bad. Right now, clergy across this island are getting to grips with technology and sharing prayers, readings and full services via Facebook, YouTube and others. Some have already been doing this – for others, it is a steep learning curve – but they are doing it and doing it well. Having been thrust into a new digital world through this crisis, our churches may be reaching people who would not normally come on a Sunday, as well as those who do.

Parishes and communities are also doing what they can to help anyone isolated or vulnerable – shopping, food deliveries, runs to the pharmacy, phone calls and more. These actions are being repeated around the world – humanity at its best, for once united against a common enemy.

Social media can be a great source of information, but also a source of fear, of terrifying facts and fake news. On page 34, Ron Elsdon urges us not to spend all day watching the news or checking social media.  I agree. Too much ‘bad news’ can be overwhelming and lead to anxiety and depression.

Living in Ireland, many of us will have access to open countryside which is just bursting with the new life that comes with spring. Even if you aren’t able to walk far, step into your garden, look up at the sky and the clouds, across at the dancing daffodils or grazing cows, enjoy the sound of your neighbours’ children playing as a family in their garden, and you will know that we are part of something much bigger than coronavirus.

As individuals, we all want to do what is right and sometimes knowing what is right is difficult. We thank those in authority for taking these difficult decisions off our shoulders. The advice is simple: Stay at home and you will protect yourself and others.

Continue your prayer life – the liturgical notes on page 30 will help – and pray for those for whom staying at home is not an option, those key workers who will keep society going – some of whom may end up caring for those we love who fall sick, or even for us – at risk to their own health.

For anyone self-isolating alone, this must be an incredibly difficult time. The March issue of the Gazette featured an interview with Leah Batchelor who, when suffering locked-in syndrome, was isolated in her own body – an isolation more extreme than any of us could imagine.

But Leah knew she was not on her own. “As I couldn’t talk or move, He [God] was the only one who knew what I was feeling and thinking. At the time I could only talk to Him,” Leah said.

God is always with us, listening to our thoughts and our fears.  How reassuring it is to know that, while we may be physically isolated, we are never alone.



  • Focus on the impacts of Covid-19: – Words from our Bishops; advice on using social media as a tool to connect and continue parish worship; resources for young people
  • Prayer at the centre on St Patrick’s Day – Social distancing practiced on March 17 in Downpatrick and Saul
  • Lent prayers for city communities – ReLENTless Prayer initiative in north and west Belfast
  • ‘A woman of real substance’ – Women’s Institute championed honoured in Derry and Raphoe
  • The Gospels in Iambic Verse! – Two new books are launched
  • Standing Committee latest


  • ‘The big imponderable now is coronavirus’ – Interview with Archbishop-elect John McDowell
  • Registrar who is making history – Former Irish hockey international John C Jermyn answers our questions as he becomes the fourth generation of his family to take on the role of Cork Diocesan Registrar
  • ‘The land draws me back’ – The Rev Canon David Humphries on why he keeps returning to the Holy Land
  • Diocesan Focus – Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh
  • I don’t believe in climate change – I believe in God – writes Prof Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist known for her work bridging the gap between scientists and Christians on climate change
  • Fish where the fish are – Stephen Fletcher on podcasts, social media and all things online
  • When God has the last laugh – What place does humour have within a life of faith? asks the Rev Dr Ian Mills


  • ‘Who?’ – Identities of Christianity – Project by Mettle Youth Fellowship at Lisburn Cathedral, Diocese of Connor
  • Missing in Action – Armagh seminar looks at issues impacting young men in the church
  • The kind of people God loves – Derry and Raphoe Youth Invites service
  • Training proves to be invaluable – OCN Youth Work Level 2 training in Down and Dromore Dioceses


  • Helping families in Sierra Leone – The Rev Colin Darling visits Sierra Leone with Christian Aid to see how money donated via the Bishops’ Appeal is helping make life better for those in poverty


  • Celebrating Edward Bunting – Remembering a historic Belfast musical figure
  • Choir Call – Glenavy Parish, Diocese of Connor


  • Reaching out in difficult times
  • Postponement of conference


  • Declaration on gender equality implemented
  • Virus impacts World Council of Churches


  • St Fin Barre’s sees history come alive – Students in Cork re-enact a key moment from 1870 (cover image)
  • Archive of the Month – First performance of the Messiah in Dublin


  • Devotional – Psalm 1, true security, by the Rev Cameron Jones
  • Liturgical notes – by the Very Rev Maria Jansson
  • Nurturing faith in tumultuous times – the Rev Ron Elsdon
  • Beware of burnout – Dr Iva Beranek