You will all be aware of the recommendation issued by the Government and NI Executive that people should not gather in organised groups for the foreseeable future. The Moderator and Clerk to the Assembly have requested that all organisations and public gatherings of congregations should cease immediately.
This is obviously highly disruptive for all of us and impacts the social and emotional wellbeing of everyone but especially those who depend upon these gatherings for contact with others and are often in the most vulnerable group.
We recognise that Church leaders can play a key role in addressing rumours, misinformation, fear and anxiety. Therefore, Mairisine will seek to give clear and regular updates in response to the evolving situation. These will be primarily via internet, email or mobile phone.
We have decided to put in place the following means of continuing to enable us to ‘gather’ for worship and respond to pastoral need in light of the restrictions placed upon us.
The ministerial team of David and Mairisine will communicate on behalf of the Kirk Session and Congregational Committee in order to keep communication as streamlined as possible.
Joanne Calvert will be communicating with our young people and parents to support the capacity of children and young people to worship and be discipled while at home.
The Church Office will remain open (Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm) to provide a channel for regular contact, by email (email@example.com) or phone (02891270580).
We will regularly update information and guidance on our online services: Facebook (First Presbyterian Church Bangor), Website (firstbangor.org), YouTube (First Bangor), and various WhatsApp Groups
In case of emergency contact Mairisine (07736060926) or David (07771785544). In all other circumstances contact the Church Office (02891270580) which will be open from Monday to Friday (9am – 3pm)
We have a team of volunteers who are available to respond to requests from those who are advised to self-isolate. This could include a chat over the phone, doing some shopping or picking up a prescription. The Church Office will contact you directly following any request for support and inform you who will be in touch (this is also to help protect vulnerable people from unscrupulous individuals/groups who would seek to take advantage of the current situation).
If you wish to be added to our list of volunteers please inform the Office.
In order to ensure everyone is aware of what is happening from week to week, the Church Office is seeking to develop an enhanced/updated record of mobile phone number and email addresses to enable contact and communication. It would be helpful if you could ensure that your details are up to date by contacting the Office via email or phone.
The Church Office and ministry staff team will be contacting every home by phone or email. They will prioritise those in the most at-risk categories.
A core team of musicians and ministers will gather each week to stream an act of worship via the internet, using YouTube as the platform, in order that as many homes as possible will be able to access it as possible via their phones, tablets, computers or Smart TV. (These are all people who are happy to gather, and they will practice the Government guidelines on hygiene and social distancing.)
This service can be accessed via the link on Facebook or our Website or by searching on the internet for http://bit.ly/firstbangor
Those who do not have access the any of those devices can request a DVD which will be delivered to your home.
Joanne will be in touch with parents and young people about how to access child and youth friendly online interactions and resources.
It is likely that as we move to further social distancing measures and the numbers in self-isolation increase anxiety levels will rise and people will be looking for spiritual resources accessible at home to help them.
Daily prayers and readings can help give structure to our days for those who are housebound with more time for thinking and reflecting.
You may wish to access via your phone, tablet or computer online helps such as the ‘Bible in One Year App’,
We have just completed the Community Bible Experience and so were scheduled to take a break from our small group gatherings anyway. However, this enforced ‘slow down’ offers an unprecedented opportunity to press into God and deepen our relationship with Him and our ability to hear His voice. Therefore, beginning on Wednesday 1st April (not an April Fool) David will be offering the opportunity to make an intentional and more life-changing journey in our heart, mind and soul by providing an additional series of teaching that will help you cultivate a lifestyle so that you can deepen your relationship with God using a variety of spiritual practices that work best when we allocate time and space to them.
More information on Sunday 29th March
We are considering setting up regular prayer times during the week and using online conferencing facilities such as Zoom to establish a sense of corporate prayer and the strengthening of the praying community. It is also possible to use Zoom to continue with meetings and discussion groups, if that is helpful. Request guidelines from David should you wish to meet in a group using Zoom.
Our staff ministry and pastoral care team will continue but not face to face.
Mairisine, David, Meriel and Joanne are available to offer both practical and prayerful support through being in contact and being and available to be contacted. This especially applies to those diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are self-isolating.
We would also hope that they, along with our Office Staff (Janice and George) would be a trusted voice in the community and help with the distribution of government advice ensuring isolated members of the community are aware of the precautions they can take.
We are seeking to support people (especially those who need to self-isolate) with phone calls and via social media and have already been helping some by shopping for basic essential items and collecting medication. We have emphasised to church members involved in such support the importance of adhering to the Government’s isolation and general hygiene advice.
A number of people have already contacted the office enquiring how they can continue to give their Freewill Offering. We are conscious of a potential cash flow difficulty that will arise as we have assessments due, utilities and other bills as well as staff continuing to work.
We would encourage those who can to consider setting up a standing order (contact the office for more information., FWO envelops can be placed in the letterbox beside the entrance to the HUB. This will be emptied regularly.
We appreciate your continued prayerful and practical support as we all seek to be the church in our homes, workplaces and communities. We assure you all of our continued focus of providing opportunities to worship together, pastorally care for one another and to continue being discipled.
Rev. Mairisine Stanfield Susan Hamilton Joy Hare
(Minister) (Clerk of Session) (Treasurer)