St Macartin's Cathedral welcomes worshippers back to the pews for reopening service



Dean Kenneth Hall speaking at the service when he welcomed the First Minister (right).

St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen was one of the first churches in Northern Ireland to reopen on Monday, 29th June following the relaxation of Coronavirus Covid 19 lockdown restrictions.

A service of Morning Prayer was held on the Feast Day of St. Peter and Dean Kenneth Hall said it was great to be preaching to a congregation in church once again.

A range of measures were introduced for the first in-church service with signs at the entrance advising those not feeling well to remain at home and sanitising stations and signage to enforce two metres social distancing throughout the Cathedral building.

A congregation of 95 people gathered at the 11am service and among those attending was the First Minister, Arlene Foster.

In his introductory remarks, Dean Hall publicly thanked the First Minister and her team at Stormont for leading Northern Ireland through the crisis even though they had to make some difficult and unpopular decisions.

He said he was glad to reopen St Macartin’s Cathedral on the Feast Day of St. Peter, the person whom Christ founded his church of St. Peter, and to allow people back to have fellowship with each other and with the Lord. Although they had been worshipping online for the past few months, it was not the same, he said.

'Gathering for worship in God’s house means so much to so many people,' he added.

He said they were thinking of those who were shielding and unable to attend and thoughts and prayers were with them.

He told the congregation, “This building may be nice but it is only a building you are the church.

“It is true, when each service is over the church leaves the building to love and serve the Lord!

“This past 15 weeks you the church, were very active in worship by the viewing of our broadcast services - some weeks viewing was four times the number of worshippers we would have out at all our Sunday Services. So thank you for you continued support and the kind comments to Jane and myself.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jane McKinley for enhancing our worship over each Sunday and who even took time off work to sing again today.

He also thanked William Holmes and Ronnie Carson for helping with broadcasting technology.

Turning his thoughts to St. Peter, and to the life of St. Peter, Dean Hall said Peter was one of the first to say to Jesus, ‘You are the Christ, the son of the living God.’

Some of the congregation who attended the reopening service in St. Macartin's Cathedral.

'Jesus’ first words to Simon Peter were 'Come, follow me' recorded in Mark’s Gospel. His last words to him were 'You must follow me' recorded in John’s Gospel.

'Every step of the way between those two challenges, Peter never failed to follow - even though he often stumbled.'

He compared Peter’s struggles with those of people around the world over the past three months.

“Now we may not be walking on water, but we do walk through many tough situations in life, none more so than this past three months not knowing what was going to happen next. Not knowing if this dreadful virus was going to come into our homes, our lives and maybe even take our life!

“Many thousands of people thoughout the world have lost their lives, and we pray that their relative may know the presence of Almighty God as they come to terms with their sad loss. We who are here are very fortunate and especially in this part of the country, that probably saw the least number of cases. But that comes with a warning that we need to continually be careful and protect ourselves and others from this deadly virus.

“However, if we focus on the waves of difficult circumstances around us without looking to God for help, we too may despair and sink.

“For 400 years this Cathedral has been a spiritual beacon and home for many generations of Christians, and today it is still committed to providing a welcoming home to all who are seeking to deepen and develop their spiritual lives and their relationship with God no matter who they are; we make no difference in anyone!” he said.

The readings were by Jenifer Johnston and the soloist was Jane McKinley accompanied by pianist, Diane Simpson.