Dean offers insight into how Covid-19 impacts on ministry

The most difficult task at the current moment is performing an end-of-life ministry

Photo above – The Very Rev Kenny Hall, (Church of Ireland), The Rev Lorna Dreaning, (Methodist), The Rev David Cupples, (Presbyterian) and Rt Rev Monsignor Peter O’Reilly, (Roman Catholic), prayed at the entrance to the hospital for all staff, patients, and those bereaved.

An Enniskillen minister has opened up to The Impartial Reporter on the difficulties he is facing in performing his spiritual duties in his role as Hospital Chaplain as he has given end-of-life ministry services down the phone, writes Victoria Johnston

Dean Kenneth Hall, of St. Macartin’s Cathdral, Enniskillen, is the current Church of Ireland chaplain for the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH).

Dean Hall opened up to this newspaper days after performing a blessing at the SWAH alongside the other hospital chaplains, The Rev Lorna Dreaning (Methodist), The Rev David Cupples (Presbyterian) and Rt Rev Monsignor Peter O’Reilly (Roman Catholic).

They all prayed at the entrance to the hospital for all staff, patients, those bereaved and the community at this time of crisis due to the increase of the Coronavirus in the area.

This is the second time a blessing has been performed this year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges it brings to the community.


Dean Hall said: “The circumstances are very different to what they were before. The most difficult task at the current moment is performing an end-of-life ministry.”

He has been performing such ministries down the phone to those who are dying since the beginning of the pandemic as he cannot enter the Covid-19 ward due to the high risk of infection.

Dean Hall explained the service: “The end-of-life service, the service of commendation in the Church of Ireland, is where we commend the dying into God’s care. That is now being done on the phone.

“Usually, the service is with family or friends so that we can comfort them in their loved one’s illness.”

The Dean remarked that social distancing regulations means that he can no longer shake hands with people, or hug them to comfort them.

He said: “Touch was a huge part of the ministry too; a handshake or a hug to comfort someone.

“I cannot offer them anything, now; touch was and is so important when trying to comfort people. There is now something missing when we try to comfort people.”

The Dean revealed that this has affected how he conducts his services. “Now, when I do a funeral, I keep my hands behind my back, or in the pockets of my robes.”

Covid-19 has changed his ministry and how the Dean would react in normal circumstances on hearing the death of a parishioner.

He said: “You want to be with people. The first thing you want to do with people [on hearing of their loss] is to land at the house and to be with them.

“Now, we have to ring people [because of the guidelines]; it just seems cold.”

Dean Hall was candid when he spoke about how ministry needs to adapt in the time of Covid-19.

He said: “We firstly have to work with what we have; we have to try and convey the love of God through different ways; we have to overcome a lot of difficulties.

“Funerals have changed and those who are bereaved stand behind a line of red tape in the Cathedral, where they are socially distanced, so that attendees can offer condolences, or a nod of the head,” said Dean Hall.

People have adapted around limited numbers for services, The Cathedral has a livestream service for all the services.

Dean Hall said: “The stream has had great success – people from all over the world are able to watch services. We’ve had people from Australia, Canada and America watching.”

As churches are limited again, like many other aspects of life, there is some hope for the future.

Dean Hall said: “We are in a better position now if a full lockdown arrives again; we will know what to expect.”

Courtesy The Impartial Reporter
25 October 2020