A LOCAL minister has asked people to be there for one another and stressed that the coronavirus outbreak will pass.

In a bid to maintain social distancing to limit the spread of Covid-19, church services and masses have been halted across the country, meaning a loss of a major point of social interaction for many elderly.

And local clergymen are working to stream worship sessions online while the doors of many churches will remain open throughout the week for a period of time.

Reverend Ian Miller told the Reporter: “For the best part of almost 70 years I have found myself in church every Sunday, so it pained me to write to the congregations of Lomond Parish Church in Balloch and to the Church at Gartocharn that Sunday services would be suspended till further notice.

“I did so in light of the strong advice given by the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland.”

He added: “Inasmuch as there is a provision for the church to be open as a place for people to come and pray, I decided that I would be there at Lomond for a brief time at 11.30am on a Sunday morning probably until 12noon and would offer prayers for the church, the community and individuals at this difficult time.

“I am concerned that for many elderly people, the church is a major point of social interaction and that will now be gone.

“My colleague the Rev Donald Campbell (who is a Dumbarton man) is working hard to try and ensure that we use all means available to keep in touch with those who are vulnerable and is exploring options to have the church open for people to come and go for two hours every day.

“We are also jointly exploring options to stream a short worship time with music, prayers and a brief homily every week.”

The Church of Scotland has advised on its website that many churches will still be open for prayer as this ensures “no more than a few people sitting well apart from one another (three steps away) are in the building at any time”.

They have also said it is not appropriate for large wedding services to take place and “no funeral services should take place in church”.

Mr Miller added: “How long this will last? Who knows, but we will be alert and react to the changing circumstances.

“It is for many a fearful and unprecedented time, but as someone said to me, it took Moses 40 years to get through the desert – but at the end of it all the people crossed the Jordan to the promised land.

“I am sure by sticking together and being there for each other we will do likewise.”

He added: “Many years ago in a little Gospel Hall in Kilbarchan I sat as a 14-year-old with some of my pals as part of a discussion group.

“We were asked what our favourite verse in the Bible was and one old guy said ‘my favourite is ‘And it came to pass’.’ We giggled because we knew that this phrase, in the archaic language of the King James version of the Bible, simply meant ‘and it happened’.

“Now I think maybe the old guy was right ‘and it came to pass’. It will pass, we will emerge at the other side, we will come through it.

“As we do so, however, let’s as a community be on the lookout for folk who are struggling, let’s kick into touch the appalling selfishness of stockpiling. Let’s think of others as well as ourselves, and you know for sure it will come to pass.”

March 22 was the first day traditional church services were suspended.

Speaking on the first Sunday that traditional church services have been suspended, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “Now is the time to stand up and show that our faith is more than words.”