Northern Ireland news

Co Antrim GAA club welcomes parishioners to 'Mass on the grass'

Fr Colm McBride held Mass on the Glenavy pitch. Picture by Hugh Russell

A GAA club in Co Antrim welcomed parishioners yesterday to a 'Mass on the grass' on its pitches.

Amid the glorious sunshine, crowds of church-goers gathered at St Joseph's GAC in Glenavy for the open-air service for the Glenavy and Killead Parish.

A makeshift altar was created beside the football nets from where Mass was delivered by Fr Colm McBride.

It comes as many churches and places of worship across the north continue to have to adhere to coronavirus measures, which include a limit on the number of parishioners attending as well as social distancing rules.

Due to limits on the number of people allowed to attend Masses, some parishes have had to come up with novel ideas to enable more parishioners to be able to come together in a safe environment.

The 'Mass on the grass' at St Joseph's GAC, which is adjacent to the parochial house, provided seating for around 100 people with standing rooms for hundreds.

Fr McBride said it was a "great experience".

"It's the first time we have done the outdoor Mass and it was a great success," he said.

"Recently I was talking to Joe O'Boyle, who is the club chairman, and said I would love to do the Mass outdoors and we took it from there.

"With great co-operation from the club and the local school, just a few weeks later we had the mass organised. It was a great community effort.

"Some people are still very nervous about coming back to church, but would like to go to mass, so by having mass outdoors, it has hopefully encouraged them to come along.

"It is an enormous pitch, it's like a lawn out there with plenty of room and we were blessed with the weather - it was a great experience."

Mr O'Boyle from St Joseph's GAC also said: "We are very pleased at how well it went, people really enjoyed themselves.

"It was a great social event too, people were able to catch up with others over a cup of tea and the youngsters were going about.

"There were people there who haven't been to church in over a year, so it was great to see them out.

"We're delighted it all went well after lots of hard work from the club in getting it all organised and the weather obviously makes it too.

"We hope to maybe hold another outdoor mass towards the end of the summer."

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