COI Gazette – 18th August 2017

Happy 30th Anniversary


Imagine you are organising a ve-day festival for 1,700 young people. Where are they going to stay? Where are they going to eat? What about washing and toilet facilities? What if it rains? So much to think about, even before you begin to think about a programme that will keep all those young people enthused. That is the challenge for the organisers of Summer Madness every year!

This year Summer Madness, Ireland’s largest residential (under canvas) youth festival, celebrates its 30th year. Taking place during the first week of July each year, it is a Christian festival designed for young people, particularly those aged between 15 and 27, although its programme appeals to many other age groups as well. Each year up to 1,700 people attend the event, from all over Ireland and beyond.




The 2012 Church of Ireland Census recorded an average attendance of 15 per cent at weekly Church of Ireland Sunday services. We live on an island that has a relatively young population. The same census noted that 13 per cent of those who attended weekly services are in the 12-30 age bracket.

The census figures pose a question for the Church of Ireland. Are young people simply no longer interested in Christian faith?

We cannot argue with the fact that this island is changing rapidly regarding attitudes to religious practice, the Church and Christian faith. The census figures already quoted bear some of this out. Yet, there are four anecdotal pieces of evidence that suggest the answer to the question: “Are young people still interested in Christian faith” is a definite “Yes”!

1. Our front page story this week tells the story of 30 years of the Summer Madness festival. Take a moment to look at the photograph that accompanies the story. It is a picture of young people queueing to get into one of the two daily worship services at the event. Possibly up to 2,000 people come to worship, listen to preaching and avail of the opportunity for prayer ministry.

2. For the past 12 years, the Church of Ireland Youth Department (CIYD) has run Anois, a very successful annual residential weekend. The programme has included Bible teaching, praise and worship, small groups for discussion and prayer, games and much more. In 2016, Anois took place 29th-31st October in Wilson’s Hospital School, Co. Westmeath, bringing together young people of secondary school age from across the island. The event focused on exploring the stories of Old Testament heroes and looking at how their stories can inspire Christians to live out their faith in their everyday lives. The presence of so many enthusiastic young people suggests a definite interest in faith.

3. CIYD is responsible for the development and co-ordination of youth ministry across the Church of
Ireland, often working with dioceses. The growing work of CIYD suggests a significant interest in faith amongst young people.

4. The fourth piece of evidence is the experience of youth leaders in parishes. In a recent casual conversation one youth leader talked of how their young people were beginning to take faith much more seriously. They suggested that the changing religious atmosphere was actually encouraging their young people to think deeply about faith and to make a more serious commitment to it.

If you are a TV company that is producing a popular religious broadcast you are likely to have the resources to produce something slick and top quality. You can bring in the professional singers and musicians you need. The set and video clips will be just as you want them, because you have access to those with resources, finance and time. The presenter will be experienced and well rehearsed.

I once had a conversation with someone who unfavourably compared Sunday worship in the church I was rector of with worship services on TV. The comparison was between professional musicians as well as choirs and our band of willing volunteers. It was also between an experienced TV preacher and yours truly. The reality was simple … we would never be able to compete. It was not comparing like with like.

The temptation is to say we can never have the resources in our parishes that something like Summer Madness, Anois or CIYD has. This statement is true. We are never going to be able to compete with the big festivals, conferences or national events. We may not even want to.

Yet it should not stop us asking questions of ourselves in the Church of Ireland:

1. If there is still interest in Christian faith amongst our young people, despite the changes on this island, why is this not reflected in our census figures?

2. What will we do to engage with the next generation?

3. If these are important questions, who will ask them and when?


Home News

  • Christian Aid Harvest Appeal 2017 – helping families in hostile conditions
  • Deadlines for C. of I. funding applications
  • Bangor Worldwide Missionary Convention opening at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
  • Tribute – The Revd John Gowen
  • Special MU anniversary on Connor Diocese
  • Clogher Diocesan MU celebration
  • Mission Focus – Taking the fight against poverty to the global stage



Rethinking Church – The Church is not for sale!

Life Lines – Shostakovitch’s Seventh


World News

  • Abductions of two priests in Congo a growing concern
  • USPG appeals for funds to stop child slavery in India
  • National Council of Churches in Korea issue emergency letter to President Moon
  • New leaders across Central America
  • Excitement at Burundi evangelism campaign
  • Church soul-searching as its neighbourhoods change


Letters to the Editor

Kevin Myers

THE CAMPAIGN Against Antisemitism (CAA), a UK body, has revealed on their website that they demanded The Sunday Times both instantly fire Irish journalist Kevin Myers, due to part of his column, and have him blacklisted. Four disturbing questions now deserve public answers from CAA.

Does CAA reject the duty of any employer to grant due process and a prior hearing to any staff before they may be dismissed?

Since when did CAA extend their UK remit to publications appearing and circulating only in the separate sovereign jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland?

Did the JRCI – Jewish Representative Council of Ireland seek CAA intervention?

Why did CAA not consult JRCI who, along with the founding Chair of the Irish Holocaust Memorial Committee, have both emphatically rejected any allegation that Myers
is an anti-Semite?

I am particularly concerned as not only a former Chair of the Ireland-Israel Friendship League but also as having been involved in both Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI), Trade Unionists Linking Israel and Palestine ( TULIP) amd Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).

Tom Carew

Ranelagh Co. Dublin

Same-sex marriage debate

MY HEART sinks when I read letters like those of the Revd Trevor Johnston (30th June). I am an academic and generally take delight in well-reasoned, well-referenced discourse on a matter of erudite unpacking of extant theories or of discovering fresh formulations which will drive us forward to expand our horizons and allow us to flourish.

I am a committed member of the Church of Ireland and I look to the Church leaders to bend their very considerable intellects to matters which are pertinent to the practice of Christianity in the world which we occupy. For me, the issues which cry out for analysis and guidance include the increase in mental illness, the destruction of our fragile environment, the increasing disruption of ethical values and the inability to deal with the movement of people in a just and humane way. What would Christ tell us to do?

Please could we move on from this backward trawling through detailed laws on sacrifices and uncleanness written in the late seventh century BC? LGBT people and their sexual orientation is no more an issue for today than is regarding as ‘unclean’: childbirth, skin disease, mildew on the wall or having a period. Please, please can we recalibrate and refocus our discourse on issues that are relevant to living as Christ taught us?

Prof. Patricia Barker

Malahide Co. Dublin


Church sharing

THE ARTICLE on church sharing in Castleblayney (Gazette, 30th June) is heart-warming. Here in our village of Innishannon in 2006 Christ Church was made available to the local Roman Catholic congregation of St Mary’s for almost a year during renovations to their church. The following year, St Mary’s welcomed the congregation of Christ Church whilst the latter building was being reroofed.

Two anecdotes may be of interest.

The first was when a Roman Catholic couple wished to be married by their parish priest in Christ Church when their own church was out of action. Both bishops gave their assent but no licence could be obtained as legislation at the time only permitted marriages according to the rites of the Church of Ireland to take place in Church of Ireland churches.

The second was that the curate at the time, the Revd Denis McCarthy, a former Roman Catholic priest, found himself in the unusual situation of celebrating Holy Communion according to the rites of the Church of Ireland in a Roman Catholic Church!

Peter T. Hanna ( The Revd)

Innishannon Co. Cork

Eighth Amendment

SOONER OR later, there will be a referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Whatever the outcome, the debate will continue, with an increasing polarisation between those who will never accept abortion for any reason whatsoever on one side, and on the other, those who would advocate abortion on demand without the need for any reason being given.

Even within the Church, strongly held beliefs and opinions on the ethical issues regarding abortion
differ hugely, and it is unlikely that there will be eventual consensus or even a majority-agreed position.

Before the debate begins in earnest, therefore, could we encourage all parties to work together to promote the idea that “prevention is better than cure” and that the best way to address the abortion issue is to avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

It is totally unrealistic to expect sexual abstinence. Instead, we should be promoting
comprehensive, early, and ongoing sex education in schools as young people mature, with a particular emphasis on effective contraception.

Certainly, this will be doctrinally unacceptable to some – but is doctrinal adherence more important than preventing an unwanted life being destroyed?

Michael Cavanagh (The Revd)

Kenmare Co. Kerry

Church must learn lessons

“‘THE CHURCH must learn lessons,’ says Arch- bishop of Canterbury”, as cited in the world news section of a recent issue of this paper (Gazette, 7th July).

I hope that it becomes contagious and that the Church of Ireland, as well as the Irish Church Mission (ICM), do their duty to God and man by not just saying how wrong they were and how sad they are now are for the Protestant survivors of places like the Bethany Home. That must include the admission that they let down young children and unmarried mothers for over 100 years.

Lesson one for the Church of Ireland and the Irish Church Mission would be to hand over all records, stating how many children died in
all Protestant-run homes in Ireland, including the Irish Church Mission, and where they are buried.

In the 18 years that I have been asking these questions to both the ICM and the Church of Ireland, the ICM has never answered any questions. The Church of Ireland has also kept very quiet and looked the other way.

That must stop now as the Bethany Home Survivors deserve no less. Today’s Church leaders must prove that it does matter to them, and they should make a public statement of intent so that survivors can see, after all these years, that we do matter.
Derek Linster

Rugby Warwickshire



WHAT IS to become of our beloved United and All-Ireland institution when At the Black Pig’s Dyke becomes a  physical reality, for the first time in our history, post Brexit.
Tim Bracken



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