COI Gazette -19th December 2014

1914 Christmas Truce celebrated with unveiling and dedicating of memorial


A memorial to World War I’s Christmas Truce was dedicated last week at the UK’s National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The Christmas Truce was not an official ceasefire, but the title refers to the way British and German soldiers emerged from the trenches on Christmas Day 1914 to play football with one another.

The service, which was led by the Honorary Chaplain to the National Memorial Arboretum, the Revd Victor Van Den Bergh CF, included a rendition of Stille Nacht by the Repton School Chamber Choir, along with a reading of the Ode To Remembrance by Army Brigadier Steve Vickery.

Commenting last weekend to the Gazette, Mr Van Den Bergh said that “as the choir sang Stille Nacht, my Christian faith led me to think of deeper things, for Christmas Day 1914 marked one hundred and forty-four days of fighting and an end to the hope that it would all be over by then.




The Birth of Jesus

The traditional view of the circumstances in which Jesus was born might be described, in modern terms, as of Joseph and the expectant Mary being given a roof over their heads in an outhouse stable at the back of a tavern of sorts. The innkeeper does his best but, of course, is actually incredibly careless. Surely a young woman about to give birth would have been treated much better and, one way or another, proper room would have been made for her.

The biblical scholar, Kenneth Bailey, in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (SPCK, 2008), has highlighted the problems with the whole Nativity concept that pervades our popular imagination. He writes (p. 28): “To summarize the problems in the traditional interpretation of Luke 2: 1-7, Joseph was returning to his home village where he could easily find shelter. Because he was a descendant of King David nearly all doors in the village were open to him. Mary had relatives nearby and could have turned to them but did not. There was plenty of time to arrange suitable housing. How could a Jewish town fail to help a young Jewish mother about to give birth?”

There is no doubt that Bailey, who discusses these problems in some depth, points to real difficulties. However, he proposes a solution. Describing an ordinary home of the time, he says that it usually consisted of one large family room, where the family lived and slept. At one end, but at a lower level, there was space for animals which would have been kept at such close proximity both in order to give warmth to the whole family in winter and to protect the livestock from theft at night. At the end of the family room, just before the drop to the lower ‘stable’ level, were two mangers so that, at night, the animals could stand up and feed from them. The home, he explains, might have had a guest room at a higher level.

Bailey holds that Mary and Joseph were in fact brought into the family room, that Mary was attended by local women during her childbirth and that, when Jesus was born, he was placed in one of the mangers which was lined with straw. There he was both comfortable and as warm as he could be.

Going on to question the use of the term ‘inn’ which is found in English translations, Bailey says that the Greek word used, katalyma, really means a place to stay or a guest room (the word used by Luke for the Upper Room, at Chapter 22, verse 11) and indicates that the word for ‘inn’ is pandocheion (the word Luke used in the parable of the Good Samaritan to refer to the inn, at Chapter 10, verse 34). Thus, according to Bailey, there was no room in the guest room, but Mary and Joseph were brought into the family space.

All of this changes the traditional understanding somewhat, but not in the essentials – that Jesus was born in lowly circumstances, not in grandeur. The story of Jesus’ birth thus tells of an all-pervading harmony: the infant Christ is at one with Mary and Joseph, who are at one with their hosts and, indeed, the presence of the animals broadens that sense of harmony all the more. In such harmony lies an image both of God’s will for the whole created order and of the healing – which is what ‘salvation’ means – that Jesus brings through his very incarnation.


Home News

  • Belfast’s Lord Mayor speaks of ‘astonishing’ local response to 2013 Philippines typhoon
  • Dean Mann receives prestigious award for annual Sit-out
  • CITI ordinands commissioned as student readers

    ‘Spectacular’ New Year’s Eve celebration planned for St Anne’s as Down and Dromore embarks upon Year of Mission

    ‘Lent through the Movies’ workshops in CITI

    Church and Society Commission supports ISPCC Childline

    Historic, inner-city Belfast parish celebrates 175th anniversary, looks to future

    Church’s Ministry of Healing parish presentation


    Rethinking Church – Stephen Neil – Water, water everywhere, but nothing to drink!

    Life Lines – Ron Elsdon – The visit

    Focus on Limerick and Killaloe

    Canon Bob Hanna, Diocesan Communications Officer for Limerick and Killaloe, contributes this month’s Diocesan Focus article.


    World News

    • After Ferguson and Eric Garner decisions, US white Christians say it’s time to stand with blacks
    • 30th anniversary of Korea-Japan Anglican Mission Partnership

      Desmond Tutu steps down as President of Church Army

      US Roman Catholic bishops respond to report on CIA intelligence gathering methods

      Church Army backs ‘Feeding Britain’ report


    Letters to the Editor

    Ahli Hospital, Gaza

    THE AHLI HOSPITAL is the oldest hospital in Gaza and the only Christian hospital there. It is situated in the centre of Gaza city and most patients come from the city centre or the nearby refugee camps.

    Director, Suhaila Tarazi, is an Orthodox Christian and her management team consists of Christians and Muslims. The ease and friendship between them is apparent. What unites them is stronger than any religious division. Their concern is to do God’s work, looking after the sick and suffering of Gaza.

    On a recent Us. team visit (Us. is the new name for USPG), we met many patients, all of whom spoke highly of the hospital and the care they receive there. Two examples:

    First, a young mother and her underweight baby. The doctor spoke to the mother about nutrition, but, when she left, he explained that educating mothers is pointless when there is no food, and many babies live on tea and bread.

    Second, a teenage boy and his father arriving for a check-up.
    The boy had an external fixation on his hip and upper thigh. As well as broken bones, the boy had a large piece of shrapnel embedded in his thigh. He said it was very frightening and he thought he was going to die.

    Out of 1.8 million people in Gaza, there are now only around 1,200 Christians. The hospital staff are committed to maintaining the Christian presence in Gaza. They are descended from the first Christians and are the indigenous people of Palestine.

    They are so grateful for all the support they receive, and are particularly grateful for our visit. They feel isolated, but not under threat from their Muslim neighbours with whom relations are good. Although they are small in number, they do not dwell on that. Their message is clear: It does not matter if we are small in number – what can we do to serve our community?

    The hospital needs to install solar panels. Currently in Gaza, there are only four hours of electricity per day. Ahli Hospital has generators as back-up,
    and these allow operating theatres, electronic equipment, etc., to be used, but fuel for generators is expensive. The cost of providing solar panels is £120,000, but this is a very cost-effective project, as the annual saving on fuel for the generators will be £65,000.

    The Ahli Hospital is meeting a great humanitarian need in Gaza and needs our support.

    ‘Prepare a Place’ is the Advent Appeal of the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough, in partnership with the United Society, Bishops’ Appeal and Friends of Sabeel.

    We ask Gazette readers to consider giving give the cost of an extra person at their table via Bishops’ Appeal – marking the envelope ‘Gaza’ – or by electronic transfer to IBAN: IE31 BOFI 9000 1749 8394 99 (€) or IBAN: GB49 BOFI 9021 2713 0989 75 (£).

    Linda Chambers

    Us. Egan House St Michan’s Church Church Street Dublin 7


    Remembrance Sunday and The Book of Common Prayer

    THE REVISED Common Lectionary was first authorized for experimental use in the Church of Ireland in 1995. In the booklet, Lectionaries for Trial Use, produced at that time, there are two notes to the readings in the Lectionary for a Second Service, Seventh Sunday before Christmas, Proper 27, Sunday between 6th and 12th November:

    “These following readings are intended for Remembrance Sunday.”

    “In those occasional years where Remembrance Sunday falls on 6th before Christmas, t he readings for 7th and 6th before Christmas should be reversed.”

    These readings are provided for the Proper 27 Second Service in The Book of Common Prayer 2004, page 61, but, unfortunately, without the notes. (Letters, 21st November and 5th December; report, 14th November)
    Gregory Dunstan
    (The Very Revd)

    Library House 43 Abbey Street Armagh BT61 7DY

    Search article clarification

    FOLLOWING PUBLICATION of an article by me on the future of Non-Stipendiary Ministry in the latest edition of Search – A Church of Ireland Journal (37.3), it has been brought to my attention that certain clarifications are necessary.

    In the paragraph entitled ‘Benefits to the Church of Ireland’, I stated: “Whilst there was an initial cost in terms of providing training to be borne by the Church of Ireland in terms of fees payable to St John’s [Nottingham] and to the Theological College, these amounts were considerably less than those incurred in the training of a full-time student.” The Theological College later became the Theological Institute.

    By way of illustration, I quoted a figure of €602,838 as being the accommodation grants and travel allowances for interns in their final year in 2013. The basis for this illustration was the General Synod Book of Reports 2013, page 23, not as stated in Footnote 7 in the Search article, which was a printer’s error.

    The text in question of that 2013 report from the RB refers to the subventions given to CITI for the training of ordinands, a part of which reads as follows:

    “Accommodation grants and travel allowances are made available for students in their final, intern year. The cost for the year is budgeted at €602,838 (2012: €682,831).” This is the figure I quoted, but in a different part of the RB report (Group C, page 21) this figure is indicated as the budgeted cost of training of ordinands.

    I hope this clarifies the matter.

    Terry Lilburn (The Revd)
    Dundrum Road Dublin 14


    Book Reviews

    Author: E.E. O’Donnell SJ
    Publisher: Messenger Publica-tions; pp.118 (including pp.88 of photographs)


    News Extra

    Christmas Messages 2014

    • A Joint Christmas Message from the Archbishops of Armagh The Most Revd Richard Clarke and The Most Revd Eamon Martin
    • From the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson
    • From the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fyske Tveit