Ecumenical initiative establishes Belfast City Centre Chaplaincy
An ecumenical initiative designed to establish the Belfast City Centre Chaplaincy was recently launched at Belfast City Hall.
The launch was introduced by the then Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Gavin Robinson – attending one of his final events before the end of his mayoral year – and Andrew Irvine, Belfast City Centre Manager.
Belfast City Centre Management (BCCM) works as an operational vehicle for Belfast City Council, the Department of Social Development and the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce to facilitate and coordinate services in the city centre.
In her address last week at her Installation as the new President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Revd Dr Heather Morris touched on a number of topics related to the overall theme in Irish Methodism for the next year, ‘A people invited to follow’.
She spoke of the challenge of this invitation to discipleship, requiring as it does a decision on the individual’s part to accept or to reject it, although acknowledging degrees of each – enthusiastic embrace of the invitation, or its acceptance only with reluctance, with teeth clenched, as Dr Morris put it; or outright dismissal, or rejection after some degree of real inner struggle. Invitations indeed come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and so do our responses.
The new Methodist President went on to refer to ‘radical hospitality’, asking her audience to consider “what if God was asking us to … develop that gift” of hospitality. It is true that one is often inclined to consider hospitality at a relatively superficial level, but real hospitality is demanding, and can be very demanding. Where it especially becomes the latter is precisely when the person who is being welcomed is a really different person from oneself or, indeed, who begins to make challenges. To be a good host requires the ability to put others, even the greatest strangers, at their ease and thereby open up lines of communication.
The radical hospitality to which Dr Morris was referring entails a call to cross barriers, to develop new relationships and also, quite simply, “to meet more than halfway those who have the immense courage to venture, curious, into church after generations of no church contact”. She further asked “how might our discussions and actions on the issues which face us and on which we differ – lottery, sexuality, education, poverty and economics – be transformed if we all made an effort really to understand a viewpoint with which we radically disagree”.
In the Church of Ireland, there is also ample scope for Dr Morris’s radical hospitality – the kind of hospitality in which we really open ourselves up to the other, giving of ourselves but also being prepared to receive in terms of wisdom and insight. Radical hospitality is an important concept because our transformation from what we are to what God really wants us to be requires a real openness to learning from others.
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Letters to the Editor
Church of Ireland / Methodist Interchangability of Ministry
My friend, Charles Jury, has drawn attention to the Preface to the traditional version of the Ordinal which speaks of the intention, clearly expressed, to continue the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons (Letter, 14th June).
I would like to draw attention not only to the designation of Methodist Presidents as ‘Episcopal Ministers’ in the Church of Ireland/Methodist scheme, to which office they will be appointed by prayer and the laying-on of hands in which Church of Ireland bishops will participate, but also to the declaration clearly made in the Ordinal in the Methodist Worship Book 1999, p.298: “In common with other Churches, in the ordination of presbyters and deacons, the Methodist Church intends to ordain, not to a denomination, but to the presbyterate and the diaconate in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. It looks for the day when, in communion, with the whole Church, such ministries are recognized and exercised in common.”
Allowing for the fact that any arrangements to heal the historic breaches between the Churches are bound to contain some anomalies, it seems to me that there is a convergence between what the Prayer Book says and what the Methodist Church has stated which should, theologically speaking, be regarded as more than adequate to address the needs of the present situation and to create opportunities for further growth together of our two Church traditions.
I believe that the arrangements, voted for with only one dissentient by the entire General Synod, should be ratified and confirmed by the legislation to be brought before the Synod for that purpose next May.
Michael Kennedy (Canon) Lisnadill Rectory 60 Newtownhamilton Road Armagh
I hesitate to join the correspondence regarding the interchangeability of ministry with the Methodist Church in Ireland. I hesitate as I have always been supportive of moves towards Christian unity.
Following Lambeth 1988, I was one of two people who worked tirelessly to set up the first Joint Theological Working Party with the Methodist Church. I hesitate also to speak as one no longer in office, but this is an issue that goes right to the heart of the ordained ministry.
I have two major concerns. The first is to do with the term ‘Episcopal Minister’. The New Testament and Christian Tradition use the term ‘Bishop’ (Episcopos), ‘Presbyter’ or Priest or Elder (Presbuteros), and ‘Minister’ or ‘Deacon’ (Diakonos).
The use of the new term, ‘Episcopal Minister’, is both confusing and doubtful in relation to the ‘Intention’ of such an ordination. Is the consecration of a Methodist President intended to make him or her an Episcopos? If so, then we should say so. A double think destroyed any chance of Anglican/ Methodist unity in England over forty years ago. I am actually thoroughly confused by the reticence over the use of the term ‘Bishop’, as it is common in Methodism beyond these islands.
My second concern relates to former Presidents of the Methodist Church in Ireland. Such can be ordained as bishops, but to treat them as if so ordained is a step too far for an episcopal Church.
Methodist presbyters have been ordained with the clear intention of fulfilling a full presbyteral ministry, and to provide for their ministry to be extended to the Church of Ireland is not a problem during a period of the growing together of the two Churches. However, to deem those who have never been ordained or consecrated to an episcopal ministry as eligible to occupy a Church of Ireland See as if so ordained is a step too far.
There are issues here for our own Legal Advisory Committee, as well as for our relationship with the wider Anglican Communion.
If these issues can be resolved, even if it causes a delay of a further year, then a worthy ecumenical development can take place. It was encouraging that the resolution leading to a Bill was passed so clearly by General Synod, but further work remains to be undertaken.
J.R.W. Neill (The Rt Revd) Knockglass Annamult Road Bennettsbridge Co. Kilkenny
Hi-jacking of Ships
A Hijacking is a thoroughly well-researched and challenging film, scripted and directed by Tobias Lindholm, which is currently on release in many places – I saw it in the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast.
I deliberately do not say that it is exciting, but it is certainly gripping, if not terrifying. Most importantly, it is a realistic account of a merchant ship being hijacked at sea near the Horn of Africa – a slowly diminishing occurrence, but an extremely frightening and not infrequent one, with 245 last year (including West Africa and the Molaccan Straights, etc).
This is just one, albeit the worst, experience that seafarers (and their families) undergo so that we can import and export 90-95%of all the goods and products we own and see in our shops.
Being a seafarer for many months at a time in restricted, sometimes unsavoury conditions, is a lonely, at times frightening and difficult job, but to be aboard a ship that is threatened with hijacking – or worse, boarded by hijackers – is a really terrifying experience, which will more than likely lead to post-traumatic stress or, at best, the need for extensive counselling to heal the damage and memories. Families left at home also face similar challenges.
I recommend viewing A Hijacking to obtain a realistic insight into the terrors that seafarers and their families may undergo. This will inform prayer and care for seafarers and the ministry of the Mission to Seafarers.
Colin Hall-Thompson (The Revd) Senior Chaplain N.I. Doreen Salters (Mrs) Appeals Secretary The Flying Angel Seafarers’ Centre Prince’s Dock Street Belfast BT1 3AA
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