‘Sam Maguire Community Bells’ ring out message of hope and reconciliation
The ‘Sam Maguire Community Bells’ in Dunmanway, Co. Cork, rang out their message of hope and reconciliation for the rst time at a special celebration of thanksgiving on Saturday 9th September.
The bells project, the visionary idea of the local Church of Ireland rector, the Revd Cliff Jeffers, has brought the local community and many others from further afield together in common purpose in the wake of last year’s commemorations of 1916, and in anticipation of the coming centenaries in Ireland of the War of Independence and the Civil War.
Sam Maguire, a member of the local Church of Ireland parish in Dunmanway, is a figure rooted in the history of that period, and his name is linked with contemporary celebrations in the world of sport; his name is given to the GAA All-Ireland Football Trophy.
The bells – six restored and two new ones engraved with Sam Maguire’s name and dates (1877- 1927) – were installed during the summer and at the ceremony on 9th September, the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Rt Revd Dr Paul Colton, was joined by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross, the Most Revd Dr John Buckley, and the Revd Greg Alexander of the Methodist Church in Ireland, as well as local clergy and lay readers.
HISTORY – THE CONVENIENT QUARRY!
The years 1912 to 1922 saw historical events on these islands, the memory of which has burrowed deep into our sense of identity and psyche. Whether we are talking about the fault line of civil war politics, the resonances of the Easter Rising, the sacrifices of the Somme or the images of the Ulster Covenant, the effects are still profound today.
The events of that decade reach deeply into the hearts and minds of all our different communities on these islands. However, that is not the same as saying that the intricacies of those events are always paid heed to. In reality most of us hold but a sketchy understanding of our history, even a century ago.
In these current years, we are presented with a series of centenary moments, a time when we will, whether willingly or unwillingly, remember events from 1912 to 1922. Each part of these islands will remember some events with more enthusiasm or empathy than others. What we all have in common is that this period put something in the DNA of our psyches, sense of identity and how we relate to one another in the here and now. History has done much to shape and pattern relationships on these islands. Even more so as there is rarely an agreed telling of the story.
Dealing with the history of these islands, with its relationships, is profoundly difficult. It is a call to ponder the enormous cost of our failure at times to live peaceably together. There is no mystery as to the roots of our fear of examining Irish history. We have all seen the truth of A.T.Q. Stewart’s description of the past as “a convenient quarry which provides ammunition to use against enemies in the present”.
To prevent history becoming fertile ground for those who might wish to exploit it, are any of the following possible?
• To find a way to commemorate significant history that increases our knowledge and understanding rather than being divisive;
•To find a way of engaging with history that increases knowledge rather than inflaming wounds;
• To gain an understanding of why previous generations acted or reacted in certain ways, whether we agree with them or not;
•To increase our knowledge of history so that we can find new ways of looking at very old problems;
•To create a shared conversation about a deeply contentious period of our history that will promote the difficult path towards reconciliation instead of increased division.
What might this look like in practice? We see a thoughtful and courageous attempt in the project of St Mary’s Church, Dunmanway, Co. Cork, of ‘The Sam Maguire Community Bells’. Speaking at the official opening, Bishop Paul Colton said: “Be in no doubt, in our new Ireland 100 years on, the coming centenary years call for careful thought and even more careful and sensitive commemoration. This country has to be cautious about how it goes about commemorating events of 100 years ago. Memories are still raw.
“Against that background, let us be under no illusions about the huge significance of what the Revd Cliff Jeffers and this community here in Dunmanway have put in place … In a prophetic way, from within this place (contentious in its own history) they have put down a marker of what the character of the coming centenary commemorations should be – reconciliation.
“This project has set a tone that others – locally, regionally and nationally – might do well to note and to emulate as we prepare: a note of reconciliation; a note of co-operation and partnership; a note of dialogue; and a note of opportunity of community building for the future. That’s as it should be, not least for those of us who call ourselves Christians, for our calling is from God who ‘reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation’ (II Corinthians 5: 18). That ‘ministry of reconciliation’ requires much of us in the days ahead.”
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Letter to the Editor
Same-sex marriage debate
IT IS important that people on both sides of the same- sex debate should try to avoid raising the temperature of the argument. I hope that what I write here will be taken in that spirit.
Scott Golden (25th August) says that I “accused” him of using “hypothetical events” to make his case. In fact, I genuinely thought that the events he cited were hypothetical (and there is nothing wrong with such an approach), as he began by referring to “the mother or father” standing at their “gay son or daughter’s bedside”.
The fact that the underlying situations are grounded in real distress is something that we must never lose sight of, and I apologise if Scott thought I was accusing him of anything.
What we must not do, however, is to assume that the blame lies with the Church. A recent study (Barnes & Meyer 2013) found, counter-intuitively, that LGB people do not have worse mental health outcomes when they affiliate to a “non-affirming” (conservative) church.
A second paper (Lease et al, 2005) found that “affirming”
(liberal) churches do not improve the mental health outcomes of those attending.
I hope that Scott might suspend his judgement that my position is “at the cost of compassionate Christianity”. We must leave no stone unturned in seeking the causes of the mental illnesses that are experienced disproportionately by people who identify as LGBT.
Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough
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