Promoting online safety
Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, has remarked that “children and young people today are either asleep or online.” Added to this, statistics released by the NSPCC indicating a 26 per cent rise in online sexual offences in Northern Ireland over the last year emphasise the ever-increasing need to keep children safe online.
The Church of Ireland Safeguarding Board has been supporting a recent series of roadshows run by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to highlight online safety and the role of child protection in this important and challenging area.
CONFESSIONS OF A LANDLUBBER
A few years ago, a friend who is seriously into sailing organised a weekend trip for 15 men, including myself. The plan was to travel from Ballycastle, across the North Channel and up the west coast of Scotland on two RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats).
Despite having been brought up next door to Lough Erne, I know little or nothing about boating. Having taken the Larne-Stranraer Ferry a few times hardly told me whether I had the requisite ‘sea-legs’ or not! However, with some nervousness I joined the trip. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
The weekend arrived and we set sail. We had two reliable boats, spare fuel, radios and all the safety equipment recommended. We also had the prospect of a warm house at the other end. Spirits were high and the weather glorious. More importantly, it was calm!
The mixture of the company and the scenery off the west coast of Scotland made it one of the happiest weekends I have ever had. It also allowed me to fulfil a lifelong ambition – to visit the Isle of Iona.
Iona is a small Hebridean island off the west coast of Scotland and the cradle of Christianity in Scotland. In 563AD, the Irish monk, Columba (Columkille), set sail from Ireland and established a monastic settlement on Iona. From there, he and his fellow-travellers evangelised large parts of Scotland and the north of England. It became an important centre of European Christianity. Over the centuries, it has attracted many thousands of people on their own pilgrim journeys.
As we travelled in our powerful boats, with satellite navigation and the appropriate safety equipment, I could not help thinking what it must have been like for Columba and his fellow travelers in 563AD. He set off in much flimsier boats into these same waters.
It is not just the rugged beauty of Iona that draws. It is what it reminds us of – the wild courage of people like Columba who were willing to set out into the unknown.
All of it driven by a purpose – to bring the message of Christ and his kingdom to others. After all, without that purpose why would anyone undertake such a venture?
We are living in a world that feels much less certain and safe than it used to be. The place of church and faith is changing in our society. As uncertain as the times may now feel, they must be as nothing compared to what Columba and his fellow-travellers faced as they set sail from Ireland.
The prospect of emulating Columba does not sit easily with me, even though I like to think it should. A combination of getting older and personal disposition, as well as human nature, make journeys into the unknown less attractive. However, getting to the roots of why we do or don’t do anything can be an interesting journey – especially when it is about shaping how we embrace the future.
I suspect I share that desire for safety and aversion to risk with the rest of my Church of Ireland family. Healthy curiosity is a part of any journey of self-reflection. Self-reflection can include curiosity about what has shaped our psyche.
To examine the human psyche is to look at how one tends to use personality traits to think about and evaluate what is going on in the world or the immediate environment. It is to ask how a person thinks, learns, solves problems, remembers or is able to forget. The psyche is not just a collection of problem-solving or analytical mechanisms within an individual. It includes their motives and desires – the things they aspire to desire, fear and believe are necessary for life.
Embracing the missional challenge in more unpredictable times will require drawing on the inspiration of people like Columba and his ilk. It is not a call to be reckless, foolish or untrue to ourselves. It is at least an invitation to be curious about ourselves and what shapes our psyche. Therein is an interesting journey.
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- Belfast Cathedral appoints new assistant organist
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- Scottish Episcopal Church same-sex marriage decision leads to continuing responses
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Letters to the Editor
Same-sex marriage debate
THE DECISION of the Scottish Episcopal Church to allow their clergy to solemnise marriage between same-sex couples will evoke different responses among members of the Church of Ireland. For some it will be welcome and for others it will not. There is the possibility that this decision, so close to home, could turn up the heat in our discussions.
Following recent letters to the Gazette on this subject, I commend the publication of the Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the context of Christian Belief, A Guide for our conversation (https:// tinyurl.com/y7zg8l4l).
The Guide not only provides information, testimonies and examples of how the same Scriptures can be interpreted differently, but also guidance on how positive outcomes can be achieved for people who profoundly disagree.
In our search to find the meaning of Scripture, we need to acknowledge that there are sincerely held views on both sides of the debate. It is my experience that Church of Ireland members, genuinely seeking to be faithful to Scripture, their discipleship of Jesus Christ and God’s will for our Church, disagree profoundly on this subject. This shouldn’t surprise us.
As the Guide mentions: “Texts do not ‘contain’ meaning in the same way that jugs contain milk; they require interpretation rather than simply being upended.”(p.20). We need to know more than what the text says. We need to know what the text means.
If we are to discern God’s will for our Church, we need to conduct our conversation with respect for those whose stance is different from our own. This is difficult. It will mean seeking to understand the other person’s point of view – this will take time, patience and self-restraint. However, if we genuinely respect one another, together we can create a safe space where it is possible to speak openly without demonising or being demonised.
A conflict can easily escalate so that the ‘topic’ is lost sight of, and all that matters is for ‘our side’ to win and ‘their side’ to lose. This certainly will not produce an outcome which is honouring to God and exhibits the fruits of the Spirit.
Let us remember that LBGT members of our Church are observing our conversations, and as we talk about the finer points of scriptural interpretation, we are also talking about their lives. Let us be careful that the way we conduct our discussions doesn’t add to the terrible hurt LGBT members have already suffered because of their sexual orientation.
Jesus speaks these word in a Gospel passage relating to conflict: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18: 20). It is helpful to be mindful of Christ’s presence among us, as we disagree.
Trevor Williams (Bishop) Newcastle Co. Down
I HAVE heard and read of the ‘Beatification’ of Jesuit priest, John Sullivan, in Dublin last month and, alarmingly, of the attendance of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin at that ceremony.
I understand that the formal request for the beatification was made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop and the Church of Ireland Archbishop together. This is sad and quite alarming.
Some may believe that beatification is the last stage of canonisation or sainthood. This is far from what the Bible teaches, which for many, including myself, is the only authority in all matters of faith and practice.
It is clear from St Paul’s epistles in the New Testament that, in addressing saints, he is addressing people who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and who are living and worshipping in a particular place. Examples include: Romans 1: 6,7; 1 Corinthians 1: 1,2; 2 Corinthians 1: 1,2; Ephesians 1: 1; Colossians 1: 1,2.
On this subject, a hymn for All Saints’ Day by Archbishop W. D. Maclagan (Number 187 in the last Church of Ireland Hymnal, but not included in the present one) is worth pondering.
Muriel Armstrong Drogheda Co. Louth
A HISTORY OF ST GEORGE’S CHURCH BELFAST:
TWO CENTURIES OF FAITH, WORSHIP AND MUSIC
Author: Brian M. Walker Publisher: Ulster Historical Foundation
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