The Church of Ireland’s Generous Giving programme aims to encourage generosity and enable fresh mission and ministry. It changes the focus from paying bills to growing God’s Kingdom through the use of a seven-step programme which will help parishes and church communities spread nancial costs and plan for the future.
A worrying trend in the Church of Ireland points to a decline in parish attendance and a difficulty within some parishes to actually meet their day-to-day running costs. The Generous Giving programme provides the resources for these parishes to reverse this trend with accessible tools and straightforward advice, with the expectation that a parish will take the Generous Giving programme and make it their own.
It was Nicola Brown, Parish Support Officer for the RCB, who drew up the Generous Giving programme and she had the following to say about the initiative: “Giving isn’t just something that is inherently ‘good’ to do. In fact, generous giving is part of our Christian discipleship; it is part of our worship; it is an integral part of who we are as followers of Christ and it is a matter of wanting to give back to a generous God who has given everything for us.”
The trouble with good news is that it doesn’t always make the headlines. We are all guilty of being more interested in the sensational bad news stories. However, there are countless untold stories of people and parishes living out their faith in the ordinariness of their everyday lives.
Sometimes this involves facing challenges that require great courage. Hearing the stories of other people can give us a sense that if someone else, as ordinary as we are, can live out faith in the challenges of their everyday life then so might we. It is the relief of knowing there is no such thing as the faith superhero – just faith lived out in the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary challenges of life.
This is the season for diocesan synods. One of the features of these events, and rightly so, is an opportunity to recognise the work done by so many over the preceding year. One way in which mission is lived out is in the amount of volunteering that takes place by church members giving their time and energy, doing practical things that make their communities better places to live in.
But, is it possible to get an insight into the contribution that church members make through acts of service for others?
The Church of Ireland diocese of Derry and Raphoe encompasses much of the northwest. In 2009 it had a combined membership of over 32,000 people. The reason why that year is cited is because of an interesting initiative the diocese took.
As part of a wider exercise in planning for the future it conducted a survey that year. The purpose was to build a picture of what sort of activity was taking place across the diocese. It provided some useful insights.
It emerged that a pool of 5,790 volunteers helped to run church-related activities across the diocese. Such a figure is not surprising given the commitment of church members to maintaining the life of their local churches.
However, what was interesting to note was that 2,035 volunteers took part in activities that not only benefited the parish but also the wider community. The number of members who took part in activities held in church premises but run by outside agencies was 1,751. This included everything from Community Associations and Age Concern to the Red Cross. The variety of activity was fascinating – encompassing every age group, including lunch clubs for senior citizens and litter cleanups by teenagers.
Volunteering your time – it is no more than seeking to be a good neighbour. The diocese of Derry and Raphoe is interesting in that the statistics we have just read are probably not wildly untypical of any other dioceses in the Church of Ireland. Numbers give a sense of the scale of service that goes on, although they do not capture the ordinary volunteer work that takes place from week to week. These efforts are usually unheralded but their contribution to the well-being and health of local communities is real.
So, what is the purpose of recognising faith stories and getting a sense of acts of service? Does it mean that everything in the garden is wonderfully rosy and there isn’t the hint of a challenge for the Church? No grey clouds anywhere, ever? Of course not.
Last week’s editorial posed a question – are we more missional than we think? Hearing faith stories and identifying acts of service would suggest the answer to that is yes. Whilst always being aware of the need to do more, it is worth celebrating what is already taking place!
Diocesan identity explored at Dublin and Glendalough Synods
Installation of dignitaries in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe
Organ Scholarship service in Belfast Cathedral
Memorial window dedicated in Down parish church
Bishop Ken Clarke speaks to ‘Southern Evangelicals’
KEA schools’ services of harvest thanksgiving
Crossing Bridges: CMSI launches new annual theme
In Perspective – Discovering the whys and wherefores
Insight – Spiritual Direction
Focus on Cork, Cloyne and Ross
Combating climate change: active participation over passive withdrawal
Letter to the editor
THE ADVERTISEMENTS for Christmas-themed merchandise are already penetrating the media a good three months before the actual event.
Obviously the emphasis is more on making a healthy profit from the season than remembering it as the birth of Christ. (Do our young generation even know who he is?)
A growing number of Bible scholars are concluding that Jesus Christ, or Yeshua to give him his original Hebrew name, could not have been born in the “deep mid-winter” or 25th December as it would have been too cold in the hills of Judea where Bethlehem is situated to have shepherds out in the fields at night, as the Gospel story recounts.
A September or October birth would seem more plausible, a milder time of year.
There are clues in the Bible which help to verify these claims, including the birth date of John the Baptist who was Yeshua’s cousin, and who was born six months before him. In I Chronicles 24: 10 in the Old Testament (or Jewish Tanach) John’s father’s priestly cycle of Abijah is listed as being on the eighth week of the Hebrew year, and from this point we can calculate nine months which will arrive at Passover, an ‘appointed’ feast.
Both the special births of John and Jesus were predicted in Scripture to be at the “appointed time” which in Hebrew is the word moed, meaning an appointed feast or holy day. It would appear that John was born “at the appointed time” on the first day of Passover and circumcised, as a Jew, on the eighth day of the week-long feast, the eighth day also being a moed or appointed feast day, an annual Sabbath or rest day.
Exactly six months later Jesus would have been born in September/October
time on the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot in Hebrew, on the first day of the festival, an “appointed time”, and circumcised, as a Jew, on the eighth day, the last day of the festival, also an appointed time or annual Sabbath.
The Jewish Messiah and King of the Jews was appropriately born on a Jewish holiday, which makes more sense than 25th December, and which this year fell on 5th October in the Gregorian calendar, the evening part of the day beginning the night before at sunset on the 4th, which would have been the “Holy Night” sung so sweetly about in all the carols.
The event, however, passed as it does each year without any fanfare. There will be much glitter and overspending as the festive season approaches, but it is not the “appointed time” when the Saviour of the world was born.
I WANTED to write to express my sincere gratitude on behalf of the Bethany Group to Canon David Gillespie for a moving service at the recent Bethany memorial.
Many people commented afterwards that the service was sensitive and respectful. It meant a lot for the survivors to stand together and remember our lost
brothers and sisters with our shared hymns.
The service stuck the right note and was very inspirational. Our thanks also go to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheál MacDonncha, who attended the commemoration.
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