Church of Ireland parish praised for ‘friendship and goodwill’
Two different Christian denominations recently began sharing the same place of worship in an example of neighbourliness and friendship.
When it was learned that St Mary’s Roman Catholic church in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan, would be closed for a year for essential renovations, its church neighbours, St Maeldoid’s Church of Ireland parish at Muckno, Castleblayney, in Clogher Diocese, offered the use of their beautiful, gothic- style building.
This generous gesture by the select vestry of St Maeldoid’s, along with the rector, the Revd Neal Phair, and approved by the Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell, was accepted by the parish priest of St Mary’s, Fr Pat McHugh, and his parishioners and since Monday 19th June, St Maeldoid’s church has been used for both Church of Ireland services and Mass at different times during the week.
CAN A CHURCH BUILDING REALLY DRAW SOMEONE TO FAITH?
I still remember my first visit to Canterbury Cathedral. I was a student beginning a law degree at the University of Kent. The grand life-plan was to become a barrister, earn plenty of money and have fun.
One Sunday afternoon, a few of us decided to do the tourist thing and go to Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral. There are few things as beautiful as Sung Evensong in the majestic setting of an ancient Cathedral. Not only is it beautiful – it is peaceful. I can’t quite explain it, but the experience of that afternoon showed me what I wanted, but couldn’t put into words – peace. A piece of a jigsaw was put in place.
University was a great experience but also unsettling. The unsettling part was that fun, the prospect of a career I’d longed for and money didn’t seem to be enough. Trying to make sense of it all involved conversations with an Anglican nun, one of the university chaplains. The one thing I remember her saying was that “you are on a journey”. Another piece of the jigsaw manoeuvring into place.
Halfway through my first year, I went along to a mission event at the university. The speaker became an Anglican bishop in his later life. I remember nothing about what he said. There were no blinding lights, emotional highs or moments of great revelation. Yet pieces of the jigsaw came together in a dawning realisation that what I didn’t need at that moment was more knowledge of the faith – what I needed was to make an adult response to what I already knew.
There is another piece of the jigsaw I should mention. It is the memory of growing up in Inishmacsaint, a rural Co. Fermanagh parish; of a rector who prepared me for confirmation, overlooking the times when I forgot about his classes; and of Sunday School teachers who, putting up with a cheeky young boy, managed to teach him the basics of the faith.
You may now be conjuring up pictures of me sitting in a corner, smoking a pipe as I wistfully reminisce of that time over 40 years ago – with the music of the Hovis advert gently playing in the background. But bear with me.
The pieces of my faith journey were a local parish church, a Cathedral Evensong, a friendly nun, a mission event and an act of my own will. They were all supplying pieces of God’s mission, although most of the participants didn’t realise it at the time. I certainly didn’t.
The details of my journey are no more important than that of anyone else. They don’t provide a blueprint of how travelling to faith is to happen or not. You may like the language I have used or cringe at it. The most important thing was not the style of any of the steps on the journey – what was important was that it all happened.
There was a thread running through my own journey – a sense that fun, money or career fulfilment somehow weren’t enough. Or to paraphrase St Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
That is quite a message to present on any part of this island – that however life is unfolding, there is a rest that only God can bring. There is truth in that, no matter how we prefer to dress it up.
It wasn’t until years later that I heard of terms like churchmanship, evangelical, charismatic, liberal, high church or whatever we use to describe ourselves these days. Mission is not a thing that ‘those people up there or down here’ do, but that we don’t. The style and type of language we use, or whether we love incense or a guitar (or something in between), is not the thing.
Mission is not the preserve of any one type of churchmanship over another.
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Letters to the Editor
Same-sex marriage debate
DR KENNERLEY is so well-intentioned, seems passionate in her defence of an unhistorical, revisionist position that those who have remained in the “faith once delivered” might find her comments unconvincing and not a little ironic.
She has engaged with a very narrow selection of the scholarship available to her without providing any biblical evidence to support her revisionist position. Moreover, she does not fully represent the scholarship of this past 20 years.
A proliferation of those who want to change the Church’s teaching in the area of human sexuality consistently contend that the Bible prohibits same- sex relationships.
For example, the late Dan O Via, emeritus Professor of New Testament at Duke University, argued that the Bible places “an absolute prohibition”, condemning homosexual behaviour “unconditionally” and “absolutely”.
Louis Compton, a pioneer of ‘gay studies’ writes: “According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at ‘bona fide’ homosexuals in committed relationships, but such a reading, however
strained and unhistorical. “Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian.”
Bernadette Brooten, a lesbian historiographer, suggests: “If … the dehumanizing aspects of [exploitative male same-sex relationships] motivated Paul to condemn sexual relations between males, then why did he condemn relations between females in the same sentence?
“… Romans 1: 27, like Leviticus 18: 22 and 20: 13, condemns all males in male- male relationships regardless of age, making it unlikely that lack of mutuality or concern for the passive boy were Paul’s central concerns … The ancient sources, which rarely speak of sexual relations between women and girls, undermine Robin Scroggs’s theory that Paul opposed homosexuality as pederasty.”
The gay Dutch scholar, Pim Pronk, writes: “Wherever homosexual intercourse is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned. With reference to it, the New Testament adds no arguments to those of the Old. Rejection is a foregone conclusion.”
Dr William Loader affirms that arsenokoitoi, was “certainly not limited to [older to younger male relationships]. Exploitation was a common feature in most same-sex encounters, but not all. Thus, it is better to take the word as closely cohering with what Paul condemns in Romans 1 and reflecting the [absolute] prohibitions of [Leviticus] on which it appears to be built”.
When Dr Kennerley admits the full range of scholarship, the accusation of bias will not be relevant. It may be the case that she hasn’t done what is necessary to reach a balanced, careful and fair opinion on the question of human sexuality.
It may only be possible to conclude that Dr Kennerley’s “God of love” is not the God of the Bible, the true and living God who sent his son to die for the “sins of the whole world”.
Trevor Johnston (The Revd) All Saints’ Church Belfast
Canon Liz McElhinney
I WRITE to share through the pages of the Gazette a sincere and heartfelt appreciation of the late Canon Liz McElhinney who served as one of the clergy team during my years as Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh. Many years before, her father, Canon Maguire, had served as a rector in the same diocese.
Liz was an outstanding pastor, a constant encourager, an attentive listener and a very hard worker. She had an exceptional gift of love for people. This flowed from her deep and life-changing love for her Lord. In churches, hospitals, schools and across communities, Liz’s ministry
was deeply appreciated.
So often I meet people in different places who speak of Liz as a significant person in their lives. They refer to her as someone God used to bring them help, strength, teaching and, at times of heartbreak, she brought such comfort and hope.
On the day of her funeral, I was in Malaysia speaking at the Family Camp of All Saints’ Church, Singapore. We watched her video on Youtube as she shared about her faith and facing Motor Neurone Disease (https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=9_U0w9rSB6M ). People were deeply moved. The
church then prayed for all the family. It was unforgettable.
With so many others around the world, I assure Liz’s husband, Cyril, and their family, of continued prayer. We give thanks to God for the privilege of knowing an extraordinary person, a remarkable pastor, a loyal colleague, a faithful friend and an inspiring example of a Christ-like life. She hasn’t left a monument. She has left a set of footprints!
Like the Apostle St Paul, she fought the good fight, she kept the faith, she finished the race.
Ken Clarke (Bishop) Dollingstown Co. Down
Author: Valerie Jones Publisher: Ash eld Press; pp.357
THE BOULTER LETTERS
Editors: Kenneth Milne and Paddy McNally
Publisher: Four Courts Press, Dublin; pp.467
A GOOD YEAR Author: Mark Oakley Publisher: SPCK
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