Church highlights child poverty
Church volunteers are stepping in to provide food and support for struggling families as cuts to public spending impact on child poverty, the Church in Wales said during an event at the Eisteddfod annual cultural festival, at the beginning of August.
The audience at the event heard stories of children struggling to keep up with school homework because their families could not afford a computer or Internet access, going hungry during holidays and parents not being able to afford school uniforms.
They also heard that funding cuts were threatening church- run family centres in some of the most deprived areas of the country.
WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?
In this week’s Gazette we publish the first of three extracts from Unfinished Search, by Archbishop Robin Eames (pages 6 and 7). This week he reflects on his experience of being in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday, in 1987.
As he describes it: “The ‘Poppy Day bomb’ had plunged Enniskillen into a nightmare and changed the lives of countless people forever. Instead of the normal pattern of Remembrance Day worship, we found ourselves in the corridors and wards of the Erne Hospital among a shocked and bewildered community.”
As the dead and injured were brought to the Erne Hospital and families frantically searched for news of loved ones, he recollects: “At the end of a corridor a table had been set up to provide tea manned by local volunteers. She had been one of the first off-duty nurses to arrive at the hospital when local radio had appealed for urgent assistance: ‘Archbishop, where is God in all of this?’ she asked me.”
He continues: “Spoken in the chaos of that morning by a nurse called upon to support and care for those in desperate need, but also from the lips of thousands across the years was the same question.”
“Where is God in all of this?” – surely one of the deepest and most painful questions asked by human beings through the ages. It is a question that every one of us reading this will likely have asked at some stage in our lives. It is one asked by many individuals, families and communities during the years of the Troubles, in the face of loss or suffering.
In the Indian state of Kerala, India’s armed forces airlifted people to safety following recent
flooding, where thousands are feared to be trapped. It appears that 20,000 people have been left homeless in the aftermath. “Where is God in all of this?” is often asked in the face of natural disasters.
Sometimes we ask the question in much more personal times of distress – whether the suffering is caused by illness, economic hardship, loss or some other difficult circumstance. The question is not so much “God, why is this happening?” as “God, where are you in all of this?”
If we are old enough we can remember the shock of the events of 9/11. In the immediate days after that there was a struggle to make sense of what had happened in the four attacks that had unfolded on our TV screens. The enormity of what had happened was hard to take in.
At a religious retreat, shortly after 9/11, a speaker posed the same question: “Where was God in all of this?” As he reflected on the four attacks, his answer was this: “God was in the rubble.” At the Twin Towers, the Pentagon or the Pennsylvania crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 – God was in the rubble, the place of loss and suffering.
None of this necessarily makes sense of something that has happened. It does not change what has taken place. But knowing that God is in the rubble, however it has been caused, gives the consolation of our not being alone. It also gives the possibility of hope. Knowing that God is present in the very place of loss and suffering reminds us of the strength of our resurrection hope, expressed in 1 Corinthians 15: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
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Insight – Where is God in all of this?
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Letters to the editor
REGARDING RON Elsdon’s article in the Gazette (10th August), perhaps you will allow me to respond as follows:
Firstly, my thanks to him for his courtesy in not naming me as the writer of the Irish Times ‘Rite & Reason’ article. However, I am quite amenable to my identity as the author being known to Gazette readers. It was, after all, an article printed in a national newspaper for public consumption.
The use of the word “demonisation” in relation to my article is an over-reaction and unnecessary. Certainly, my comments about GAFCON were robust – that was because they needed to be.
The Anglican Church has always offered a broad canopy, hospitable to new theological thinking. It has never found it necessary to engage in a process of ‘casting out’ but has, up to recent times, held together as a particular Christian denominational family, with often quite widely differing
interpretations of Scripture. The setting up of other churches alongside existing Anglican churches and at the same time claiming them to be the only ‘real’, ‘authentic’, ‘true’ Anglican churches is, in my mind, a deliberate and provocative action, with all the potential to create a fracture in the Body of Christ as that body is made manifest in the Anglican Communion.
“Submission” is an oppressive and ugly word. It is a hierarchical inheritance from early times, found in both religious and pagan cultures: God(s) – men – women – slaves – animals. It is certainly not conducive to human flourishing, and I do not see it as having any place as part of an interpretative template for Christianity.
The imagery of slavery and submission – which may have had resonance in the time of Paul and of the writer of the Letter to Timothy – is no longer imagery that can ‘work’ today.
It has also taken centuries to recognise and accept that sexuality is not a binary male/ female divide, but is on a spectrum, and the worldview of the writer of the creation narrative myth in Genesis should be understood as being from his (sic) time.
This is the kingdom issue which presents to us today (along with a new realisation of the often toxic domination we have exercised on the non-human creation). These conversations are as vital for the Kingdom as the earlier controversies over slavery and women’s ministry.
The casting out of Christians from the Anglican Communion because they do not conform to GAFCON’s particular interpretation of Scripture is the presenting issue here. These conversations cannot just be ‘shut off’ in this way. They must – and shall – continue.
Marie Rowley-Brooke (Canon) Nenagh Co. Tipperary
Salome or Herodias
ON THE question of who danced for Herod (Gazette, 17th August), there are two basic possible translations of the passage in Mark 6:22:
• Type A, “And coming in and dancing the daughter of Herodias herself pleased Herod …”
• Type B, “And coming in and dancing his daughter, Herodias, pleased Herod …”
These versions depend on two contrasting factors. Firstly, whether a word in the original Greek is autes meaning
“herself” or autou meaning “his”. Secondly, whether the Greek word for Herodias in the passage should be taken as a possessive noun meaning “of Herodias” or as a noun in appositionappearingbetween commas as a descriptive name meaning simply “Herodias”. The spelling is the same in either case and there are no commas in New Testament Greek to help us.
Translation type A, as you can see above, uses “herself” and “of,” while type B uses
“his” and the commas. The name Salome for the dancing girl does not appear in the New Testament.
That name, as well as translation type A, appear to have come from reliance on the writings of the non- canonical Josephus.
Translation type B is in accordance with the more reliable of the original manuscripts and fits in better with Mark’s syntax.
General Synod representation
IT MAY not be realised that the proportional representation of elected representatives to General Synod has increased considerably since 1870 simply by doing nothing.
The current representation of 216 clerical and 432 lay is exactly as it was when the Constitution was drawn up on Disestablishment. However, in 1870 there were just over 2,000 clergy and a total membership of some 700,000 whilst today there are less than 500 clergy and, accepting Robin Glendinning’s figure (Gazette, 10th August), 374,400 members.
If representation were to be adjusted in accordance with current figures, then there should be just 54 clerical and approximately 220 lay.
Attempts to reform General Synod representation are not new. Apart from 2018, motions in recent years were put forward and defeated in 2002 and 2007.
In 2002, 66% of those present at synod voted against the proposed changes, rising to 72% in 2007. Such voting figures could only have been achieved with majority support from both provinces.
Any debate on this issue is always confused by the assumption that the “northern” province of Armagh equates with the political entity of Northern Ireland and the “southern” province of Dublin with the Republic. The “northern” dioceses of Armagh, Derry and Raphoe, and Kilmore, Elphin and
Ardagh straddle the border, whilst Tuam is wholly in the Republic.
Another issue is the actual attendance at General Synod. Having done a review over several years, the average is just 69%, meaning that in any one year approximately one- third of elected members do not find it convenient to attend.
In 2018, the average attendance was 65%, with Armagh province represented by 68% of its possible attendance and Dublin by 60%. These percentages represent a sea change as usually it is the other way around. In 2001, for example, the figures were 55% for the “northern” province and 82% for the “southern” province.
Whilst membership in the Republic fell year by year since Disestablishment, there have been some remarkable increases since the millennium.
The National Census of 2002 showed a 29% increase over the previous five years, whilst the increase in 2002 was a further 8%. Sadly, the Northern Ireland membership continues to slowly decline. In 1991 there were 279,280 members, falling to 257,788 in 2001 and approximately 249,000 today.
If these trends continue, it may be that in several years’ time there will be a demand from the “southern” province for greater representation!
Peter T. Hanna (Revd) Innishannon Co. Cork
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