COI Gazette – 4th September 2015

Braille copies of Thanks & Praise will help visually impaired ‘engage more fully in parish life’ – Bishop Miller

Pictured at the presentation in HMP Maghaberry of the first Braille copies of Thanks & Praise are (left to right): Phil Wragg, Mark Mooney, Sue McAllister and Bishop Harold Miller. (Photo: Peter Cheney, Press Office)

Pictured at the presentation in HMP Maghaberry of the first Braille copies of Thanks & Praise are (left to right): Phil Wragg, Mark Mooney, Sue McAllister and Bishop Harold Miller. (Photo: Peter Cheney, Press Office)

The Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, has described the first Braille copies of Thanks & Praise – the supplement to the fifth edition of Church Hymnal – as presenting an opportunity to “help blind and partially sighted people to engage more fully in parish life”.

Bishop Miller was speaking last Wednesday (26th August) in the Braille Unit of HMP Maghaberry, Ballinderry, near Lisburn, when Mark Mooney, Braille instructor at the prison, formally presented him with the Braille volumes of Thanks & Praise.

Receiving the copies on behalf of the Church of Ireland, Bishop Miller, who is chair of the Liturgical Advisory Committee and also editor of the new hymnal supplement, praised the hard work and efficiency of the Braille Unit prisoners and staff for “this remarkable achievement … [an] invaluable resource for worship” and thanked them “for their time and skill in making this gift to the Church”.



The month of September sees many parochial organisations swing back into action after a relatively lengthy break. For select vestries, business may have piled up, resulting in an unusually lengthy meeting with a wide-ranging agenda. Finance is a challenge for many, if not most, parishes and fundraising groups will be planning their autumn and winter events in some detail. Throughout the summer holiday period, parishioners will have seen one another in church but the heavy business of being a parish will have been set somewhat to one side, with visitors bringing not only a welcome addition to regular worshipping life but also their own encouragement. Visiting another parish while on holiday enables one to see things being done rather differently, hearing sermons preached in a different style and observing noticeboards announcing important aspects of the local parish’s life. Perhaps all of this might be described as a relaxed learning experience.

Those who have holidayed abroad will have endured port and airport congestion for the reward of a different place and, perhaps indeed, a different climate. In the Mediterranean area, one will have been made more acutely aware of the tragic circumstances of so many people attempting to flee in mostly inadequate boats in the hope of safety itself, quite apart from a better life, with many actually losing their lives in the process. Seldom are we brought so close to global crises as many will have been while holidaying, for example, in Italy or Greece. In the latter case, the roller-coaster political life over the past months and the effects of severe austerity will have been seen at first hand.

However, all of the summer holidaying, with its many different experiences, is now past for another year and in September we return to the busyness of parochial affairs hopefully much refreshed from a break. Parochial organisations, diocesan councils, General Synod committees all start up their main engines again.

Yet, parish life is about so much more than all of this ‘round’. It is most fundamentally about worship and ministry. Dr Victor Griffin’s letter (Gazette, 14th August) referred to the importance of three books in every cleric’s possession – Bible, prayer book and visiting book. Mention of the last of these raises the ‘hot button’ topic of clergy visiting. Canon 30 states: “(1) Clergy shall visit from time to time all those in their cures for such exercise of their ministry as may be found fitting and convenient. (2) Members of the clergy upon hearing that any persons in their cures are dangerously sick, shall visit them (even though they have not previously resorted to the church) to instruct and comfort them in their distress according to the order of the Book of Common Prayer or otherwise as said members of the clergy shall think suitable.”

The first of these requirements leaves matters to the discretion of clergy as far as general pastoral visits to their parishioners are concerned, but it is abundantly clear that general visiting is indeed a requirement. No doubt all clergy do not place the same stress on this aspect of their ministry, but all will surely find that it is appreciated and that it is beneficial for themselves in terms of learning about their parishioners and also perhaps occasionally even finding new parishioners. All visiting is nothing less than an immense privilege of ministry.

September is a reminder of how much there is to do. Indeed, it is all to be done and, whether lay or ordained, every work done in Christ’s name truly is a very great joy.


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Feature – Church Music Resources

‘ … a valuable resource for lively and challenging worship … ’John Crothers previews Thanks & Praise, the supplement to the fifth edition of Church Hymnal, and two accompanying resource books, Sing to the Word and Companion to Thanks & Praise



Rethinking Church – A hidden agenda? – Stephen Neil

Life Lines – Equisetum. Suitable metaphor. Not.- Ron Elsdon


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Letters to the Editor

The Church and human sexuality

I AGREE with Wes Holmes (Gazette, 14th August) that it would be extremely foolish to take anyone’s opinion on anything at face value without due consideration and thoughtful research.

I can assure him that I am open-minded, still keen to learn, and was extremely thoughtful in formulating my response to the letters of Dean Gordon et al. and his own.

Mr Holmes states that he is unhappy with my confident assertion that “there are no statements in Jesus’ teachings that validate … same-sex sexual activity”.

However, this assertion is not based on my interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ teachings are readily available for everyone to view. Either he did or he did not teach on this subject. There is no conjecture  involved.
If I am in error, Mr Holmes should be able to produce biblical references to refute the assertion!

I am not confident in my own opinion but am confident in God’s Word. So I am ‘discomfited’ too when some within this Church appear to contradict it.

If Mr Holmes or others want to change my beliefs, they will need to set out much more convincing arguments than they have done thus far. I need to know what they believe and the source of that belief.

Therefore, it would be a good starting point for Mr Holmes to disclose his own views on the Scriptures. In his opinion, are they God-breathed, living and active or is the Bible just another dusty old book?
relaxed about speculating on what might be “beyond the surface meaning of a particular text”. It would also be very informative if he would reveal his personal interpretation of Genesis 2: 24 because his brief comments about eternal and universal truths appear to be at variance with Jesus’ teaching.

Finally, Mr Holmes says he is enthusiastic about being liberal. In order that there is no misunderstanding, would he share with us the extent of his liberalism? For example, does he have any boundaries? Are there any human activities that he feels are morally wrong and what role, if any, should the Church have in defending his moral position?

John Wilson (Dr) Kells Co. Antrim


I READ with interest the Revd Joseph Jacob’s response (Gazette, 31st July) to my own letter (12th June).

I may well be a descendant of Eve, but, in the interim, humankind and society have evolved and become somewhat more enlightened. There are many actions and deeds that were acceptable in biblical times that are now considered heinous.

I generally tend to avoid selectively quoting from the Bible, as it saddens me that it has
been much used and abused as a source of justification for despicable acts, such as slavery, racism, genocide and sexism.

I respectfully suggest that Mr Jacob closes his Bible and opens his heart. Or shall he perhaps choose to believe the following quite literally: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (I Timothy 2: 12)?
Caroline Forde Bandon, Co. Cork


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