This week Fr Martin Magill renewed some friendships when for his ecumenical tithing he visited St Matthew’s Church of Ireland in Woodvale. The sermon focused on Jesus’ ‘manifesto’ as Messiah and included holy communion, providing an opportunity to pray for the day when all Christians can share the Eucharist.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: St Matthew’s Woodvale
One of the advantages of returning to a church one knows well is the opportunity to renew acquaintances with people who regularly worship in that church. Outside some Catholic churches, St Matthew’s church is the one I know best in Belfast thanks to an ongoing relationship between St Matthew’s and my previous parish of St Oliver Plunkett Parish in Lenadoon. This goes back to 1994.
I received a very warm welcome as I went into the church and was delighted to catch up with people I’ve met over the last 10 years. The rector of the parish, Rev Tracey McRoberts, delivered the announcements and invited anyone present to share any news he or she had. The service was Holy Communion and was celebrated by Rev Don Gamble, the lead chaplain from the South East Health Trust. During the service we sang 3 hymns unaccompanied – owing to a work commitment the organist was not able to make it.
The first Bible reading was read by Linda, a member of the parish and also a diocesan lay reader. It was taken from 1 Peter 1 beginning at verse 3. Rev Don Gamble then read a passage from Luke 4 beginning at verse 14 which included these words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (NIV)
Immediately after the gospel reading, Don preached the sermon. He talked about how politicians in preparing for elections, publish a manifesto outlining the areas they want to work on. He compared the words of Jesus quoting from the prophet Isaiah as a form of manifesto: “today this scripture has been fulfilled”.
Jesus was revealing himself to be the promised one – the Messiah. Don went on to say that Jesus fulfilled all he talked about. He fulfilled everything he said he was going to do. Don then made the point that owing to the fact that Jesus did what he said he was going to do, he can be trusted with every part of our lives.
We then had another prayer for the celebration of Holy Communion. Following my usual practice, I received a blessing, or as it happened two blessings. I continued to pray for the day when all Christians would be able to receive the Eucharist in one another’s churches.
I was greatly encouraged to hear that people from St Matthew’s have planned to attend one of the events in the Four Corners Festival. The people involved in the two parish groups (St Matthews and St Oliver Plunkett) are a very good example of peace making at a local level.