This week for his ecumenical tithing Fr Martin Magill travelled to Shankill Methodist Church. Once again, he describes how he received a warm welcome and was enriched by the worship and discussion of his fellow Christians – and how he believes aspects of the experience were a direct answer to prayer.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing – Shankill Methodist Church
For some time now, I had been wanting to attend a service led by Rev Margaret Ferguson who is the minister of Woodvale Methodist Church and looks after Shankill Methodist Church. I chose to attend Shankill Methodist Church this weekend as I hadn’t been to a Methodist service for some time.
I very much liked how Margaret welcomed me as someone keen to “build bridges.”
We began by singing three short Jesus focussed hymns led by two young guitarists, one of whom, Pete also led the singing. This was followed by the opening prayer led by Margaret. She then read from Deuteronomy 17:14-20 which gave God’s instructions for the qualities of a king.
Margaret then invited some of the younger members of the congregation to take it in turns to read from the first chapter of Esther. After that, Margaret described the chapter in contemporary language which included the expression “a room of blocked men” referring to the king’s seven day banquet with no scarcity of wine for his guests.
We then watched a DVD on the book of Esther with the first in the series called “abuse of power”. I found the material excellent and left me with a desire to re-read the book of Esther as I haven’t read it for some time.
There were some challenging points – King Xerxes concerned only about his own glory – his pride – ego – his abuse of power, the treatment of his wife.
After the DVD, Margaret guided a discussion around some questions and I found the reflections very helpful – we touched on issues such as:
- how well we respond when someone challenges us, and
- the contrast between Xerxes out for himself and Jesus the King of Kings washing the feet of his disciples
These are two very different experiences of kingship. I was especially struck by a contribution on the temptation of surrounding ourselves by “yes” people and how some people are never told “no.”
At the end of the session, Margaret invited us to see the chapter as a series of learning points otherwise it would be just a story.
What did we learn from the chapter? We then had a series of prayers for people and issues including for our own situation and also for Syria.
In my conversation with Margaret after the service I shared with her my sense that I was meant to have been there – I was discerning how to respond in a situation and had been praying words from Ps 89 (90) – “make us know the shortness of our lives that we may gain wisdom of heart” – which came from the psalm used at Mass earlier in the day.
I believe as I listened to the reading from Esther and the conversation afterwards, I got my reply.
The woman sitting beside me invited me to come back – I have every intention of doing so. I can’t wait until the next instalment of Esther.
(Image from Shankill Methodist Facebook page)