The evening of Sunday 9th June was beautiful as I arrived at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Monkstown for worship. I received a warm welcome from the worshippers, many of whom I had met before and who have been to St Oliver Plunkett Church. In one conversation, before the service began I heard about Falls Road Methodist Church which sadly no longer exists – it was demolished and replaced by flats. In the same conversation, the female worshipper lamented the loss of mixed areas in many parts of Belfast. In my sermon in the morning I had commented on the issue of people living in their own areas with limited opportunity to meet across the denominations. We often hear about integrated schooling in Northern Ireland but seldom about integrated housing.
We began with worship songs and were invited by Alan McCready who led this part of worship to sit down if we wanted – I was happy to take up the suggestion. Pastoral Assistant, Liz Feely led us in prayer encouraging us to give thanks for all God’s blessings. This was followed by a sharing session – my first time to encounter this in my worship rounds. It reminded me of check-in in counselling class. We were invited to share what was going on in our lives with a particular emphasis on gratitude. I found it helpful to hear my fellow worshippers describe some of the people who had positively impacted their live during the previous week. I really liked the way Liz prayed for the people who have been mentioned by others within the group We thanked God for helping us through the difficult times. Liz also invited me to share about the experience of the Morning Service Broadcast from earlier that day.
The theme for the Bible reflection which came from Luke 7:11-17 (the raising of the widow’s son) was “all things are possible” and as we listened to the passage we were asked if we believed all things possible. In a very gentle and reflective way Liz led us through the Bible passage – I had preached on this passage in my Sunday sermon and found it appealing and helpful that the gospel passage from the common lectionary was being used. As I was leaving the church building, Rev Arlene Moore gave me a copy of the preaching schedule for the next number of weeks based on the gospel passages from the common lectionary – most useful.
After our final prayer and hymns it was time for tea and buns and some fascinating conversations with Rev Arlene Moore and Nigel Beatty. I found the conversation on reconciliation especially interesting and raised issues for me about some of the events Four Corners Festival run and how we could make more of these. In short, what happens beyond the events? Nigel Beatty gave me a leaflet they had produced for their church which he thought would be useful to me in St Oliver Plunkett Parish.
1. I would love to see more churches begin to use the common lectionary which could be a very powerful sign of unity and an excellent way of reading and preaching the Bible
2. As a society, we need to see more discussion on what reconciliation looks like and how we follow up some of the good events and conferences we run
3. I would like to see churches share resources to a greater degree – I’m wondering about starting an equivalent of the IF campaign called “AND” – “here’s what we have in our church AND here is one for yours”
4. If we see the value in integrated housing, do we need a body to promote this?