This week Fr Martin Magill journeyed to All Saint’s Church in Antrim for his ecumenical tithing. He describes the special healing service, during which the Church of Ireland Archdeacon offered a special prayer for him and for other Catholic priests. That is the sort of public gesture that I find particularly heartening, communicating to all those present the unity between Christians — rather than division.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: All Saint’s Church, Antrim
I arrived early for the service and had a chance to talk to the Vicar of Antrim, Archdeacon Stephen McBride. During the conversation, Stephen spoke very enthusiastically about attending some recent inter church training on suicide called “Flourish”. I raised the issue of the Church of Ireland diocese of Connor and the Catholic diocese of Down and Connor putting on joint training in certain areas, such as dealing with the issue of suicide. We also talked about a day conference for clergy of all denominations to take place later in the week on how clergy might respond to the legacy of the Troubles.
The service, which was a healing service with Holy Communion, began with the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy.
The scripture reading, beginning at Matthew 5:3, came from the Common Lectionary. In his sermon Stephen talked about how a church building can feel strange to people who are not used to going to church. He also pointed out that we in Northern Ireland are good on the “Thou shalt not” commands. He suggested that some people had a fear that by loving Jesus there would be so many restrictions – leading him to speculate what it might be like for those people to come to church.
He acknowledged that some of us have used the law as a strait jacket. Yet when we turn to the Old Testament we see the value of the law. The Archdeacon gave the example of the law like a fence at the top of a cliff to prevent people falling over the cliff: he said that God’s rules are there to help people develop. In the Old Testament, laws were there to protect – God asks his people to take care of those on the edges. We are aware of God’s care for us. Stephen also talked about an active faith as especially helpful at the time of a funeral. Stephen referred to the term “good living” and asked what that would mean for feeding the poor etc. He asked how do we measure up in the practical aspects of our faith such as forgiving our enemies – and what about being Christ like to the person who gets “under our skin?”
The service then continued with the Act of faith. The offertory hymn was “Tell out my soul”. The act of penitence and the intercessions and other prayers then followed. We then had the “laying on of hands” on all those who presented themselves for prayer – I went forward for this.
As well as prayer for healing Stephen also prayed for God’s blessing on my ministry and the ministry of my fellow priests which I much appreciated.
The communion hymn was “My God, your table here is spread”. We then had the rite of Communion and Holy Communion. As I had received a blessing earlier I chose not to go back again. The final hymn was: “Bright the vision that delighted”.