In today’s edition of his ecumenical tithing, Fr Martin Magill visits Crumlin Presbyterian Church and recounts how a journey of three miles took him almost 50 years.
I was heartened to read in Fr Magill’s post of another local Catholic man who seems to do some ecumenical tithing of his own at this church. This feeling of mine was supported by a status update I saw this morning from a Facebook friend, Iva Beranek, who posted a quote from Pope Francis’ Address to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Pope said:
“The search for unity among Christians is an urgency from which today, more than ever, we cannot subtract ourselves. In our world, hungry and thirsty for truth, love, hope, peace and unity, it is important for our own witness to be able to, finally, proclaim with one voice the happy news of the Gospel and to celebrate together the Divine Mysteries of our new life in Christ! We know well that unity is primarily a gift from God for which we must pray incessantly for, but to all of us have the task of preparing the conditions, of cultivating the ground of the heart, so that this extraordinary grace will be received.”
For me, ecumenical tithing is one good way to “prepare the conditions” and “cultivate the ground of the heart.”
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: Worshipping at Crumlin Presbyterian Church: A Journey of Three Miles That Took me almost 50 Years
As I walked into Crumlin Presbyterian Church this morning, this was my first time to do so in 50 years. This is the closest church of another denomination to where I grew up and where my family still live in the Aldergrove area. I had passed the church countless times but today I went in to worship with the congregation and indeed my Presbyterian neighbours.
Owing to the proximity of the church to the home where grew up, I found this one of the most unusual of all my worship experiences in other denominations. As I took my seat, I asked myself how come it had taken me so long to come here.
In a brief conversation with a person sitting close to me, he told me he had been away from God for years until 6 months ago – I liked the way he described it:
“once I crossed the threshold of the church, it was natural to come here after that”.
After announcements from the clerk of session, which included a welcome to visitors, we began with prayer led by the minister Rev Desie Paul. The first hymn, which although clearly very familiar to the congregation, was new to me: “Standing on the promises of God” – some great words in the hymn.
The scripture reading was chapter 23 of 1 Samuel which was then followed by the children’s address. It was based on the story of David and Saul and was an encouragement to forgive but recognising how we need God’s help to do so. The minister then announced the collection of “gifts, tithes and offerings”.
We then had another scripture reading from 1 Samuel 24 with another great hymn: “there is hope that burns within my heart”.
Rev Paul delivered his sermon from the pulpit which was one of the highest pulpits I have ever seen – he told me afterwards there are only two such pulpits in the whole of Ireland. The sermon covered what it means to seek God’s will, looking for guidance and avoiding revenge. At the end, the minister asked us to think about promises we had made to God and invited us to consider if we had kept these. He had based this on the well-meaning speech of Saul, reflecting on how Saul had failed to follow through.
I was again struck by the words of the final hymn: “O God hear me calling and answer my prayer”.
Afterwards I appreciated my conversation with Rev Paul and was surprised to hear that he serves in Crumlin Presbyterian Church on a part time basis. This is the first time for this congregation to have a part time minister in its history. Many Catholic parishes will be facing similar arrangements in the years to come.
I much enjoyed meeting people from the area where I grew up and especially a neighbour whom I had not seen in years.
The final conversation I had with the clerk of session gave me an opportunity to reflect on the changing nature of Crumlin. It was great to hear from him about a local Catholic man who worships with the congregation from time to time.
- We experience our neighbours and indeed others in a different light when we worship with them.
- Worshipping in the churches closest to where we live gives a different perspective on the area.
- As part of the public narrative on reconciliation, I would argue on the need and value of Christians becoming familiar with how one another worship.