This week for his ecumenical tithing Fr Martin Magill attended the public launch of a new church in South Belfast: Village Church.
In his account of the proceedings, I am struck by the support that Village Church is receiving from a variety of other congregations around Belfast. Although these are from Protestant traditions, the fact that Fr Magill – as a Catholic priest – received a personal invitation to attend the launch is very encouraging. During the service he was also identified as a church leader and asked to participate in the laying on of hands during a prayer.
It is this kind of openness that can make for a better witness of Christian unity in our city. Indeed, pastor Lucas Parks invited those there to “join with God in the renewal of Belfast” – a project which in my mind must be an ecumenical one.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: Launch of Village Church – South Belfast
Thanks to a personal email invitation some weeks ago I went to the public launch of Village Church this weekend. I discovered that others were also there because of a personal invitation from friends or family. During the service I felt privileged to be welcomed by name.
One of the leadership team, Thomas McConaghie, began with a word of welcome to us as we sat around tables in this cafe-style church. Thomas read some lines from one of the psalms and we sang: “Come thou Fount” and “Praise The Lord”.
This was followed by the pastor Lucas Parks taking up the welcome and giving an overview of Village. He explained that Church had become inaccessible for some people.
But Village wanted to more intimate with a strong sense of community and to be about what it meant to follow Jesus in every day life.
He said the emphasis would be on the question: “are we walking the path of Jesus?”, and the church would be based around the Bible and what it is saying to us.
Lucas also acknowledged the support from Cooke Centenary Church; from Redeemer Central and its leaders Dave and Trish; as well as people from Kings Church, Bangor.
Lucas explained that Village was a church plant from Glenabbey church, and their leader Gilbert Lennox then prayed for the new church plant. Gilbert brought a message of encouragement and prayed for the initiative. He explained that Lucas and his wife had wanted to set up a church in the city and he referred to Acts 11 and the encouragement by Barnabas for a new church. The theme of connection, which had surfaced earlier the service, was taken up in his prayer.
Following this we sang: “10,000 Reasons” and we then had a “prayer of confession” which included the line: “Help us not to shrink from self knowledge”.
The reading from the Bible came from John 1: 1-18 and Lucas then gave a teaching on it. In particular he drew out key themes which would be taken up later in the gospel, themes such as the world being re-created as God acted in a new way with humanity.
Lucas invited us to “join God in the renewal of Belfast”.
Other themes such as family, becoming a new people, grace and truth were mentioned, and Lucas reminded us that Jesus called people to the fullness of life, which meant giving up the dead parts of our lives.
At the end of his teaching, Lucas gave a very moving explanation of the Eucharist and explained that we did not need to be “all sorted out before coming to the Table.”
He said that in some churches you could get the impression that the Table was only for good people, but here they believed that the Table was for all of us who are broken, just as the bread was broken.
Lucas then invited all those who have accepted the Lord to come and eat from the bread and take some of the wine. We then sang: “God with us” and “Your Grace is Enough”.
Dave Capener from Redeemer Central came forward to pray and those of us in church leadership were invited to place a hand on one of the members of Village. After prayer we had refreshments and lots of conversation. As I left the building, I felt connection with the people I had met at Village.