This Sunday Fr Martin Magill found himself in South Belfast attending the Haass Hope event in Stranmillis (more to come about the event on this blog …), so his ecumenical tithing consisted of a visit to St Bartholomew’s. Fr Magill describes the service. A message that was repeated throughout by the rector, Rev Kevin Graham, was that we are called to be ‘real Christians.’
Rev Graham provides some perspective on what being a ‘real Christian’ might mean — and I think can stimulate our own thinking about how in our thoughts, words, and deeds we can be ‘real Christians’, especially by crossing boundaries and being alert to the needs of others.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: St Bartholomew’s
This weekend as I was attending a conference – Haass Hope in Riddel Hall, in Stranmillis, I chose to attend a church close by: hence St Bartholomew’s.
I was warmly welcomed at the door of the church for what was my first visit. The service was Morning Prayer with Holy Baptism.
Just before the service began I was greeted by name by the rector Rev Kevin Graham. I had met Kevin once or twice before a few years ago but had no expectation he would remember me. One of the occasions when we met was a media course organised by Earl Storey, formerly from the diocese of Derry and Raphoe, organised for Church of Ireland and Catholic clergy.
The opening hymn was “Angels voices ever singing”. After this, we had an address for the children in which Kevin referred to being a pilot in an earlier part of his life. He showed the children a simulator app on his I-pad and used this to make the point that after baptism, Christians are not to be simulators but to be the real thing – that is followers of Jesus. He pointed out that being a Christian was not easy but we can ask for the help of the Holy Spirit. The children then left for “St B’s”.
After singing the “Benedictus” canticle we had the first reading from Exodus 17:1-7 (from the Common Lectionary) and we then sang Ps 95. Then we had the second reading from Romans 5:1-11. Next we sang the canticle “Saviour of the world” which was followed by the gospel reading from John 4:5-42. The next hymn was “as the deer longs”.
In his sermon, Kevin talked about the appropriateness of the Baptism on the Sunday in which the readings which referred so much to water. He also talked about the sacrament bringing us to new life. He explained that the word “christening” meant to become more like Christ. In Baptism, we become a new creation.
He also talked about how some people in the world and within our local community were in desperate need. He reminded the congregation of the trolley within the church in which members could leave food which would be passed on to the food bank to help people who were in need at this time. He referred to the uniform of the Salvation Army which had the letters SS on it meaning: “Saved to Serve”.
He pointed out how we are called to be real Christians.
He then talked about the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman and how Jesus transcended the boundary which brought her into a relationship. He told us that we are called to meet people at their point of need and hoped that in an encounter or encounters with us they would know something of the grace of God which might even result in the giving of testimony. He reminded us that in Baptism we have had Christ put on us.
We are called to be real Christians.
The choir sang the anthem – “Come ye servants of The Lord” and then we had Emma’s Baptism followed by intercessions. After these, we sang: “may the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day”. In the final part of the service, Kevin pointed out two items from the notices which he followed with the blessing.
The final hymn was “Christ is the cornerstone”.