Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: St John’s Church of Ireland, Crumlin

stjohncrumlinThis week Fr Martin Magill returned to the area where he grew up and worshipped at St John’s Church of Ireland in Crumlin. He describes an engaging family service that involved people of all ages.

St John’s Church of Ireland, Crumlin

Despite growing up in the area around Crumlin, I had never visited or worshipped in St John’s Church of Ireland, Crumlin in the course of the last 50 years — until last weekend.

St John’s is a beautiful building on the edge of the village.

I joined the congregation for what was a family service. We were welcomed by the rector Rev John Rutter, with a particular welcome to the family who were there for the baptism of baby Alex. After an opening prayer we sang “Majesty” which was followed by a simple acknowledgement of wrong-doing. This was followed by the baptism of Alex which involved not only his family but also the congregation in some of the responses.

It was then the turn of the “Junior Church”. Some of the young people present read the story of Daniel and the lions’ den whilst some other children acted out the story.  All of us joined in singing a song about Daniel after which a poem was read by one of the children.

The children and young people’s worker Andrew Neil then gave the children’s talk, taking up the theme of “standing up for what you believe,” based on the witness of Daniel. We then sang “Praise him on the trumpet.” Children as young as 3 up to the age of 14 took part in the musical accompaniment.  We then professed a simple version of the creed.

After this the children distributed a “gift” to each member of the congregation. Each person received a square of paper with the outline of a lion’s paw print. Andrew asked us to use this an aid for our prayer and life during the following week, by writing down some area where we needed help or wanted to stand up for God. He then led us in the prayer intentions which finished with the “Our Father”.

As this was the last Sunday of Junior Church, there was prize giving for good attendance including those children who had full attendance. After this was complete, Rev Rutter made a presentation to Alma who had been taking Junior Church for the past number of years.  The rector acknowledged her great contribution over the years to the congregation.  Alma then expressed her gratitude to the congregation for her gift and wished the children well for the future.

We then had the announcements and the offering. The final hymn was “I want to walk with Jesus Christ”.

As I reflect on the experience, two things stay with me:

The value of worshipping in one’s own local churches for two reasons:

  1. We have some beautiful churches, which if we are not of that denomination, we normally would never see or visit. It is usually worth seeing/visiting/worshipping in the building. More importantly still, this provides an opportunity to meet one’s neighbours in a different context. I met some people from my neighbourhood whom I had never met before. I also met people at worship whom I had only known in a particular context growing up as a child in the area.
  2. There was a definite plan to involve children in the service – they read, they acted, one of them read a poem, they played musical accompaniment during one of the hymns, some of the young people took up the collection, and children distributed the “paw squares” to the congregation.

(Image from Fr Magill mentions how he appreciates seeing the beautiful and historic church buildings of all denominations. This image captures some of that history, being a postcard that was posted in Belfast on 19th July 1906 at 11.15am. It was originally addressed to Miss McClure, “St Clair” 1 Gray’s Hill, Bangor, County Down.)

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