This week Fr Martin Magill’s “ecumenical tithing” takes him to St Dorothea’s Church of Ireland in Gilnahirk. Fr Magill describes a restful, reflective service that nourished his spirit, and conversations before and after with parishioners.
At the end of the post, he includes another creative suggestion for maximizing ecumenical opportunities in our churches.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing – St Dorothea’s Gilnahirk
A friend and I went to St Dorothea’s Gilnahirk, (Church of Ireland) for worship this week. We were greeted at the door by Philip, the people’s warden and the Rector Rev Nigel Kirkpatrick who also had time to show us around the church before Compline. The church holds around 300 people but is not used for smaller and more intimate gatherings such as the office of Compline. The service took place in the chapel of the Apocalypse, a beautiful worship area within the building which had a wonderful mosaic depicting key elements from the book of Revelation. I was struck by the stain glass windows which were presented in memory of a parishioner, John Hazlett, who was a serving RUC officer when he was killed in the “Troubles” in 1972.
As we were waiting to begin, the bell tolled and I was transported in my imagination to a monastic setting – indeed I found the whole service and setting had a monastic feel about it. Nigel led the service very beautifully and preached an 11 minute sermon on the Devil, not a subject that I have heard sermons on recently.
In the range of intercessions which he prayed, I had a definite feeling of praying in a very inclusive way. At the end of these prayers, we had a time of silence for our own intentions. I found this silence very helpful and missing in many of the services I attend.
After the service I had a conversation with a couple involved in running the Belfast primary schools football competition. It was great to hear how this involves schools from the “four corners” of the city. It begins in September with its conclusion the following year with the Celtic Cup involving a cross community of children playing other children from different parts of Ireland and sometimes from Scotland. It was disappointing to hear how the couple was finding it more and more difficult to secure funding for this initiative. As we were leaving Nigel gave us information on the summer fete coming up on June 15.
As I left St Dorothea’s I had a sense I had been on a short retreat – a place of quietness and peace in the midst of a busy world. For the last 30 years praying the different “offices” by myself has been part of my life, it was and is very good to do this with others. The Divine Office would seem a natural resource which more and more Christians could share in together.
I also wondered about Christian Churches in Belfast coming together for worship any month in the year where there is a 5th Sunday with the worship being hosted by the church where it takes place. Just a thought!