This week Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing took him to Joanmount Methodist Church in North Belfast. Fr Magill describes it as a chance to make connections in the North of the city, where he has recently taken on a new (to him) parish.
Joanmount’s service also included an encouragement for people to sign up to the Hope and History campaign.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: Joanmount Methodist Church
One of the things I had missed during my 15 years in West Belfast was the absence of local churches of other denominations. Now in Sacred Heart Parish and living just off the Oldpark Road, there is no scarcity of churches within a short distance of my home.
For this weekend, I chose to worship in a local church, Joanmount Methodist, as I had already met the minister Rev Stephen Thompson. As the congregation don’t at this moment in time hold an evening service, I attended their morning service and was welcomed not only by Stephen but also by Rev Mervyn Ewing, the superintendent of the circuit. As I waited in my seat for the service to begin I was greeted by a number of people from the congregation.
Instead of preaching a formal sermon, Stephen commented on the life and background of some of the hymn writers whose hymns we would sing during the service. I found this fascinating.
We began by singing the hymn: “Majesty, worship his Majesty” written by Jack Hayford.
I loved the reference in his opening prayer to “transformation” – I had been at a meeting a few days beforehand when we considered the issue of how sermons could be places to encourage social transformation.
Daphne the circuit secretary made the announcements which included an encouragement to sign up at www.hopeandhistory.com. She explained it as people from across the denominations and beyond “standing together for peace”. These announcements also included giving us details of events in the life of the people of the congregation. We then had the children’s address and hymn which included active participation from the congregation.
Stephen also gave us some background on the hymn writer John Newton who at the age of 19 received 96 lashes of the whip for attempting to desert the Royal Navy. With typical Methodist gusto we sang “Amazing Grace”. I valued Stephen’s comment after the hymn when he reminded us that God’s grace has the power to transform. The scripture passage was taken from Philippians 3:1-4.
Jordan, a younger member of the congregation, played his guitar and led us in singing our next hymn “Bless the Lord”. In the people’s prayers Stephen prayed for the work of all the local churches in the area and especially for their sister congregation of Jennymount Methodist Church.
Rev Mervyn Ewing as superintendent also took part in the celebration of Holy Communion. As we waited to go to the communion rails, there was instrumental music playing in the church with sentences from the scriptures on the screen overhead creating a very prayerful atmosphere. I continued to pray for the day to come when all Christians will share the Eucharist together.
I loved the final hymn which I know very well – “I the Lord of sea and sky”.