This week’s instalment of Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing consists of his reflections on the Ecumenical Pentecost Faith Fest. I profiled the event last week and also included a post featuring the thoughts of Rev Arlene Moore of the Anglican/Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd in Monkstown, one of the partners in the Faith Fest.
I’m encouraged by the variety and depth of engagement that Fr Magill highlights, and think that other congregations and parishes could learn from this experience. His ‘reflection on his reflections’ near the end of his post provides a wealth of suggestions.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing – Pentecost Faith Fest
My normal pattern of worshipping on a Sunday evening in another denomination was different this weekend because I led a celebration of Evening Prayer (a simplified version of Evensong) in St Oliver Plunkett Parish where I am ministering. This was the culmination of a three day event called Pentecost Faith Fest. From a personal point of view, I found the three days enriching.
As well as meeting with parishioners to plan the three days I also met with Alain Emerson, Tash Creaney and Laura Brown from 24-7 to plan and prepare for the prayer room which was a central part of the three days. From my various discussions with Alain Emerson – the Ireland co-ordinator of 24-7 it became very clear that a Catholic parish could easily tap into the “stream” of 24/7.
So much of what formed the story of 24-7 was already there in Catholicism – a tradition of continuous prayer is known as “Perpetual Adoration” for Catholics – praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament – based on the Catholic belief that Jesus Christ is really present in Eucharist and remains present in the consecrated host after Mass hence has ended – The action of writing down prayer requests, praying for family, lighting a candle, acknowledging personal sinfulness, laying burdens at the foot of the cross comes easily to Catholics. The guidance of Tash and Alain to set up the prayer room beforehand was useful. The actual help of Laura and Carol a few days beforehand made it happen. It’s amazing what a few people can do in 3 hours.
On the first of the three days Fr Clement Marshall encouraged us to rediscover the Pentecost Novena – 9 days of prayer from the Ascension to Pentecost. The various people who called into the prayer room throughout the day having seen the photograph and read the article in the Irish News made the time and effort spent on planning and working on the prayer room worthwhile.
I had to revise my opinion on how teenagers engage with the spiritual when I witnessed the very respectful and reverent way the 9 young people from St Mary’s Grammar School behaved and moved around the different “stations”. Sr Emmanuel one of the parish sisters led a very reflective and spiritual meditation on icons generally and the Descent of the Holy Spirit in particular – I loved her piece on how God in revealing himself in the Old Testament as a “cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” as God FOR us, In the New Testament when Jesus Christ came to preach the Kingdom of God this was God WITH us and in Pentecost, God was revealed as “God WITHIN us”. It was encouraging to see the number of parishioners who spent time in the prayer room afterwards.
On the second day, it was great to witness 3 parishioners try something new and discover talents they didn’t know they had. The presence of people from Fitzroy Presbyterian Church at Harry Smith’s reflection on reconciliation was much appreciated. Harry’s words on embracing the “we” and acknowledging the community side of our sinfulness as well as his reminder that the follower of Christ must take the first step for reconciliation were very significant for me.
After lunch 3 of us travelled to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Monkstown to pray in the 24-7 prayer room there. From the moment I entered the building, I felt at home – Rev Arlene Moore and Liz Feely, the pastoral assistant, were very welcoming and generous with their time. I had much to think about from my conversation with Liz as she explained some of the work going on in the church including how to help people recognise their gifts and talents.
Later in the day when Liz came to St Oliver Plunkett Parish she gave me a copy of a questionnaire to help people identify their talents and charisms. Just outside the prayer room in Monkstown there was a table with a variety of ways of tapping into the spiritual side of life. In the prayer room, there was an abundance of resources – I especially liked the photograph album containing photographs of local businesses which people using the room were asked to pray for. The three of us left the Church of the Good Shepherd feeling we had been blessed in abundance.
The presence of people from Monkstown including Arlene and Liz at the Mass on Saturday evening and then in the prayer room afterwards was also very significant for me. It was especially powerful to see fellow Christians in silent prayer together – after Mass we had the Catholic devotion of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – explained earlier. Throughout the night there were people in prayer until 9.30am on the Sunday morning.
On the third day of prayer, I took a slot at 5am for prayer – there were 7 people there when I arrived – praying in silence – a very peaceful atmosphere in the room – the only noise I could hear was that of the birds singing in the trees outside the church. I found a considerable peace during the hour which seemed to go in very quickly, so quickly I decided to stay on longer. Some people came others went and our numbers stayed much the same. It was interesting to see people there I normally wouldn’t see at parish events.
The 10am parish Mass took on an international dimension when it was celebrated by a priest from Malawi – in his excellent sermon at 12 noon Fr Raymond McCullagh encouraged us to be part of the “community change” in which the Down and Connor diocese is involved in the Living Church process.
The three days ended with a celebration of Evening Prayer – we had the singing of the psalms – scripture read very powerfully by a woman from Glengormley Presbyterian Church and a very thought provoking sermon from Rev David Brice. I found his point very challenging about the difficulty some of us have in saying “Jesus is Lord” because our ego gets in the way and it wants to be Lord! David invited us to see our lives as “overflow” – as a way of the Spirit acting within us. It was impressive to see and hear the buzz of conversation afterwards as people chatted to one another in the parish hall bringing to an end Pentecost Faith Fest 2013 for St Oliver Plunkett Parish.
A Reflection on my Reflections of Faith Fest
- The prayer room seemed to provide a means for some people to meet a spiritual need – the variety of “stations” certainly helped
- The opportunity to be creative, to write, to touch, to light a candle, to listen to soothing spiritual music seemed to be important to some people
- The ease which the teenagers from a local post primary school showed in the room speaks to me about finding different ways of allowing teenagers to meet their spiritual needs
- The very positive comments from a 22 year old about his time there including his tears was especially powerful
- The richness and abundance of materials and resources, as seen in Monkstown, opens up endless possibilities
- The presence of Christians together in a prayer room – the growing number of prayer rooms in Northern Ireland has considerable possibility
- The value of a service of Pentecost Sunday evening could be further developed – how to encourage churches to plan for worship across the denominations on that evening
(Image of the prayer room at St Oliver Plunkett’s)