15 May 2008

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

The mediaeval quintet at the civic reception in Galway last night

Patrick Comerford

The general Synod of the Church of Ireland, in an act of solidarity with Christians in the Middle East, has agreed to support the day of prayer for peace in Israel and Palestine on Sunday 8 June.

An emergency motion, tabled by Bishop Michael Jackson of Clogher and seconded by me commended a prayer for peace in Palestine and Israel that had been prepared by Church leaders in Jerusalem.

Dr Jackson spoke of the “continuing events of tragic proportions in Israel and Palestine. These events impede and curtail the best efforts of many people to create and sustain a society of stability marked by peaceful co-existence, let alone enable that society to progress in a way which is cohesive and enriching of the many traditions which there are in the region. It is one of the ground-rules of encounter with those of a Faith other than one’s own that one does not point up the best in one’s own tradition while at the same time pointing to the worst in the tradition of another. But this particular mode of operation is all too tempting, as we have seen over decades in Ireland relating to both denomination and culture.

“In proposing this motion, I am conscious that the Four Church Leaders in Ireland have just returned from an historic joint pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine to give thanks for the progress made towards political peace in Ireland and to give thanks in the Land we call Holy for new understanding and sense of fellowship now emerging. I am conscious that Bishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, has earlier this week completed a five-day visit to my own Diocese of Clogher, during which he spoke repeatedly of peace and justice in a climate of respect and in the absence of violence. It is his vision that religion be ‘a driving force for peace’ and he speaks regularly of the need of all people in the region ‘to focus afresh on the marks of our shared pain, upon those scars caused by the mutual suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis. These scars remind us of the cost of failure to love, to accept each other and to forgive …’

“The motion before the General Synod not only asks members … to express concern about what is happening and to act with shared hope for justice. It also asks members of the Church of Ireland to pray in their own churches alongside the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem using the words and the spirit of the enclosed Prayer on Sunday 8 June. In so doing you will add the voice of your personal and corporate prayer to the voice of fellow-Christians in Israel and Palestine.”

Support for the motion came too from Canon Walter Lewis (Connor), who talked movingly about the plight of a Middle Eastern Christian family in his parish in Belfast, and by Canon David Moynan (Dublin), who spoke as the honorary secretary of Sabeel Ireland, which works with Palestinian Christians.

Earlier, during the debate on the Report of the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue heard the Bishop of Meath, Dr Richard Clarke, spoke of different approaches to dialogue, involving other member churches of the Anglican Communion, the member churches of the Porvoo Communion, other Christian Churches, including Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, and the other faith communities.

The Church of Ireland Guidelines on Interfaith Dialogue and Events are the first of their kind to have been published by a member church of the Anglican Communion.

On Wednesday afternoon, the General Synod also debated the report of the Liturgical Advisory Committee, the report of the Commission on Ministry. Mr George Woodman (Connor) hoped dialogue with the Jewish community would have a continuing priority for the Church of Ireland.

Perhaps Canon Horace McKinley (Dublin) was too generous in praising my work in the area of interfaith dialogue. But it was good to know this process has wide support throughout the whole Church.

Introducing the report of the Liturgical Advisory Committee, the Rev Gerald Field (Meath and Kildare) introduced the synod to Celebrating Communion, the first in a series of parish-based liturgical education programmes to be published in a series called Prism.

He said this programme of liturgical formation “is but a part of the on-going work of the LAC, as it has developed in recent years from the producing and revising of texts.” Much of the work of the LAC now focuses on making available wide-ranging resources, enabling the best use of those texts in the worshipping life and witness of the Church.

He drew attention to the worship pages of the Church of Ireland website and issues created by the laws of copyright, explaining why some texts were removed from the website. But he promised the collects, post communion prayers and readings for the full year should be available again shortly.

He expressed “immense appreciation” to the “devoted dedication” of Canon Ricky Rountree, acknowledging the volume of work he undertook during as Secretary of the LAC. “Many here will recall the regular appearance at General Synod for many years of that double-act of ‘Rountree & Burrows’ … returning this year in the re-formed ‘Canon and Bishop’ … as they guided synod through the crossed Ts and dotted Is of liturgical reform.

It was lengthy day, and we returned to the splendid mediaeval setting of the Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas for a warm and generous civic reception hosted by the Mayor of Galway, Councillor Tom Costello.

It was a balmy evening in Galway, with a Mediterranean atmosphere in Shop Street as we left the reception. Bishop Richard Henderson of Tuam and the Rector of Galway, the Very Rev Patrick Towers, can be truly proud of their diocese, this city and this parish.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological College. He is a representative of the Diocese of Dublin at the General Synod

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