Saturday, 1 February 2014

A quiet reminder of peace
in the midst of the storm

A blue sky above the trees on Crannagh Road, Rathfarnham, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

Another strong storm is blowing across these islands, with bitterly cold, high winds and heavy rains.

The rains came down heavily this morning as I walked up Crannagh Road to Rathfarnham Quaker House for the funeral of David Poole, who died last Thursday [30 January 2014] in Sligo.

I first got to know David in Eustace Street Quaker Meeting after I moved from Wexford to Dublin in the mid-1970s. He was a committed ecumenist, who was equally at home in Quaker meetings and Methodist churches, and he gave many years of loyal service to the Irish Council of Church, the Dublin Council of Churches and the Irish School of Ecumenics.

He wrote one of the two references I needed to gain admittance as a student to the Irish School of Ecumenics in 1982, and later, after my graduation, we served together for some years on the Academic Council of ISE.

He was a vet by profession, yet as a Quaker he was disarmingly comfortable with mediating placidly and firmly in the most difficult theological discussions and contentions. He was a man of calm reason, good humour and common sense, with deep Christian faith, compassion and understanding.

The Quaker Meeting House at 6 Eustace Street was sold to the Irish Film Institute in 1987. The old Victorian-era main meeting room, with a gallery and a traditional elders’ bench, has since become Cinema 1; there I found myself in the midst of controversy when I chaired a meeting addressed by a visiting delegation from the Soviet Peace Committee and invited speakers who had been at Greenham to voice their support for a jailed peace activist, Olga Mevedkova. The Lecture Room, which was the venue for Sunday morning Meetings for Worship until the 1980s, is now Cinema 2; there I chaired the meeting in October 1979 that led to the refoundation of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND).

Today, the space for Quaker meetings in 4/5 Eustace Street is small, and so this afternoon’s funeral took place in Rathfarnham Meeting House. A strong ecumenical presence could have been expected. But it must be an usual Quaker funeral to attract the presence of clergy from at least six churches: I counted them from the Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic, Romanian Orthodox, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches, and there may have been more.

People spoke generously of David as an ecumenist, a peacemaker, a mentor, a mediator, a reconciler, but most of all as a man of deep Christian faith.

As Quakers might put it, it was good afterwards to meet so many friends and Friends from the past and present, and there were many stories about family members, campaigners from CND and other peace movements and other shared experiences so that it was like returning to a town I had once lived in or meeting a wide circle from an extended family.

It has been a week of ecumenical endeavours and reminders, with this week’s conversations with the Moravians in Gracehill, Co Antrim, and this afternoon’s funeral in Rathfarnham Quaker Meeting House.

Afterwards, two of us braved the storm that is still blowing across these islands, and drove from Rathfarnham to Greystones to walk along the beach and watch the storm coming with the swelling waves.

But the rain was coming down in intermittent but heavy showers, and we retreated to the Happy Pear for lunch before returning to south Dublin.

Calm before the storm? ... the waves roll in onto the beach at Greystones, Co Wicklow, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

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