The Abbey Theatre ... the founding members included Lady Gregory and WB Yeats (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Mater Dei Institute of Education,
Week 2, 4 December 2014,
Introduction to the Church of Ireland
3, The Church of Ireland and its place in Irish society today
4, Church, culture and being relevant.
4, Church, culture and being relevant:
I said in our introductory hand-out that the Church of Ireland is the Church of Jonathan Swift, Lord Edward FitzGerald, Charles Stewart Parnell, Douglas Hyde and WB Yeats, and I said we shall look at that next week when we discuss the topic of Church, culture and identity.
Culture and identity:
The cultural, social and political contributions of members of the Church of Ireland to Irish life.
Try to name some prominent Irish Anglicans from the past:
Sean O’Casey, the playwright of the left, was born into the Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
The Church of Ireland is the Church of:
● Writers like Jonathan Swift;
● Philosophers like George Berkeley;
● Hymn writers like Henry Francis Lyte, who wrote “Abide with me”, and Cecil Alexander, who wrote “All things bright and beautiful.”
The Church of Ireland is the church of:
● Brewers like Arthur Guinness.
● Writers like Bram Stoker and Elizabeth Bowen.
● Playwrights like John Millington Synge, Sean O’Casey (name some plays?), Lady Gregory, and so has an intimate connection with the foundation of the Abbey Theatre.
● Nobel prize winners such as George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett.
● Poets like Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats and Louis MacNeice.
● The painters Jack Yeats and William Orpen.
Culture and identity are also linked with the economic and business contributions of members of the Church of Ireland.
Think for example of the founding figures in Guinness or the Bank of Ireland.
Charles Stewart Parnell, founder of the Irish Parliamentary Party, influenced a later generation of nationalists (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
1798: Lord Edward FitzGerald; Archibald Hamilton Rowan; Henry Monroe, Betsy Grey, Bagenal Harvey, the Colcloughs, the Grogans and the Boxwells.
1803: Robert Emmet, Thomas Russell.
Later: William Smith O’Brien; Charles Stewart Parnell.
Rev William Hickey “Martin Doyle” and agricultural reform.
The Gaelic revival: Douglas Hyde, Semple Stadium and the Sam Maguire Cup.
1916: Countess Markievicz, Sean O’Casey.
The Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Annette Edith Lett.
1921/1922: Ernest Blythe and Erskine Childers.
1937: Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland; later Erskine Childers.
James Craig famously described Northern Ireland as having “a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people.”
On the other hand, the General Synod sent an official delegation to Michael Collins to ask if they were “permitted to live in Ireland or if [it is] desired that they should leave the country” – this despite the role of many members of the Church of Ireland in the War of Independence, including Constance Markiewicz (Constance Gore-Booth), Erskine Childers, Sean O’Casey and Robert Barton, and that the first President of Ireland would be a son of the rectory, Douglas Hyde.
After partition, the Church of Ireland population continued to decline in the area that is now the Republic of Ireland.
Statistics show a noticeable decline particularly in both border counties and in provincial towns.
Surprisingly, emigration did not take the same toll, comparatively, as is often imagined.
In the period 1946-1961, 15 per cent of Roman Catholics emigrated, while 10 per cent of Protestants emigrated.
To what degree were numbers retained through maintaining separate social structures, such as schools, hospitals, sports clubs, dances, homes, orphanages, and so on?
Was there a presumed, unspoken definition of community?
Did we create a myth of a shared common ancestry?
Did we imagine a new, separate “ethnic group”?
Did we try to convince ourselves that we are a separate cultural community, united by common cultural traits?
The feeling of exclusion among many southern Protestants was exacerbated by a number of well-known cases:
● The Mayo Library case (1930);
● The Tilson children custody case (1950);
● The Fethard-on-Sea boycott in Co Wexford (1957).
The Church in Irish society today:
Today, there are members the Church of Ireland who are high-profile and active members of all political parties:
[Question: Name some:]
Did your answers include: Trevor Sargent, Greens; Independent Shane Ross; Jan O’Sullivan and Senator Mary Henry, Labour; Senator David Norris, Independent?
Consider too the contribution to Irish life today by members of the Church of Ireland such as Bono and U2, Sam Boothman, a recent president of the GAA.
Some issues facing Anglicanism and Anglicans today:
1, Sectarianism: legacy from the past (refer to Scullabogue, the Achill Mission).
2, The post-independence settlement (refer to Archbishop Gregg, the name of the Church of Ireland in the 1937 constitution).
3, Inter-marriage: the effect of Ne Temere. This lasted into the 1960s or even the 1970s. The story of the Fethard-on-Sea boycott is told in the movie, A love divided.
4, The Northern conflicts, more recent years, symbolised in many ways by the problems surrounding the Church of Ireland parish church in Drumcree, near Portadown.
In Ireland, the problems today may include:
1, Ecumenism and Sectarianism.
2, The economic crisis.
3, Issues in Northern Ireland, including Drumcree and flag-flying.
4, Over-burdened structures, and distances for parochial clergy.
5, The training and deployment of clergy.
6, Future of schools and education.
7, Women, their place in church government and structures, and residual opposition to women bishops and priests.
8, Sexuality: civil partnerships and same-gender marriages.
10, Interfaith relations, especially Muslim-Christian dialogue.
Creating and dealing with problems
The downturn in the economy over the past five or six years has seen a large number of immigrants who came to the Republic of Ireland from Eastern Europe, and who worked here as casual labourers, begin to return home. They are not going to show up in the rising unemployment figures, and once they are gone no-one is going to follow up their needs, pastorally, economically or socially. It will be a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”
Those who remain may, I fear, as the “real” unemployment figures rise further, face increasing resentment that may be expressed in racist terms. The jobs that were once despised, and left to Chinese workers who came here on “student” visas, are becoming attractive once again to our own teenage and young adult children – the late night grille at fillings stations, the cleaning and casual labouring shifts, the stacking and shelving jobs in the middle of the night in supermarkets.
These are major moral issues for the Church today. Any outside observer or commentator looking at the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Communion over the past four years or so would have thought the only moral issues we face are those that dominated the agenda at Gafcon and the Lambeth Conference in 2008.
But what about the major moral issues facing us in the Church today when it comes to welcoming the stranger in our midst and to providing pastoral care and support for our new immigrants?
The ‘stranger’ in our midst today
The changing face of Ireland? Polish magazines on sale in a shop in Capel Street, Dublin (Photograph Frank Millar/The Irish Times)
The statistics analysing the 2006 census returns in the Republic of Ireland produced unusual and curious details about the number of Greek Muslims, Chinese travellers, teenage widows and the two Maltese divorcees living in Ireland – perhaps they should be introduced to each other ... or perhaps their problems started when they were first introduced to each other.
They help us to underline the way in which we have all come to realise and accept: that Ireland has become a diverse and multicultural society. We never were a plain, boring, mono-cultural society. We have always been an island that has been diverse and plural because of the people who come to our shores: from the Celts, Parthalons and Vikings, to the Anglo-Normans, both English and French, the Gallowglass and the settler Scots; from the French in the Middle Ages, to the Huguenot refugees and the weaver of Dublin’s Liberties.
Who do you think are the single largest identifiable groups of people in the Republic of Ireland on any one day? And I mean among those who were not born in the Republic?
Despite the way we compile statistics, the two largest groups on any one day are:
● firstly, people born in the United Kingdom;
● secondly, tourists.
We do not notice the first group, because many of them were born in Northern Ireland or were born in England of Irish parents, and they speak and look like the vast majority of people here.
The second group we welcome with open arms. They provide us with income, revenue, and in economic terms the equivalent of exports – they bring in money from other countries, and, so, they are vital to a key sector of the economy.
I have never heard anyone complain in racist terms that the country is being swamped with Italian tourists. But I regularly hear gross exaggerations about the numbers of Nigerians and Somalis here.
Who are our immigrants?
Bunclody, Co Wexford … the town in the Republic of Ireland with the largest Polish population (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
So who are the strangers in our midst?
The census figures for 2011 show that Polish nationals (122,585), followed by those from the UK (112,259) are the largest non-Irish groups living in the Republic. The number of Polish nationals living here increased by 93.7 per cent between 2006 and 2011, while the number of UK nationals declined by 0.3 per cent.
Overall, 544,357 non-Irish nationals were living in Ireland at the time of the 2011 census, an increase of 29.7 per cent or 124,624 on 2006, some 12 per cent of the population.
The rate of growth was considerably slower than in the period covered by the 2006 census when the non-Irish population almost doubled to 419,733.
The sharpest percentage increases in non-Irish-born residents were among Romanians, with the population more than doubling from 8,566 to 17,995 (up 110 per cent) following EU accession in 2007 and people from India, where the community grew by 91 per cent to 17,856.
The largest rise in overall terms was, unsurprisingly, among the Polish-born community which grew from 63,090 to 115,193 (up 83 per cent) in the period.
The growth in the number of Polish-born people was more than five times that recorded in the Lithuanian community, which grew by the second largest number (10,039) to 34,847.
People born in England and Wales still account for the largest group of individuals living in Ireland that were not born here at 212,286. The rate of growth in the group was small by comparison to many countries between 2006 and 2011 at about 3.7 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, Polish – with 119,526 people – was the foreign language most spoken in the home, followed by French (56,430), Lithuanian (31,635), German (27,342) and Spanish (22,446).
More than 25 per cent of those who spoke a foreign language at home were born in Ireland. Of these, 13,690 were children aged three to four years; 26,569 were primary school children and 21,187 were secondary pupils.
In terms of ethnicity, 85 per cent of Irish residents identify themselves as white Irish, a 4.9 per cent increase on the 2006 census. Immigration from Eastern Europe helped to push the number of “other white” respondents up by 43 per cent to 412,975.
Almost two-thirds of those making up ethnic groups other than white Irish were aged 35 years or less. Just 3 per cent in these groups were 65 or older. In contrast, less than half of those in the white Irish group were aged under 35 and 13 per cent were 65 or more.
Research at the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM) has found that more than 167 different languages – from Acholi to Zulu – in use by 160 nationalities among the people in Ireland as their everyday first language of choice.
Ireland has become a multilingual society, so that the 2006 census was conducted in 13 languages. Apart from English and Irish, these languages are: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Spanish. In addition, information was also available in Estonian, Magyar (Hungarian), Slovak, Turkish and Yoruba.
Asylum seekers and refugees are a very small proportion of the number of foreign-born people in Ireland at any one top, and their numbers are decreasing steadily.
But there are other, unhidden problems. For examples, look at the Latvians. At one time, the Irish mushroom industry, a multi-million Euro industry, and they have been of economic benefit to us. But for the Latvians this has meant:
● They are often exploited and paid below the minimum wage.
● They leave behind children who are cared for by grandparents – creating what the Latvian media has called a new generation of “mushroom orphans.”
● They are over-qualified for their jobs, so they are part of a brain-drain on Latvia, which has paid for their training and education and needs their skills.
● They are easy victims of racism. After one industrial protest, an American newspaper ran the headline: “For Irish, Latvians fill the role of bogeymen.”
There may be 60,000 Chinese living in the state, perhaps half in the greater Dublin area, and many are here on student visas and without work permits.
Patrick Comerford with the authors of a report on Chinese students and immigrants, Dr Lan Li of University College Dublin and Dr Richard O’Leary of Queen’s University, Belfast, in the Chapel of Trinity College Dublin
Many of the Poles are Roman Catholics, but worship in their own parishes and congregations. Many of the immigrants from the Baltic countries are Lutherans, and under the Porvoo Agreement they are full communicant members of the Church of Ireland while they are here. But we have very little pastoral or liturgical engagement with them, and many of them probably have no idea of who we are.
The Chinese have their own Catholic parish in Dublin, with Masses in Chinese, while the Chinese Protestant Church is a very conservative evangelical church.
However, despite the increasing popularity of celebrations such as the Chinese New Year celebrations in Temple Bar Square, Dublin, we know very little about the religious beliefs and practices of the majority of Chinese people here.
Despite their visibility, the number of Nigerians in Ireland is probably lower than many of the public estimates. Of the 30,000 Africans thought to be in Ireland, about 20,000 are probably Nigerians. They suffer racism not only from Irish-born people but from other Africans too. Yet they make a positive contribution to public life in Ireland: Rotimi Adebarai became Ireland’s first black mayor in June 2007 in Portlaoise. Other African communities in Ireland include people from DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.
The Romanian population is largely Dublin-based. There may be 20,000 Romanians in Ireland, although the numbers are dropping significantly at the moment, according to the priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
They often complain that they are all categorised as Gypsies or Roma. Yet there may only be about 2,000 Roma in Ireland, and many of those come from other Easter and Central European countries, including the Czech and Slovak republics, the former Yugoslav republics, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Admittedly, the census statistics are always on the low side when it comes to telling us who is living among us. Too many people are too afraid and too scared to register themselves at census times, worried that once noted they may face discrimination or forced deportation.
Immigrants and the Church of Ireland
The Discovery services in inner city Dublin ... providing ‘Anglican liturgies with African flavours’
What has this got to do with the Church of Ireland today, with who we are and what our mission is?
Apart from the duty on church members to comfort those who are in fear and to welcome the stranger, it is important that we do not see those who have arrived among us in recent years as problems, either in themselves or in the reaction of some sectors of society and government. They enrich our society, and they enrich our Church life too.
If Ireland is not monochrome or mono-cultural, then neither is the Church of Ireland.
How is the Church getting it right?
How is the Church getting it wrong?
What are the challenges?
And what are the opportunities we can grasp in the Church of Ireland?
The ‘U2Charist’ in Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church, Dublin ... what do we mean by the inculturation of the liturgy?
A positive example of the Church of Ireland has adapted and changed is provided by the ‘Discovery’ programme based at Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church in inner city Dublin, including the Discovery services, choir and chaplaincy.
This has been positive for the church, for the parish, and for the international community. But it also led to other initiatives, such as the U2charist.
But success was only possible because the then priest-in-charge, Canon Katharine Poulton, now Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, was open to taking risks. And because her congregation was supportive as she took those risks.
The implications for ministry are obvious. We must be willing to be adventurous and innovative, who are risk-takers. We are ordained to be “messengers, watchers and stewards.” But instead, parishes often want their clergy to be building surveyors, caretakers and boiler-fixers.
A negative example comes from hospital chaplaincy. I heard someone say recently not that he, but that other members of the Church of Ireland, would not like the idea of a black African chaplain visiting the wards. Why not? He protested that he is not racist. But the implications are disturbing.
Many of our hospital and prison chaplains find themselves cast into the role of advocacy. They are the ones people – staff and patients or prisoners – turn to for advice about other minorities. Are our chaplains, lay and ordained, trained properly, and knowledgeable enough for this role in ministry?
There is a large new school in the Greater Dublin area under Church of Ireland management. Before September 2009, there were 58 or 60 children in the old schoolhouse, which was dilapidated and in need of repair or replacement. About half of those children were non-nationals.
The national school has moved to a new building. Other schools in area were giving priority to Roman Catholic children, and so their school rolls were full. After the new school opened under Church of Ireland management in September 2010, the number of children reached 240-250. Of these, 80% were Nigerian by birth or parentage, 10% were from Eastern Europe or other nationalities, and 10% were Irish-born. In the senior infants’ class, there were 31 children, of whom three were “white,” and of those, only one is Irish-born.
Were the parishioners withdrawing their children?
Is this an appropriate move by that Church of Ireland parish?
What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of this scenario?
And of course, what are the implications for teacher training or for raising awareness among parishioners?
How best can we use our Church buildings? The former Church of Ireland parish churches in Harold’s Cross and Leeson Park are now being used by the Russian Orthodox and Romanian Orthodox Churches, while Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s, and the parish churches in Donnybrook, Swords and Tallaght are providing hospitality for various Syrian and Indian Orthodox communities.
How can we best use our church buildings to reflect the needs of the changing and changed Ireland?
Example 5: A closing conundrum:
Some images and perceptions still have to be dealt with.
How do we relate all this to:
● The decline of the Anglo-Irish gentry?
● The loss of the substantial Church of Ireland working class population in Dublin (and perhaps soon in Belfast too)?
● The changing ethos of formerly Church of Ireland hospitals?
Is there still a sense of “Protestant identity” – north and south?
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said recently that sectarianism within the Church of Ireland is alive not only in Northern Ireland, but also in parts of the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough.
Do you think this is true?
Culture and Anglicanism: a broader canvas
Is there an Anglican culture?
Is there an Anglican culture? (Photomontage: Patrick Comerford)
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
These are the opening words of TS Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land (1922), which is regarded a one of the most important poems of the 20th century.
Throughout the poem we find allusions to The Book of Common Prayer, and Old Testament allusions, where the narrator finds himself in a summer drought that has transformed the land into a desert, who is referred to as the “Son of Man,” with references to Ezekiel, and to the Gospels.
TS Eliot (1888-1965), was perhaps the most important poet in the English language in the 20th century. And he is one of the greatest examples of how Anglican spirituality, Anglican liturgy, Anglican memory and Anglican history have been conveyed through the generations through the arts, particularly through poetry, drama and fiction.
The calendars of Anglican churches throughout the world recalls the saintly memory of some of the great creative figures in Anglicanism over the generations.
For example, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship commemorates the poets George Herbert (27 February), Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy “Woodbine Willie” (8 March), John Donne (31 March), Christina Rossetti (27 April) and John Keble (14 July), and writers like Julian of Norwich (8 May), Evelyn Underhill (15 June), John Bunyan (30 August) and Samuel Johnson (13 December).
To that list we might, perhaps, add writers such as CS Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. Or if we were to think of writers who have been conduits of Anglican spirituality and Anglican thinking we might think of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), author of the Chronicles of Barchester, the poet John Betjeman, or, today, writers like Margaret Craven, Susan Howatch and Catherine Fox.
The Canticles, sung by great cathedral choirs, often provide the first introduction for many to the riches of Anglican spirituality
Some of the greatest contributions from Anglicanism to our culture today is in the field of music ... choral settings for canticles such as Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis and for Evensong, the influence of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, or the works of modern composers such as Edward Elgar, Hubert Parry, Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Benjamin Britten, John Rutter and Stephen Cleobury.
King’s College, Cambridge ... the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols creates images Anglican culture that includes hymns, carols, Gothic architecture and the King James Version of the Bible (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
But poetry, literature, music, architecture ... these are areas that I hope you come to explore in your own time.
Week 3: (11 December 2014):
5: From the Reformation to the Act of Union
6: Church History, From the Act of Union to today.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College, Dublin. This lecture was delivered in the Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin, on 4 December 2014. Mater Dei Institute of Education (MDI) is a College of Dublin City University (DCU).