22 January 2018

A chapter in a new book on
preaching launched today

Patrick Comerford

I am missing the launch of a new book, Perspectives on Preaching: A Witness of the Irish Church, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this evening [22 January 2018].

I am one of the 12 contributors to this new book, published by Church of Ireland Publishing (CIP) in conjunction with the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (CITI). It is being launched this evening by Bishop Ken Good of Derry and Raphoe, in the Music Room of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

The new book, featuring contributions from a wide range of notable preachers and theologians, has been edited by Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, Director of CITI, and the Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey, Lecturer in Missiology and Pastoral Studies at CITI.

My chapter is titled ‘Preaching and Celebrating, Word and Sacrament: Inseparable Signs of the Church’ (pp 77-90).

Dr Elliott says the book has been produced with ‘the underlying conviction that biblically-grounded, Spirit-filled and culturally-relevant preaching is a sine qua non for the health of any local church.’ He continues: ‘The place of preaching needs urgently to be re-established as a consummately noble one within the life of every Christian congregation.’

Before this evening’s book launch, Bishop Ken Good said: ‘I warmly welcome this publication. A recurrent theme in it is the need for the preacher not only to stretch people’s minds but also to move their hearts. I have to confess that my heart was excited as I read these preachers’ convictions about God’s transformative power being released through the spoken word.’

He continued: ‘Here we are reminded that the preacher, during his or her preparation, must be the first one willing to be touched by the Christ–centred message they are making ready to deliver. Then, as they speak out the message with authenticity and vitality, the hearts and minds of their congregation can be rekindled by the Holy Spirit in a way that enables influence for Christ to radiate out into the community. There is much in this book to encourage preachers and to raise their confidence in what God can accomplish in the Church and in the world through this vital ministry.’

In 12 chapters, this new publication engages with the themes of preaching Scripture, denominational charisms and preaching to the culture.

The editors have been my colleagues on the academic staff at CITI. Dr Elliott writes ‘On the Book of Common Prayer and the task of preaching,’ and Dr McGlinchey writes about ‘Preaching to the De-Churches and Unchurched in Contemporary Ireland,’ and also pens the ‘Conclusions’ to this book.

In addition to me and the editors, the contributors are:

Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh, who discusses ‘’The business of preaching and the world of literature.’

The Revd Dr Shane Crombie, curate in the parish of Tullamore, Co Offaly, in the Diocese of Meath, who reviews ‘The Roman Catholic Experience.’

The Revd Dr Brian Fletcher, a former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, who writes about ‘The task of preaching: a Methodist perspective.’

The Revd Barry Forde, Church of Ireland chaplain at the Queen’s University, Belfast, who writes from his own experience about ‘Preaching in a university context.’

Bishop Ferran Glenfield of Kilmore, Elpin and Ardagh, who asks: ‘What does Scripture say about preaching?’

Dr Katie Heffelfinger, lecturer in Biblical Studies in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, who examines ‘Emotion and Encounter in the witness of Israel’s Prophetic Poets.’

Bishop Harold Miller of Down and Dromore, who looks at ‘The Preacher: the Person and the Passion.’

The Very Revd Dr Trevor Morrow, Minister Emeritus of Lucan Presbyterian Church and a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, who discusses ‘Preaching in the Reformed tradition.’

The Revd Dr Robin Stockitt, Rector of Donemana and an adjunct lecturer at CITI, discusses ‘Narrative Preaching.’

In the first part of the book, Bishop Glenfield, Dr Heffelfinger and Dr Stockitt look at ‘Preaching Scripture.’ Dr Morrow, Dr Fletcher, and Dr Crombie join me in contributing to the second part that looks at ‘Denominational Charisms.’ In the third part, the other contributors examine ‘Preaching to the Culture.’

In all, eight of the 12 contributors are from the Church of Ireland. If there are weaknesses in this book then, perhaps, then they include the fact that apart from Archbishop Clarke and me, the other six Church of Ireland contributors approach the topic from an evangelical, and even a ‘conservative evangelical’ perspective.

Indeed, Dr McGlinchey, in his conclusions, seems uncomfortable with my ‘style of churchmanship’ and my paper, saying my ‘perspective does marks a seeming dissonance within the volume.’

Perhaps there might have been less dissonance and more balance if I was not the only person from position within Anglicanism who was invited to contribute to this volume. Indeed, I seem to be the only writer who discusses Patristic sources for the place of preaching within the Liturgy, there is only one Roman Catholic writer, and there is no Orthodox voice among the contributors.

The 242 pp book sells at €11/£10. It is available at this evening’s launch and is also available through this link: https://store.ireland.anglican.org/store/product/140/perspectives-on-preaching-a-witness-of .

Limerick says farewell to
‘a convinced advocate
of truth, love and peace’

Inside Saint Joseph’s Church, Limerick … thousands lined up yesterday to say their final farewells to Dolores O’Riordan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

People lined up in their thousands in Limerick for several hours yesterday to pay their respects and to say their goodbyes to Dolores O’Riordan as her body lay in repose in Saint Joseph’s Church on O’Connell Avenue.

This was the church where she made her first Communion, where she was confirmed, and where she went to church regularly when she went to school nearby.

Bishop Brendan Leahy, who met her family and her coffin at the church, said the day was Limerick’s public moment to bid farewell to Dolores O’Riordan. He said people had come to offer a heartfelt greeting to a deeply loved and cherished daughter of Limerick, a talented representation of the potential of Limerick people, and a convinced advocate of living life in truth, love and peace.

The lead singer of the Cranberries died last Monday at the age of 46. Her body is being taken to Cross’s Funeral Home in Ballyneety, this afternoon, followed by removal this evening to Saint Ailbe’s Church in her native Ballybricken.

Her funeral Mass takes place tomorrow morning [Tuesday] in Saint Ailbe’s Church, and a private family burial will follow the Mass.

I found myself yesterday listening a number of times to her song Zombie, the protest song recorded by the Cranberries. She wrote the song about the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington, and in memory of the two young victims, Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry.

Three-year-old Johnathan Ball was killed when two bombs hidden in litter bins detonated on a busy shopping street in March 1993; Tim Parry, aged 12, died five days later.

The song was released in September 1994 as the lead single from their second studio album, No Need to Argue. The song reached No 1 in the charts in many countries, won the ‘Best Song’ award at the 1995 MTV Europe Music Awards.

Dolores O’Riordan wrote the lyrics and chords of Zombie during the Cranberries’ English Tour in 1993.

The Rough Guide to Rock said Zombie had an ‘angry grunge’ sound with ‘aggressive’ lyrics. AllMusic said dismissively that the song ‘trivialised’ the events of the Troubles, and that the ‘heavy rock trudge’ of the song did not play to the band’s strengths.

But Dolores O’Riordan said: ‘This song’s our cry against man’s inhumanity to man; and man’s inhumanity to child.’ Her pain was real: Zombie was a visceral response to the murder of those two children in Warrington, and a seething condemnation of the IRA. It was backed by pummelling, distorted guitars while O’Riordan’s lilt was contorted into a primal howl:

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh.

She was on tour at the time and found herself deeply affected by the tragedy.

‘I remember seeing one of the mothers on television, just devastated,’ she would recall. ‘I felt so sad for her, that she’d carried him for nine months, been through all the morning sickness, the whole thing and some … prick, some airhead who thought he was making a point, did that.’

She was particularly offended that terrorists claimed to have carried out these acts in the name of Ireland. ‘The IRA are not me. I’m not the IRA,’ she said. ‘The Cranberries are not the IRA. My family are not.’

She added: ‘When it says in the song, ‘It’s not me, it’s not my family,’ that’s what I’m saying. It’s not Ireland, it’s some idiots living in the past.’

Her anger and frustration poured into the song, which she wrote alone in her flat in Limerick on an acoustic guitar, before toughening it up in rehearsals.

The song was released in September 1994 and soon became the band’s biggest-selling single.

Her lyrics were criticised by some people who called her naive and accused her of taking sides in a conflict she did not understand.

But she responded: ‘I don’t care whether it’s Protestant or Catholic, I care about the fact that innocent people are being harmed. That’s what provoked me to write the song.’

The song was a highlight of the Cranberries’ concerts, regularly acting as the closing number. Later it became an anthem for innocent people trapped by other people’s violence. In the 1990s, she would regularly dedicate it to the citizens of Bosnia and Rwanda; and her message applies equally to recent attacks in Manchester, Paris and Egypt.

The official version of the video has been viewed more than 660 million times on YouTube, making it the 210th most-popular video of all time on YouTube.

In 2011, Archbishop Justin Welby, when he was Dean of Liverpool, invited me to preach at the Annual Judges’ Service in Liverpool Cathedral. In my sermon, I pointed out that the Warrington bombers who murdered Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball in 1993 ‘never faced justice.’

‘This was a tragedy that struck me personally, for Johnathan’s mother was Marie Comerford,’ I said. ‘In 2001, the parents of these two young boys met Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness. After the meeting, Martin McGuinness declined to say whether he had apologised to those parents on behalf of the IRA.’

‘The Warrington bombers never faced justice, and no mercy was shown to their victims by a man who is now a presidential candidate in the Republic of Ireland,’ I said at the time. And I asked: ‘Is it any wonder that Marie Comerford died of a broken heart …?’

Two years later, Martin McGuinness said the Warrington bombings were a ‘shameful’ act. Speaking before of a lecture he gave at the Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Peace Foundation in Warrington, he said he was sorry that the two boys had been victims of the Troubles. But his apology was qualified as he added that Irish children had died too and said it was important that everyone now recognised peace was the only way forward.

Last week, Colin Parry’s father Tim Parry learned for the first time that Dolores O’Riordan’s song Zombie had been inspired by his son’s murder. He told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme he had been touched by the lyrics but had not known their significance until after the singer’s death.

‘I was completely unaware what it was about. My wife came home from the police centre where she worked yesterday and told me the news,’ he said. ‘I got the song up on my laptop, watched the band singing, saw Dolores and listened to the words.’

‘The words are both majestic and also very real,’ he said. ‘To read the words written by an Irish band in such compelling way was very, very powerful.’

And perhaps it is that message of defiance, peace and solidarity that will be the legacy of Dolores O’Riordan.

Zombie by Dolores O’Riordan:

Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it’s not me
It’s not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fightin’
With their tanks, and their bombs
And air bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head, they are cryin’

In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh

Du, du, du, du
Du, du, du, du
Du, du, du, du
Du, du, du, du

Another mother’s breakin’
Heart is takin’ over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken

It’s the same old theme
Since nineteen-sixteen
In your head, in your head, they’re still fightin’
With their tanks, and their bombs
And air bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head, they are dyin’

In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What's in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie

[Instrumental Outro]