03 August 2018

‘I will not forget you, I have carved
your name on the palm of my hand’

‘Healing Hands’ … a sculpture by Shane Gilmore in grounds of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Ennis, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

In my sermons on Sunday morning [5 August 2018] in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, I am hoping to reflect on Christ’s discourse after the feeding of the multitude (John 6: 24-35) and how we can be the hands of Christ as we reach out to those in need and those on the margins.

Some of my thinking and praying on this Gospel reading this week was been helped two days ago [1 August 2018] by seeing ‘Healing Hands,’ a sculpture by Shane Gilmore that was installed in ten years ago [May 2008] in grounds of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Ennis, Co Clare.

Shane Gilmore is an artist and sculptor living and working in Co Clare. His works include public art, figurative sculpture, surf art, and mixed media work.

His sculpture of two clasped hands in Ennis is based on the hands of the former Bishop of Killaloe, Bishop Willie Walsh, and was designed to be used as seating.

Six plaques on the base of the sculpture have different references to hands as hands of Welcome, Peace, Healing, Co-Operation, Faith and similar themes.

The sculpture represents a number of concepts:

Hands of Healing: remembering walk of reconciliation by Bishop Willie Walsh for Jubilee 2000.

Hands of Welcome: acknowledging the presence of emigrants, asylum seekers, refugees and fellow EU citizens in our community.

Hands of Peace: marking a new era of peace on the Island of Ireland.

Hands of Co-operation: celebrating Ennis Ireland’s tidiest town in 2006.

Hands of Faith: recognising the faithfulness of parents and grandparents for handing on the Christian faith to the next generation.

The base of the sculpture also includes a Biblical inscription:

‘I will not forget you, I have carved your name on the palm of my hand’ (Isaiah 49: 15).

Shane Gilmore works mainly in stone and wood. His public sculptures throughout Co Clare can be seen in Liscannor, where his bronze sculpture of the submarine inventor is placed, and Ennistymon, where his limestone carving of the poet Brian Merriman is seen.

He has also produced numerous pieces in Ennis and ‘The Miller Returns,’ a sculpture that stands in the O’Garney River below the bridge in Sixmilebridge.

The sculptor claims this ‘is probably the manliest sculpture in Ireland.’ This is a shirtless, limestone man marching unimpeded through the waters of the river, carrying the heavy tools of millwork, recalling the 17th century settlers of Dutch origin who started the mill on the river.

Shane Gilmore points out that the strongman proved his brawn in 2009 when the statue held its ground as flood waters threatened to take the artwork downstream.

‘Healing Hands’ … the sculpture by Shane Gilmore is based on the hands of the Bishop Willie Walsh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Mission focus: United Society Partners in the Gospel

USPG arranges placements for volunteers through its various programmes

United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG) updates us on their recent work.

USPG is the oldest Anglican mission agency on these islands that is working with Anglican churches overseas. Recent restructuring and changes in both Ireland and the UK are now preparing this 300-year-old mission agency to engage more effectively in equipping Anglican churches and dioceses across the world.

The financial crises of the past decade have been difficult for all mission and development agencies, with a fall-off in funding streams and a changed political climate. But the changes introduced in USPG in the past five years are designed to make the agency more effective in its partnership with Anglican provinces around the globe.

USPG works with churches in the Anglican Communion to live out the good news among those whose need is greatest and supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Last year, Revd Duncan Dormor, former dean of chapel at St John’s College in Cambridge, became the New CEO of USPG. Likewise, John Neilson, secretary of Imperial College, London, was appointed as chair of trustees.

USPG seeks to give a voice to women all over the world

The boards of USPG in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have been wound up to allow a more effective partnership between USPG’s support base on the island of Ireland and USPG projects.

As a Trustee of USPG, Canon Patrick Comerford chaired one of the sessions in July at this year’s USPG conference in High Leigh, Hertfordshire. This year’s theme was ‘All Things Are Possible’. The conference was an opportunity for supporters to discover how churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America are engaging with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

It was also an opportunity to explore how Anglican churches on these islands can play their part in tackling poverty, fighting inequality, campaigning for climate justice, and much more.

The speakers included Archbishop Albert Chama of Central Africa; Jessica Richard, coordinator of campaign and advocacy in the Church of South India; Dr James Corah, head of ethical and responsible investment, CCLA investment management; Bishop Donald Jute of Kuching (Sarawak and Brunei); and the Revd Dr Pervaiz Sultan of Saint Thomas’s Theological College, Karachi. The Bible studies were led by Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills, a peace and interfaith activist in the Diocese of St Albans.

USPG was founded by Thomas Bray as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) in 1701. Since then, USPG has sent over 15,000 missionaries worldwide, many of them pioneers in tackling slavery, championing women’s rights and opposing racism.

Currently, the agency also incorporates the work of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa and the Cambridge Mission to Delhi.

In recent years, the mission agency has helped ordinands and students from the Church of Ireland to gain experiences in Africa and Asia. It also arranges short-term placements for volunteers (aged 18-80) through the ‘Journey With Us’ and ‘Expanding Horizons’ programmes.

In Europe, USPG is supporting work among refugees and migrants; in Zimbabwe, it initiated a national programme to tackle HIV stigma; in Myanmar, it supports a programme to take healthcare into isolated rural communities.

Theologically, practically and financially, USPG encourages and enables churches in the Anglican Communion to act as the hands and feet of Christ. Together, they are working to improve health, tackle poverty, put children in school, challenge discrimination, nurture leaders, give a voice to women and to tackle the impact of climate change.

USPG is working with Anglican Churches throughout the world theologically, practically and financially.

This three-quarter page feature is published in today’s edition of the ‘Church of Ireland Gazette’ (3 August 2018, p 4).