Transforming Unjust Structures – Come&C Dun Laoghaire Looks at Our Relationship With Society and God
The often difficult question of how we engage with society and work for justice was addressed at the latest Come&C Service which took place in Christ Church, Dun Laoghaire on Sunday evening (May 29). The challenging and uplifting service heard stories from the parish’s outreach project and provided food for thought on how our actions for peace and justice bring us to a proper relationship with God.
The service was based on the Fourth Mark of Mission of the Anglican Communion: To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation. As the service was held in the parish church where the Dining Room was established to tackle food poverty and isolation, the focus was very much on how we treat those around us. During the service members of the congregation brought non perishable food to be used by the Dining Room.
The service heard from Peter who is a regular visitor to the Dining Room. He spoke of his experience of what he termed “deep rooted addiction” first to drugs and then to alcohol. Both he and his girlfriend, Fionola, had experienced homelessness and he spoke of the hot meals, clothing and sleeping bag and friendship he had received at the Dining Room. Speaking of the role a God of understanding plays in his life, Peter said that he admired the fact that religion embodied more noble aspirations than “our celebrity obsessed, greed obsessed society”.
The Vicar of Dun Laoghaire Parish, the Revd Ása Bjork Ólafsdóttir, shared the story of the Dining Room with the congregation. She said that when she arrived in Dun Laoghaire she thought it was a relatively affluent area but the back streets told a different story. The seeds were sown for a soup kitchen and after spending fruitless hours searching for premises, she approached her vestry who gave her permission to set up the Dining Room in the parish hall on days it was not being used at lunchtime. The Dining Room now operates from Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church, offering a hot meals on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes, but will move into premises on Eblana Avenue at the end of June.
“From the beginning there has been cooperation between the different churches. It has been very rewarding,” the Vicar explained. “The challenge of putting our faith into action is one we all face… The Dining Room is really putting the Gospel into practice.”
The sermon was preached by the Revd Dr William Olhausen, Rector of Killiney–Ballybrack. He said the Old Testament reading [Micah 6: 6–8] provided an audit of who we are as human beings, how we have failed and how we can do better. He outlined the injustices that existed in Micah’s time and the excesses of the urban elite and the court of the king. He said that at the time God’s people had proved themselves to be unfaithful and the rich had exploited the poor.
“The urgent question Micah poses is this: ‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?’ And that continues to be a relevant question today: On what basis do I present myself to the Lord day by day? In our own day as we witness the homelessness crisis, the growing gap between the rich and the poor and the refugee crisis, with what shall we come before the Lord,” he asked.
Micah’s answer is divided between the foolish and the wise – the foolish wondering if burnt–offerings, calves, rams, rivers of oil and his first born would be enough; and the wise saying that the Lord asks you to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.
“For us, the impulse may be to do religion really lavishly and hope no one notices… We are tempted to try to buy God off. That is the spirit of false religion,” Dr Olhausen said. “What will put us in the right relationship with the Lord. Micah says we are to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. In this one verse we recognise that we are, first and foremost, relational beings. We must take care of each other and our world and worship the Lord. And to do this we will need to sacrifice our own lives, our time and our energy and become living sacrifices.”
The service drew to a close with a blessing from Archbishop Michael Jackson and Bishop Jared Kalimba who was visiting from Shyogwe Diocese in Rwanda.
This was the fifth Come&C Service which is taking place throughout Dublin and Glendalough during the Year of Come&C. Each of the services focuses on one of the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion but each also bears the unique hallmark of the host parish.
Top – Members of the congregation brought donations of food for the Dining Room.
Middle – Peter shares his story at Come&C Dun Laoghaire.
Bottom – The Revd Dr William Olhause, the Revd Ása Bjork Ólafsdóttir, Archbishop Michael Jackson and the Revd Abigail Sines.