Church of Ireland Challenged to be Prophetic Voice in Time of Brexit – Archbishop of Canterbury
The Church of Ireland is a “bridge church” and is a profound gift to Ireland and the Church universal. So said the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rt Hon Justin Welby in his sermon at a special service in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, on Saturday November 23 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.
“[The Church of Ireland] bridges the two parts of this island. It has made a wonderful bridge with the Methodists. It has bridged across the gaps in the life of the Anglican Communion. It is a church of reconciliation and courage. Its history is one of regeneration, of resilience, and it has led the way in many respects, including the ordination of women,” he commented.
The service gathered people from every corner of the Church of Ireland, including the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke and the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, as well as many of its bishops. Ecumenical guests, included the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Diarmuid Martin. The government was represented by Minister Heather Humphries and the Lord Mayor of Dublin was represented by Cllr Paddy MacCartan.
The service was the official start of the Church of Ireland’s commemorations of Disestablishment which came about between 1869 and 1871 as a result of Gladstone’s Irish Church Act. The Act meant that on January 1 1871 the Church of Ireland ceased to be the State church and was separated from the Church of England to become an all–island church that was, in the words of the architects of the church ‘free to shape our future’.
Archbishop Welby referred to the political situation as reflected in the readings of the day [Jeremiah 22: 18–30 and Luke 18: 14–17] and said that the Church had to be concerned with politics. “For politics is the science of how we live together and if we have nothing to do with that let’s tear out two thirds of the New Testament. Let’s get rid of the Beatitudes. Let’s get rid of that stuff in the Old Testament about the orphan and the widow. That’s his call to us,” he stated.
He said we could not avoid the reality of the context in which we live politically but we could live in it as those who were called to follow a different path – one of love and welcome. He said that the Church of Ireland had found itself progressively removed from power, heritage and influence, especially after Irish independence. It had been challenged by civil war in the 1920s, terrorism and then the Troubles. “For it is a church for which the border really does not exist. As no borders exist in the mind of God,” the Archbishop of Canterbury commented.
“Today the Church of Ireland is challenged to be the prophetic voice of God in a time when the side effects of Brexit will produce unforeseeable consequences. (I am not being political here it is simply a fact that consequences are unforeseeable. I am taking my cue from that well known saying, from Marx, Groucho of course, about never making predictions, and especially not about the future),” he added.
Earlier in the day, Archbishop Welby was welcomed to St Catherine’s Church, Thomas Street, where he heard from people about a range of initiatives being undertaken in Dublin & Glendalough.
Dr Maria Feeney, co–author with Dr David Tuohy SJ of ‘Come&C: Growing in the Image & Likeness of God’, spoke about Dublin & Glendalough’s mission and discipleship project Come&C, and particularly highlighted the importance of the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion which enabled parishes to constructively align what they were already doing with biblical principal.
The Revd Abigail Sines, highlighted the efforts of Christ Church Cathedral in becoming a Cathedral of Sanctuary. She said the award came about as a result of their journey of education as they sought to engage with people who are not normally present at choral services. The Dean places a great importance on Christ Church being a cathedral of welcome and as they began to educate themselves about the asylum process in Ireland they explored ways of advancing the conversation. The ‘What’s the Story?’ speaker series gave people a safe space to tell their stories of life in Direct Provision while their connection with Ellie Kisyombe and Our Table helped to highlight the dehumanising, institutionalising effects that Direct Provision has on people. The cathedral also highlighted the diocesan A Place to Call Home campaign.
The Rector of Kilternan, the Revd Rob Clements, spoke about the social and spiritual enterprise, the Gathering Grounds, in the new Kilternan Centre. He said that when the new centre was built they wanted it not to be simply a parochial hall for parochial organisations but a place of Christian identity where they can connect with the community around them. Their tag line is ‘the coffee’s good but it not about the coffee’. It’s a place where people can gather and chat and where people are welcomed and listened to and where ideas can percolate.
Eddie D’Arcy, Head Gardener at Solas Project outlined the work they do with people in the most marginalised area of Dublin. The project started in St Catherine’s Church and took off when the late Graham Jones took the huge step of leaving his work as a solicitor to develop it. He said there is a very high rate of school drop out in the area but Solas Project makes a commitment to the young people it meets and no one gets dropped out of it. “For some of these young people we can’t change what goes on at home but we can support them in their community to achieve their potential,” he said adding that they need 120 volunteers a week to provide their services. Many of the volunteers come from St Catherine’s and other churches and they have the opportunity to be true Christians.
In conversation with D&G’s young adults officer, Greg Fromholz, Archbishop Welby said he was very excited about the use of the Five Marks of Mission which he said had been gathering impetus recently. He said the dioceses was in the mainstream of what the Spirit of God is doing in the Anglican Communion. “One of the most exciting things is to hoist our sails and let the wind of the Spirit blow us,” he commented. He said that we could find hop in the resurrection and the gift of the Spirit said that everything we do starts with Jesus.