From 5th to 7th February, the clergy of the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough were in conference in the ‘City of the Tribes’, Galway. As is usual custom we had a keynote speaker for the duration of the event in the person of Rev. Heather Morris, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland. She used the Biblical Letter to Jude (a short letter consisting one chapter of twenty five verses) as her base text to explore aspects of ministry which included character, leadership and calling.
The conference was also addressed by Rev. Canon Hatem Shehadeh from the Diocese of Jerusalem. He told his personal story from the perspective of being an Israeli (he was born in Israel), an Arab (his first language is Arabic), a Palestinian (he was born and grew up in a Palestinian part of Israel), and a Christian (an Anglican by birth and conviction). He described the challenges of everyday life for Christian communities in an often hostile environment in the Holy Land. He was particularly critical of those Christians who held a literalist interpretation of Scripture and especially those behind the declaration of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. As that declaration happened in the lead-up to Christmas 2017, most of his community’s special events had to be cancelled due to the protests and actions of both the Muslim Arabs and the Jewish authories. He bemoaned that fact that there was no consultation with Christians living in the Holy Land about this extremely contentious declaration.
He questioned whether this was due to a complete lack of understanding or wilful ignorance. However, by contrast he praised the link between our United Dioceses and the Diocese of Jerusalem as a model of engagement and understanding that gave his Christian community a sense of solidarity and support. When asked if Christians in the Holy Land were being persecuted, he
refused to accept that term but conceded that they were actively discriminated against because of their faith.
Two further speakers addressed the conference: Gus Nichols spoke on the subject of ‘On Death and Dying’ – a Funeral Director’s Perspective. This talk was illuminating in that it let us have a greater understanding of the challenges funeral directors now face in an ever increasingly secular society. In particular, he outlined the oft-time farcical ceremonies now demanded that lack structure, content or any respect to the deceased or their families.
Gabriel Chrystal, Church of Ireland Child Protection Officer, informed us of the developments in recent legislation updates in this area coupled with intended legislation regarding vulnerable older persons. It now appears that Garda Vetting will be extended to all who hold any post or title in Parish or wider Church contexts. Gabriel was asked to liaise with the R.C.B. to ensure absolute clarity on requirements for the future.
As this Newsletter appears, we will have embarked on the Church season of Lent. It is the traditional season in which we try to prepare ourselves spiritually for the traumatic events of the first Holy Week and Easter. It is no accident that in the Northern Hemisphere this season coincides with the climatic season of Spring. Lent affords us the opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves and to make amends for things which need changing in our lives. But all this is done in the positive light of promise – the promise of the risen Christ which we will be celebrating at Easter.
Meanwhile all around us, despite all the odds, nature is beginning to sprout forth once more with early flowers and shrub blossoms leading the way. Perhaps we would do well to learn from nature’s book and move forward in faith even if things may not yet show much signs of promise!
With every blessing,
Rev. John Tanner, Rector.
Tel: 01-289 3154 / 086 302 1376