The annual Clogher Diocese joint ecumenical service for Pentecost Sunday took place on Sunday last, 4 June, at Saint Sillian’s Church, Tyholland, Co Monaghan.
The ecumenical service was led by Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Bishop John McDowell, Monsignor Joseph McGuiness, Administrator of the Diocese of Clogher, and Rev Betty Thompson, Minister of St Sillian’s, Tyholland. Also present at the service was Bishop Joseph Dufy, Bishop Emeritus of Clogher, who along with now Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Michael Jackson, began the ecumenical tradition. A notable aspect of the service was the testimony given by two young people, Catherine Wilson and Niall Hughes, on the meaning of Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor and a native of Tyholland, addressed the gathering, speaking on the ancient roots of Christian faith in Tyholland and the shared history of Saint Sillian’s for people of all faith traditions in the area.
Describing Saint SIllian’s as an “ancient and eminent ecclesiastical site”, Bishop Treanor began his address saying, “I wish to thank Bishop John McDowell, Bishop of the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher and Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Administrator of the Catholic diocese of Clogher and also Administrator of the parish of Tyholland, for the invitation to address this historic gathering. Many among you are neighbours of my youth, friends on the pathway of life and fellow Christians.
“Among you I see not only the faces of my youth. Through you I see on the film of memory the faces and features of so many neighbours who now rest in Christ in this Churchyard. With them we are all bonded in continuing to cherish this historic and hallowed site. And we gather on this feast day of Pentecost in response to the movement of the Spirit of God into whose Easter new life we are baptised. Through baptism we all share the name and identity of being Christians, and live together a common faith in the person of Jesus Christ in our respective confessional and ecclesial traditions.”
He continued, “This collaborative Clogher diocesan ecumenical initiative to mark Pentecost, a pulsar moment in the Christian calendar, was imagined by Bishop Joseph Duffy and Bishop Michael Jackson in the opening years of the new millennium. Beginning in its first years on the historic fort at Clogher, their shared interest in the figure of St Macartan, patron of the dioceses, and their respective sense of the historical significance of Christian faith in the moulding and shaping of culture, history and the fibres of society led to the annual moving (the peregrination, to adopt a term from the early centuries of Irish and insular Christianity) of this Prayer Service around the historical churchyards of the dioceses on Pentecost Sunday.
“In this initiative there is a profound insight of pristine and quintessential Christian quality. For the Pentecost experience, the subject of the readings from the New Testament that we have read and heard this afternoon, whispers to us of crossing boundaries. They speak of community and unity emerging from diversity, difference, divisions. In a salutary, counter-historical and prophetic way, this Tehallen churchyard gave permanent ecumenical witness in its reception in death of those born to the new life of the Resurrection.”
Bishop Treanor said, “Like those who have gone before us on the way of faith and are buried here in this graveyard, we all leave an imprint, personal and collective, on the living history of our community, society and body politic.
“On this Pentecost Sunday 2017, gathered here at St Sillian’s, Templetate, it is salutary for each of us, as individual persons before God and before society, to open our minds and hearts to the promptings of God’s Spirit, as revealed through Jesus Christ, and to recall in the New Testament words of St Paul that we have all been given the same Spirit to drink (1 Cor 12:13). That Spirit is the power and spiritual energy of an incarnate faith, the Christian religion; this same Spirit missions each Christian in every generation to make concrete qualitative difference through the work of their mind, hands and hearts.
“In our global village, now menaced by violence in our cities, by wars, by climate change and its effects on the ecosystem, by the urgent need to develop respect and historical understanding and reconciliation between peoples and cultures, we, Christians, have a shared and urgent responsibility to re-appraise ourselves of the irreplaceable contribution our faith heritage and tradition can and must make to shaping a saving view of the world, an anthropology, a humanism, which generates hope, spiritual energy and reconciliation with the ballast of history for the “good purpose”, as St Paul puts it, (1 Cor 12:7), or “the common good”, as understood in Christian Social thought, for present and future generations. To make this vital contribution to society and to human history, as Churches and ecumenically we shall have need of “the Advocate”, referred to in the gospel reading (Jn.14.15-16, 23-26) of this Ecumenical Prayer Service.”
Bishop Treanor continued, “This is and will remain for decades to come a particularly challenging priority for the Christian community and its Churches in Ireland as we, and the weavers of meaning in the media, the arts, business and the sciences, grapple with the profound and rapid cultural and social transformations which have moved us in the course of less than half a century from a relatively homogenous, predominantly agricultural and rural cultural matrix to a pluri-cultural information society which is seeking out with other peoples and nations its purpose and destiny in the emergent cyber world.”
“In this context it inevitably seems that ‘the centre cannot hold’, and that ‘mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’ (W B Yeats). For some, betimes indeed for us all, the old ways no longer seem to serve a purpose!
“Yet, let’s bring into focus and imagine the seismic shifts navigated by the first followers of Christ, as glimpsed in the New Testament literature of Acts and the Pauline and Johannine letters: the trauma of Calvary and their post-Calvary deception, their slow re-grouping and re-appraisal of their experience of Jesus of Nazareth and of the Risen Christ, their grappling with issues arising from their morphing Jewish cultural and faith identity and the testing dynamics of encounter with and insertion into the Greek, Roman, middle eastern and oriental societies. In the vortices of such epochs of change, cultural encounters and transformations, the Christian tradition, imbued by the personalised revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth and carried forward in worship and charity in time, both falteringly and heroically, has manifested a capacity to contribute significantly to moulding and shaping the spiritual, ethical and moral tissue of culture and society. With God’s help and the contemporary re-awakening of Christian and ecumenical renewal, Christians will do so in our challenging times.”
Bishop Treanor concluded his address saying, “as we celebrate Pentecost 2017 together on this mound and ancient Christian centre in Templetate in the diocese of Clogher, may our collective and ecumenical prayer be:
- that in the Spirit of the Risen Christ, who opened the minds and the eyes of the Apostles on the road to Emmaus, we may re-awaken to the beauty and historic significance of this place in local history and in the history of Ireland
- that we may cherish and protect this ecclesiastical site for posterity
- and that as a Christian community we may work for peace, justice, reconciliation and the integrity of creation in our time.”
The full text of Bishop Treanor’s address can be found on www.clogherdiocese.ie.