MORE and more, it is our future that worries us - the future of our planet and its communities, the future of our children, and indeed the future of our Church and the life of faith. “Will our children have faith?” has been a key worry for some time. Now “Will our children have life?” is even more pertinent.
So our leading article concerns Climate Change and what we can do to halt it, as individuals and as church communities, not just as voters looking for government action. Damian Jackson attended COP 26 for the Irish Council of Churches, and he confronts the climate crisis in his daily work. May his words give rise to action that moves us from mere hand-wringing and good intentions to effective change and realisable hope.
Moving on to our young people: with an average age well over 50 in most congregations nowadays, we need to ask how we as a Church have been failing the rising generation - and their parents. We can’t blame everything on Richard Dawkins! The question of what needs to be done is so multi-dimensional that we offer a series of approaches in this issue: from Bishop Pat Storey, president of the Church of Ireland Youth Council, from its development officer Steve Grasham, from DCU chaplain Eric Hughes, and from liturgy enthusiast Christopher West. And going on from there, we’d love to hear from readers with your thoughts on how to inspire and energise our young people.Meanwhile there are other concerns: the problem posed by small churches without viable congregations; the question of how we label ourselves and other people and why this matters; the whys and wherefores of the marked rise of humanist funerals. Archdeacon Simon Lumby of Limerick tackles the first of these; Emma Rothwell writes on identity issues and personal freedom; and humanist celebrant Brian Whiteside on the need for funerals that don’t demand assent to traditional beliefs. More basic than any of these are the simple thoughts of John R Bartlett, until recently Chairman of SEARCH, “Being Christian Today”, as expressed recently at Leighlin Cathedral.Reverting to anxiety about the future, readers are asked to note the emergency requirement that all SEARCH subscriptions be renewed and back copies paid for without delay. Thank you!
Being Christian today - a sermon preached in St Laserian’s Cathedral, Leighlin
I SUSPECT that most of you like me will have felt in recent years that Christianity is losing ground, especially in the West. We know it is losing ground in what Christians call the Holy Land; we see that Islam is strong from north Africa eastwards to Pakistan, Afghanistan, the borders of Russia and China, and Indonesia, and is gaining ground everywhere, not least in Ireland; that many educated, liberal minded people in the west find Buddhism increasingly attractive; that in India Hinduism remains strong. In China traditional Chinese religion is said to be re-establishing itself and there is some persecution of Christians. But Orthodox Christianity has enjoyed a revival in Russia, while Christianity, especially of an evangelical or Pentecostal nature, is flourishing and growing in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and is strong in what we call the Bible Belt of America.
COP26 and the Churches in Ireland: what does it mean for us?
WE HAVE recently seen our national leaders hammer out an agreement that is supposed to prevent a global catastrophe. But some are already facing catastrophe. In 2017, with a team from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, I visited ‘Mediterranean Hope’, a project of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) on the island of Lampedusa.
‘Will you support us in this calling?’ - young people’s challenge to the Church:
THESE words perfectly describe our mandate and spiritual obligation towards our young people. If we accept that the community of the Church of Ireland is required to pass on this rich reservoir of faith, and to do so enthusiastically, how are we doing? As you look down, up, or across your church as you worship on a Sunday morning, what are you seeing? ‘Regular’ church attendance used to be designated as a weekly event. Now it veers between ‘monthly’ and ‘at all major festivals’.
WHAT WITH reduced services, a lower number of groups and clubs, and fewer volunteers, the past two years have been challenging for youth work and ministry. What’s more, according to the National Youth Council of Ireland, the overall body for Irish voluntary youth organisations, there were over 80,000 fewer young people involved this year in comparison with pre-pandemic figures.1
MEMBERS of the Church of Ireland are not immune to the allure of mission statistics and prophecies of decline. We are often bombarded by figure after figure, showing us that our churches are currently haemorrhaging young people at a staggering rate. A great deal of our time, energy, and resources are therefore invested into how we might go about healing this gaping wound – or, at the very least, into how we might patch it up and temporarily stem the flow.
MARK SITS alone at a square wooden table. He sips a hot cup of tea and dips a biscuit in while his lunch heats up in a nearby microwave. The young man who just last year sat his leaving cert examinations is now passing the time between his lectures at Dublin City University. Three weeks into his course, this is now the longest stretch he’s spent away from home. He likes his college accommodation, but of course it lacks the warmth of home. The first two weeks were marked by a keen sense of not belonging, of being out of his depth. This week is getting a bit different, though.
A death knell for small rural churches? Confronting isolation
THIS ARTICLE began its life just as the new Diocese of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe was born. (I’m writing this in Advent, so you’ll forgive the natal flavour). The bishops of the former Dioceses of Tuam et al and Limerick et al both retired on the same day thus giving birth of our new Diocese on 1st December 2021.
IDENTITY-CENTRED ISSUES have recently come to the fore in the public conversation: the MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements have raised questions of gender and race, and changes in marriage, abortion and gender recognition legislation have led to discussions about sexual and gender identity.
‘No lies told’ - a style of funeral for an increasingly secular Ireland
ALMOST twenty years ago my life changed dramatically. While I was in the process of selling my share in a business and effectively retiring, I attended a funeral in England. It was a Humanist funeral. I had been wondering what I would do when I put my business career behind me and now I knew: I would conduct Humanist funerals.
GROWING UP as a Roman Catholic, I knew little of Matins or Evensong, aside from the assumption that they were associated with morning and evening. Later experience has brought with it an appreciation of the richness and variety in the daily prayer of the Church.