Funeral Service for the Church?


Oops... Haven't been paying attention... This was supposed to go online on Tuesday, but I've been a tad busy over the past few days... However, it seems as if a lot of you had picked up on it already. It touches on some of the issues I raised in my post on Sunday, but was originally inspired by the fact that for various reasons I, and others have been looking back to significant anniversaries over recent weeks. You can find it online for the next few days at BBC's iPlayer at 26 and 86 minutes, but here is the original text.


Two weeks ago was my 20th wedding anniversary. Last week it was the 40th Anniversary of the opening of our church building in Dundonald. A few people remember the first of those 2 anniversaries… many more remember the second… But infinitely more will remember the events of this day 30 years ago…
Because today in 1979 Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to step onto Irish soil. Those who subsequently saw him at Phoenix Park, Drogheda or Knock will never forget it… even I a northern Methodist who as only in his mid teens at the time remember it vividly from the TV news footage…
Father Brian Darcy, who was involved in a lot of the preparations for the trip, recently described it as the funeral service for triumphalist Catholic Ireland… It was quite a wake but certainly it is questionable whether the current Pope would receive the same rapturous welcome. For various reasons Catholic Ireland is not quite so Catholic any more. Some more conservative Protestants may glory in that, but the statistics actually show that most denominations are heading the same direction. We are very much in that phase of history which the sociologists and historians term “post-Christendom” when the old allegiances of church and state, south and north of the border, are no longer as strong… When old certainties are shakey, and authority must be earned rather than taken as read.
But we cannot live in the past… if my wife any I were to spend our lives mooning over the wedding photos of 20 years ago rather than working together to build a secure future for our family, then our relationship might not last much longer…
If our church spent its time harking back to the good old days of 40 years ago when the building was newly opened, then it might speed up the day when the doors will finally be closed.
And if any of us spend our time looking over our shoulder to the time when the church was top dog in Ireland, or in our local communities, then we will miss the opportunities that lie before us…


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