Bring Healing To The Wounds And Divisions That Keep Us Apart

Dr. Fergus O'Ferrall, the Lay Leader of the Methodist Church in Ireland, preaching at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Darling Street Methodist Church, Enniskillen, on the theme "Your Right Hand, O Lord, glorious in Power reminded the congregation that "Praying for the unity of the Church involves a recognition not only of the brokenness of Christian relationships but also how injustice in the world at large rends asunder Christian communities and impedes our participation in God's mission. He reminded his listeners that history too plays a part, casting a shadow over how we live our lives together in community.

Looking to Ireland and how we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement reached on Good Friday 10th April 1998 Dr.O'Ferrall quoted from a hymn by a Methodist minister from the Carribbean , Patrick Prescod which talking about "The Right hand of God" wrote

                        The right hand of God
                        Is striking in our land
                        Striking out at envy, hate and greed
                        Our selfishness and lust
                        Our pride and deeds unjust
                        Are destroyed by the right hand of God

Dr.O'Ferrall challenged the congregation to answer the question "What part are we playing as Christians together in joining in with what God wishes to do in our country and His world. In all we attempt we should never underestimate the power of prayer to lift us out of our broken past into a new and shared future."

"Where do we pray together that God's hand will lead us in 2018 in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.?"
Surely it will be to a place where nothing obscures human dignity, where we are agents of justice in the world, where we love our neighbour and welcome the stranger; where we have a new spirit and a new heart so that we become servants of God's peace, where we are one family in Christ, where we bring healing to the wounds and divisions that keep us apart, where we are freed from the selfishness, arrogance and fear that hinders
the full visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ.

If we are not to be hypocrites, the prayers that we ill demand of us to see 2018 as a time for truth-telling and truth hearing: we do live in a time of crisis at home and in the wider world, but more importantly, we live in a time of grace and opportunity.

Each denomination in the now divided Church of Jesus Christ has a clear and urgent responsibility to examine whether or how aspects of their theologies, traditions or practices contribute to sectarian divisions. It is these very sectarian divisions which, we must confess, in greater part underpin the divided identities and loyalties within the population of Northern Ireland.

We must encounter those who differ from us - to break down the enmity. That is our challenge. Dr. O'Ferrall quoted playwright  Frank McGuinness
who said after writing his play "Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme"

                        It was an eye-opener for a Catholic republican as I am, to have to examine the complexity
                        diversity, disturbance and integrity of the other side, the Protestant people."

If we are to have a shared flourishing future together on this island we must rise to this challenge of learning the stories of those who
differ from us and seeing how God is working in those who differ from us"

I truly believe that what will underpinn our future together will be a shared compelling project for tomorrow rather than our divided and often bitter histories the Church of Jesus Christ has a vital contribution to a compelling vision of how we may be reconciled and work together for a flourishing future for everyone"

This vision of generous and heroic brotherhood and sisterhood of Christian Unity may seem an impossible dream; ending sectarianism and segregation may seem an impossible dream; forgiveness truth, justice and reconciliation may appear an impossible dream. As Nelson Mandela once observed "Great challenges -impossible dreams always appear impossible until we achieve them"

In concluding his address, the Methodist Lay Leader said - 

                "The aspiration and prayer in this Week for Christian Unity must be one where we are led by the
                Right hand of God into a new and shared future and where together as the Church of Jesus Christ
                we witness to His great salvation to and for all people."