Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spreading the Gospel.

Well you’d swear I’d started the whole thing. In my last two Bugle articles I briefly mentioned ‘global warming’ and now you can hardly pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV or radio and there it is, making top headlines all over the place. I’d like to claim credit for the sudden interest but more learned men then I have been talking about it for years but not everyone paid heed. And now? Well blow me down, but politicians from all over, are to the fore, urging us ordinary mortals to sit up and take notice. Our own crowd are taking it very serious. So serious in fact that twenty nine of them are heading off for Patrick’s Day to various destinations all over the globe with a message. You’ll never guess it, so here it is: “To highlight the global threat of climate change and the urgency of acting together to meet the challenge”. There, you have it in a nutshell. They will try and squeeze this important message in between the usual atin’ an drinkin’s sessions, and general back slapping bonhomie. The effect of this entire great endeavour will be to add 182 tonnes of gas emissions into an already crowded atmosphere; the government jet being the biggest offender. Irony of ironies! Why only t’other day Bertie urged all departments to lead the way and cut down on travel. In fact the man parked the merc and took two trips on the Dart, finding it a most satisfactory (his words) way to travel. Leading by example you could say, now all he has to do is to sell the message to the junketeers. I’ll finish on the subject by asking three questions; first, what’s the cost, and who pays for all this gospel spreading, and secondly, are daily newspapers produced and read by peoples in the far-flung outer regions of our Irish empire, and thirdly, are we the only ones who know about ‘global warming’?
Speaking of gospel spreading but of a different kind altogether than the one mentioned above. We frequently hear and visibly see for ourselves the fall off in church attendance in the established churches; by established I mean the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Protestant churches. Some Catholic bishops will claim resurgence in church attendance; be that as it may, but a lot of young people today of any religion, take a different approach to religious beliefs than their fathers and mothers did when they were young. So why has this problem arisen one might well ask? There are a multitude of questions being asked and a multitude of answers given. Like most lay people I don’t have the answers but I humble suggest a reason or two as to why this problem has arisen. Power and apathy are but two that need to be addressed.
Down through the ages where the churches held sway their rule was unquestioned by the lower orders. Power and the trappings of power is a powerful aphrodisiac and those who found themselves in that situation used it to their advantage. They ruled with an iron fist breathing fear into the hearts of the ordinary mortal. Fear of Hell’s fire and damnation but also fear of them. They built magnificent cathedrals and palaces to the glory of God, but those who lived in the palaces were treated like little gods. Those days are long since gone and the cathedrals and palaces are as much a tourist attraction as anything else and the power has been subsumed into bureaucracy. Mind you it’s not all that long ago since power carried clout. As a young lad growing up in rural Ireland there were three classes of people who carried respect; the local priest/parson, the local school teacher and the local civic guard as they were called in those times. That day has also long gone; mores the pity some would say. So the question is: does power, now in the guise of bureaucracy still exercise too much control over the ordinary parishioner? Corruption and paedophilia hasn’t helped the cause of those seeking to ‘lead us not into temptation’!
Apathy is another downer, “I couldn’t care less”, “I’m too old”, “What’s the use”, “Where’s the youth”, these are just some of the remarks heard among parishioners. Leadership must have a part to play if apathy is to be overcome, but knocking priest or parson is not the sole answer to a deeper problem.
But we haven’t yet become a complete nation of philistines; just witness the number of Bible Study groups, and Parish Fellowship meetings, that are taking place all over, some held in community halls, some held in private homes, and most of them interdenominational. All of them have a warm and friendly atmosphere, everyone chips in, and no one person lays down the law. The structures of the established churches have remained static for ages apart from a bit of trimming round the edges; should they be taking a closer look at these Study and Fellowship groups and asking themselves ‘what makes them tick’? Are they humble enough to do so?
The Church of Ireland has set up “Ministry Matters” to look into all aspects of these pertinent matters and to find out where the Church stands today. Group facilitators have been appointed, green and white papers shuffled around; we await results.
In the meantime I’ll pass on a tip to all who wish to ‘pack ‘em in’. Metaphorically speaking I got it straight from the horse’s mouth. This being Cheltenham Week that wise old tipster, our very own Father Sean Breen from Ballymore was interviewed on Nationwide. The last question asked of him was, “at what stage in your service do you give out your tips?” Without hesitation and a twinkle in his eye he replied, “at the end, that way I hold on to them”. Put your ace of spades on that! Keep it up Father your one of our own. Now if only the Church of Ireland had a few ‘Bettin’ Bishops’! Yrs Jeffers.

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