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Wilfully abstaining from the Lord’s Table?

by
09 October 2015

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From Canon Ronnie Clark

Sir, — It is with great sadness and disappointment that I write this letter, having returned to Northern Ireland after 39 years away serving in the Church of England in Germany, England, and Greece, and the Church of Ireland in Donegal and Cork.

I have to echo the sentiments expressed by former deans among others in publications, and privately to me by retired and serving archdeacons and bishops and practising lay people, lamenting the present state of the Church of Ireland, particularly here north of the border.

The Church that I love and loved from early days in Sligo as a child, confirmation candidate, then ordinand and later deacon/priest, seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth, particularly here in Ulster and County Down.

The balance of word and sacrament which was so much the mark of worship in the Church of Ireland, and acted as a bridge between Protestant (Presbyterian etc.) and Roman Catholic branches of the Church here on this island, seems no longer to matter or to be observed.

We live now in a liturgical wilderness here on the Ards peninsula, where we have four serving clerics, and four parishes with ten churches, and yet, on Sunday, the Day of the Resurrection, the sacrament of holy communion is offered to the faithful in all four parishes only on the same Sunday, the first in the month, and on the second Sunday in one or two of the churches (though this is not always the case on either Sunday).

On all other Sundays, the Body of Christ, the Community of the Resurrection, is not able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Jesus’s words “This do in remembrance of me” seem no longer to matter to this new “Free Church of Ireland” that is developing here.

It is staggering that, after 45 years in the ordained ministry of Christ’s Church, one is denied the opportunity to join with the vast majority of Christians of all denominations worldwide on a Sunday in celebrating the joy of the resurrection, growing close to Jesus in the sacrament, and receiving the spiritual strength for the week that lies ahead.

Clearly, this must be the mind of the Church of Ireland here, but it is not the mind of Christ for his Body the Church in other parts of the world, where Christians break bread Sunday by Sunday to the joy of all.

What future is there within the “New Church of Ireland” for faithful Anglicans? Who can offer them a spiritual home and safe haven among the storms of life?

Does anybody in authority in the Church of Ireland at the present time see any need to keep these Christians within the fold, or do we have not shepherds of the flock, but hirelings?

 

RONNIE CLARK
10 Castle Meadow Link
Cloughey, Newtownards
County Down BT22 1RU

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