Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing–St Matthew’s Church of Ireland, Woodvale

st matthews woodvaleThis week for his ecumenical tithing, Fr Martin Magill visited St Matthew’s Church of Ireland in Woodvale. It details a fascinating relationship between St Oliver Plunkett’s Catholic Church in West Belfast, where Fr Magill served until a few weeks ago, and St Matthew’s. Yesterday, the two parishes chose to celebrate the Feast of St Matthew together.

Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: St Matthew’s Church, Woodvale

During my time in St Oliver Plunkett Parish, a number of people from the parish met with people and the rector from St Matthew’s Church of Ireland parish in the Woodvale area of the city.  The relationship dates back to 1994 and has continued on a monthly basis.  Along with the present rector, Rev Tracey McRoberts, some parishioners from both parishes and I planned a series of events for the year 2013/14 one of which was a visit from St Oliver Plunkett Parish to St Matthew’s to celebrate the Feast of St Matthew – 21st September. We chose Sunday 22 September for the visit.

Twelve parishioners as well as the present parish priest of St Oliver Plunkett Parish, Fr Aidan Brankin attended a ‘Late Evening Office’ in St Matthew’s. 

Just before the service started, Linda from St Matthew’s asked Liam from St Oliver’s to take up the collection.  Our first hymn was “Lord of all Hopefulness” which was well known to people from both parishes. 

The scripture reading was the call of Matthew from Matthew 9:9 onwards.  In her sermon, Tracey began by acknowledging when clergy fall from grace (to use that expression), there is considerable media interest.  She cited the example of the TV evangelist Jim Bakker from the US who ended up serving a prison sentence and how he received support from Billy Graham and his family both during and after the prison sentence. 

Tracey compared this to the way Jesus offered support and an invitation to outcasts, such as Matthew as a tax collector.  She commented on how easily some people judge others by labelling them.  Yet in the life of Jesus, it was clear he associated with sinners and offered them a place of healing – she reminded us that Jesus sent the people away to learn.

Rev Tracey McRoberts invited us to see that we are part of a community of learning.

  “…go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13). 

She also reminded us that with personal faith in Jesus comes a call to action. Action is required along with weekly “family reunion” which we call church, which includes the invitation to serve and the opportunity to study God’s word. 

The offertory hymn was based on the words of the Magnificat: “Tell out my soul” and I found it very moving when Linda and Liam from St Matthew’s and St Oliver Plunkett’s took up the collection and walked side by side to present it to the rector – a sharing of resources and ministering together. 

After the intercessions, Tracey encouraged us to take a time of silence to hear what God was saying to us in the service.  We finished the worship with the hymn: “Bind us Together”.  The conversations with parishioners from both parishes then flowed very easily and naturally which is to be expected after 19 years of building relationships. 

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