Saturday, March 17, 2018


Rev Dr Ruth Patterson
Click on any image for a larger version

St Mary's Roman Catholic church in Haddington Rd, Dublin, is a fine church with some unique features. It is an appropriate backdrop to the Patrick Finn Lecture Series, the most recent of which I attended on Thursday (15/3/2018). The mere fact of that talk was in itself significant.

Ruth Patterson
is a Presbyterian Minister in good standing and an Ecumenical Canon of the Church of Ireland, as well as being the Director of Restoration Ministries, an inter-church organisation which helps people find God, and just as importantly each other. The importance of this latter aim cannot be overstated, in particular in the divided communities of Northern Ireland.

It is heartening, when it happens, to see ministers from one denomination preach or lecture in another denomination's church. A complete turnabout from when I was growing up.

Even is recent times the process had its hiccups. A cousin of mine who was a parish priest in a Dublin suburban parish was invited by the local Church of Ireland Rector to address the latter's congregation. The deed was done and the cousin got an enthusiastic reception from the CofI congregation.

The return visit did not work out as smoothly, however. The Catholic congregation proved less than enthusiastic and the cousin was not only mortally embarrassed, he got complained to his bishop. So it's not always plain sailing even in a relatively affluent suburb in the South.

Anyway, to the point. As readers will probably know by now I'm not gone on the God bit. But I can treat it as an idiom and still get to the heart of the matter. Ruth's mission seemed to me to be to humanise people, though she might use the term sanctify. What I would describe as humanising the "other" she would probably call bringing people to an awareness that they are all God's children.

As I see it, we would be talking about the same thing, but with slightly different perspectives and in different dialects.

The basic idea is to reach out to people, get to know them, share with them, and they can then no longer be the "other" and no longer be exploited by those creating and maintaining divisions between people. And this reaching out is an act of personal responsibility.

As Ruth was speaking Seán Fagan's book, What happened to sin?, was flashing in and out of my mind. I'm sure, were he still alive, he and Ruth would get on very well together.

Another thought that occurred to me was how durable that initial reaching out across community barriers, under the EU Peace Programme, proved, even surviving the break down of the cease fire in 1996. The initial "other" had become no longer other.

I see from the Ministries newsletter that Ruth attended the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012. I wonder might she make the trip down south again in August and give the World Meeting of Families a blast of her inclusivity.

The text of Ruth's reflection with which she rounded off her talk can be viewed here.

St. Patrick also attended the talk
looking down from his perch on the wall

And finally, in it's closing hours, I trust ye all had a good Patrick's Day.

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