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Special service to celebrate Church of Ireland–Moravian relationship

Ballymena & Gracehill ∙ Monday, 18th March 2024

Special service to celebrate Church of Ireland–Moravian relationship

In recent years, the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church in Britain and Ireland have been developing a closer formal relationship which will allow for clergy from both denominations to serve in either.  To celebrate this, a special service will be taking place next Monday afternoon, 18th March, starting in St Patrick’s Church, Ballymena, at 1.30pm and continuing in Gracehill Moravian Church at 3.30pm.

Archbishop John McDowell will preach in St Patrick’s with Bishop Sarah Groves, from the Moravian Church, leading participants sharing in Holy Communion in Gracehill.  Trees will be planted in the grounds of each place of worship to mark this celebration, and a reception at Gracehill will follow.

Bishop Sarah expressed her joy at what had become known as the ‘Armagh Agreement’ between the two Churches. She said that she was sure this would “bring increased vitality to both denominations enriching their worship and enabling them to share the resources of people, faith and service.”

Bishop Michael Burrows, who chairs the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, added: “The Moravian Church and the Church of Ireland have so much in common and so many spiritual riches to share with one another.  We both cherish the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and a similar commitment to the place of the historic episcopate. We have shared a joyful journey towards the achievement of interchangeable ministry between us, and I’m thrilled that this new stage in our relationship will be marked by a highly imaginative liturgical celebration in Ballymena and Gracehill on 18th March.”

About the Churches

The Moravian Church, originally called the Unity of the Brethren, was first organised as a communion in Kunvald, near the modern town of Zamberk, in what is now Czechia (the Czech Republic). Although formally established in 1457, its origins reach back some fifty years earlier to the Czech Reformation. Merging into the Protestant movement that grew out of the Lutheran Reformation, the Moravian Church today is currently comprised of 24 linked provinces worldwide.  The presence of the Moravian Church in Ireland is due mainly to the influence of the English evangelist John Cennick, who was active in these isles between 1746 and 1755. The Irish District of the British Province currently has five congregations.

The Church of Ireland traces its history to the early Irish Church founded by St Patrick, who is believed to have tended livestock while in slavery on Slemish in the Antrim Hills.  The Church has been influenced over time by the development of dioceses and parishes in the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and its disestablishment in 1871 which ended its status as a state church (although continuing as a denomination with an all–island presence).  The Church of Ireland forms part of the Anglican Communion, a family of 42 self–governing member churches, and is actively involved in both formal ecumenism and the building of good relations in everyday life with its neighbours around Ireland today.

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