Down and Dromore celebrates St Patrick’s Day
The theme at this year’s Down and Dromore St Patrick’s Day Celebrations was ‘Rising to the challenge.’
The day began with a service of Holy Communion at Saul. The congregation filled the small church, which is considered the cradle of Irish Christianity. Preacher, the Rev Adrian Dorrian, used the story of the good Samaritan and the message of St Patrick’s life to ask the question who is our neighbour in the 21st century, in a world that’s full of people bound up with the a sense of ‘us and them’. Adrian said: ‘Patrick brought the gospel message to a land where he had been held in slavery, he saw the people of this land as people who needed the grace of Christ – in coming back he became a neighbour to the people of this land.’ He concluded by asking: ‘What challenge does that present for us today?’
The pilgrimage from Saul to Down Cathedral was joined by Garner Webb University Concert Choir from North Carolina. The choir later performed three pieces during the service at the cathedral. The pilgrims stopped at various locations along the way for prayers led by the Rev Simon Genoe and were led into the cathedral by the two keynote speakers, Mickey Harte, Tyrone GAA, and Shane Logan, CEO of Ulster Rugby.
The cross–community Festival Service was attended by local clergy and dignitaries including Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Margaret Ritchie MP. The Very Rev Henry Hull, Dean of Down, welcomed the congregation and invited the two speakers to share about how their faith helps them to face the challenges of life.
Shane Logan began by talking about the ‘profound faith’ of Nevin Spence, the Ulster Rugby player who died in a farming accident in 2012. He continued by sharing three personal examples of times when he cried out to God and God answered faithfully. Talking about the time that he came to faith Shane said: ‘In the absolute depths of despair I cried out to God: “Lord I am wrong, I’ve turned to you before, you’ve always been faithful and I’ve always been unfaithful. There must be a better way, the better way must be yours.” From that point on things changed.’
Shane concluded by challenging the congregation with Romans 12 verse 21: ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Mickey Harte opened by talking about how he had been influenced by the faith of his parents. He went on to share about how the grace of God helped his family after the death of his daughter, Michaela.
‘It was a challenging time for our family, but in many ways this is when our faith kicked in. We knew we weren’t on our own, we had somebody to help us through the most painful part of it and to continue to help us as the journey goes forward.’
Mickey emphasised the importance of being good communicators, being present and a good listener. He closed with a poignant poem which finished: ‘And no one knows God or sees Him as plain as those who have met Him on “The Pathway of Pain.”’
The celebrations ended with the customary Irish stew and apple tart lunch served in a packed marquee. Once more we were grateful to the Sullivan Traditional Music Group who created a wonderful atmosphere in the narthex and the marquee.