Reformation commemorated at special Thanksgiving Service at St Columb’s Cathedral
Several hundred people attended a Service of Thanksgiving in Saint Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry, on Tuesday evening, which commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. They included leaders of some of the main Christian churches in the North West and members of Church of Ireland parishes right the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe, from Castlerock to South West Donegal.
The Service was organised by the Diocese’s Board of Mission and Unity. It was an appropriate venue in which to mark the quincentenary. Saint Columb’s was the first cathedral built in these islands in the aftermath of the Reformation.
The preacher at the Service, the Rt Rev Ferran Glenfield, Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh, told the congregation that the winds of change were sweeping across medieval Europe five hundred years ago. Europe was on the move and yet, ironically, its great thinkers and shapers looked back in order to go forward into the brave new world of the sixteenth century – “‘ad fontes’ – back to sources”.
Bishop Glenfield compared Martin Luther to the early apostles, who were aware of the corruption around them. “Nothing has changed,” he said. “Our generation is corrupt. The Paradise Papers reveal once again that the rich corporations and super–rich individuals will always seek to sidestep their responsibilities to the countries that they reside and work in. The sexual harassment and abuse in the corridors of power, and in the tinsel–town of the art world and the movie world, confirm yet again that powerful individuals think they can get away with anything over the weak, the vulnerable and the impressionable.”
Bishop Glenfield identified some of the problems more commonly faced by people in this era: “In our streets and in many of our homes, indebtedness, insecurity, addiction, violence and hate stalk the lives of so many people. It’s about salvation, God in Christ saving sinners: freeing, delivering, restoring, reconciling lives from the inside out – through faith alone, in Christ alone.”
It’s about salvation, God in Christ saving sinners: freeing, delivering, restoring, reconciling lives from the inside out – through faith alone, in Christ alone
“Since the sixteenth century,” the Bishop said, “enlightenment thinking has elevated reason above everything, and has eroded and emasculated the Bible in most reformed churches. The Bible has been taken apart like a dismantled car engine on a mechanic’s workbench and is powerless to drive our church. And yet, the power of the Bible remains innate and awaits rediscovery.”
the power of the Bible remains innate and awaits rediscovery
Bishop Glenfield recalled the great German theologian Karl Barth’s image of Luther climbing the bell–tower of an ancient church in the dark, reaching out to take hold of a stair rope and grabbing a bell–rope instead. The bell sounds and wakens the church – wakens the whole of the surrounding countryside: “It’s our turn to go back, to go back to source, back to Jesus Christ and back to the early church, in order for us to go forward. May God the Holy Spirit wake us all up before it’s too late.”
It’s our turn to go back, to go back to source, back to Jesus Christ and back to the early church, in order for us to go forward
The sacred music for Tuesday evening’s Service included hymns written by Martin Luther. These were performed by the Cathedral choir, under the guidance of organist Dr Derek Collins. The Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, was among those who delivered the readings; the Superintendent of the Methodist Mission, the Rev Peter Murray, led the Prayers of Intercession; and the Minister of Faughanvale Presbyterian Church, the Rev Lindsay Blair, was in the congregation. Earlier, as members of the congregation filed into the church, they passed a portrait of Luther which had been painted by Bruce Robinson who is a churchwarden in Killowen Parish Church in Coleraine.
At the beginning of the Service, the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Rev Ken Good, welcomed all those who had come to the Cathedral. “It is appropriate,” he said, “that we take time to reflect, to remember, to be reformed, to repent, to rejoice and to be reconciled.” Bishop Good thanked the Board of Mission and Unity – and its chairman, the Rev Paul Hoey – for “imaginatively combining words, music and Scripture” to allow the congregation to commemorate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. Bishop Good also thanked Bishop Glenfield for preaching the sermon at the Service, representatives of other churches for their presence, and the Dean of Derry, the Very Rev Raymond Stewart, for allowing the Cathedral to be used for the occasion.