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Church of Ireland Notes from ‘The Irish Times’

Remembering the Revd John Redmond

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Belfast Riots, Prof Brian M Walker, Professor Emeritus of Irish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast, in collaboration with the RCB Library, Dublin, has produced a timely piece on the bridge-building contribution of one Church of Ireland cleric which is the online August Archive of the Month. Professor Walker is the author of the recently published Irish History Matters. Politics, Identity and Commemoration and has been described as ‘a calm, considered and erudite voice in the sometimes shrill and partial declarations that can pass themselves off as historical discourse on this island’.

The Revd John Redmond was a well-known figure in the columns of the Church of Ireland Gazette in the 1920s. He was vicar of St Patrick’s, Ballymacarrett, in East Belfast which was the spiritual home to more members of the Church of Ireland than any other parish in the country. Born in Co. Armagh in 1876, Redmond served as a chaplain with the 36th Ulster Division. He ministered to the mortally wounded Capt. Willie Redmond MP, brother of John Redmond, who was not a relative, in his last hours at Messines in 1917.

He was instituted as vicar of Ballymacarrett in February 1920 and sectarian riots broke out in Belfast in the summer of 1920. On 3rd September, the Gazette observed how ‘since the troubles began in Belfast Mr Redmond had been in the thick of the disturbances’. In July and August he went onto the Newtownards Road in East Belfast to stop rioters and organised bands of unarmed volunteers to prevent rioting and looting.

On 13th May 1921, the Gazette noted that Redmond had ascertained that there were at least 15,000 nominal Church of Ireland people in the parish, but many did not attend church. To reach these people, Redmond organised the erection of mission halls. In late 1928, the Gazette published a letter from Redmond, appealing for funds and expressing a wish that other church members might ‘adopt’ one of the mission districts. This appeal won an immediate response. He received financial contributions from all over Ireland. In Dublin a committee was formed under the Bishop of Meath, Dr John Orr, to establish the Southern Church Mission to Ballymacarrett. Funds were raised to build a new church. On 8th April 1933, St Martin’s church, off the Lower Newtownards Road, was consecrated by the Bishop of Down, but the appointment of the incumbent lay with the Bishop of Meath.

The current Rector of Ballymacarrett, the Revd John Cunningham, said: “In subsequent years after Redmond’s time, although many parishioners moved out to the suburbs of Belfast and Bangor etc., a faithful core remains. Two new worshipping communities, a food-bank, and youth teams work from the three church buildings, caring for the wider community, and carrying on the legacy of love so clearly laid down by the Revd John Redmond.”

This presentation may be viewed at www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

The Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is offering recorded sermons as a Sunday resource for parishes. The next recorded sermon from USPG, for Sunday 9 August, has been recorded by the Canon Patrick Comerford of Rathkeale Group of Parishes, who is a Trustee of USPG, and marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. This sermon can be ordered emailing Gwen Mtambirwa, USPG Mission Engagement Co-ordinator (gwenm@uspg.org.uk).

Meanwhile, Canon Comerford, who is President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, is speaking at CND’s annual Hiroshima Day commemoration in Merrion Square, Dublin, next Thursday.

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