Saturday, 20 July 2024

A celebration of an exciting new agreement between the Moravian Church and the Church of Ireland

On Monday 18th March, a wonderful service took place to celebrate the Armagh Agreement. The Armagh Agreement is a new and very special agreement between the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church in Britain & Ireland, which was passed at the Synods of both churches in 2022, having been agreed in 2021. The agreement enables inter-changeability of ordained ministry between our two churches.

On the day of the service, the weather, which was windy, wet and rather chilly, contrasted significantly with the warm fellowship which was felt during the entire service. The service took place on the day following St Patrick's Day, a very significant day for the Church of Ireland.

The service was in two parts, with a Service of the Word celebrated at St Patrick's Church, Ballymena, and Holy Communion celebrated at Gracehill Moravian Church, also Ballymena. In addition to the general congregation, made up of members and friends of the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church, there were people specifically invited from the Moravian Church, the Church of Ireland, the Church of England and ecumenical bodies, including the Irish Council of Churches.

new agreement between the Moravian Church and the Church of Ireland2

Prior to the start of each part of the service, at each church, a tree was planted by children. The children and the trees symbolised the hope that the Armagh Agreement will help both churches to grow and flourish together, bearing much fruit for the kingdom of God. On hand to help with the planting were the Church of Ireland's Primate, Archbishop John McDowell, and Bishop Michael Burrows, who leads the Church of Ireland's Commission for Christian Unity & Dialogue. From our own church, a helping hand was given by our two bishops present - Sr Sarah Groves and Br Joachim Kreusel.

The congregation was welcomed to St Patrick's Church by the Bishop of Connor, George Davison, and the Rector of St Patrick's Church, Canon Mark McConnell, and to Gracehill Moravian Church, by bishop and minister of the Gracehill congregation, Sr Sarah Groves.

In his sermon, Archbishop McDowell drew on his recent experience of attending an ecumenical conference for bishops - a conference that Sr Sarah Groves had also attended. At the conference, a person had said, 'What belongs together has also been brought together.' The archbishop then asked for what reason had the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church been brought together, through this agreement? The archbishop suggested that St Patrick's words, in his Confession, provided an answer. St Patrick wrote, '… the one and only reason I had to go back to that people from whom I had earlier escaped was the Gospel, and the promises of God.' The archbishop hoped 'it is not far-fetched to say that we have been brought together in the wide arc of God's providence for the sake of the Gospel.'

In various ways, ordained and lay people, from both churches, participated in the service. Scripture readings were read by Reuben Rea, Sr Emma Kingham, and the Revd Melanie Sloan. Canon Dr Helene T Steed led the prayers of intercession. The prayers, Bible readings and hymns were wonderful. I was deeply moved by the two styles of worship, which contrasted with each other, but complimented each other so beautifully.

Following the service and tree planting at Gracehill, there was a glorious buffet meal for everyone, in Cennick Hall. During the meal, Sr Roberta Hoey, Chair of the Provincial Board, shared some profound words and thoughts with us, in a short speech. Reflecting on the agreement, she said, 'It's been a combination of years of dialogue, understanding and prayerful consideration on all sides.' She added: 'For us (the Moravian Church), ecumenism is not merely an abstract concept; it's a lived reality, it's an imperative that calls all to engage in dialogue, collaboration and partnerships as we strive for unity in Christ.' During the meal, a celebratory cake was cut by the Rt Rev Michael Burrows and Sr Sarah Groves.

new agreement between the Moravian Church and the Church of Ireland

The service was very moving and a fitting celebration of an exciting agreement between the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church. I am sure I express the feelings and hopes of us all, when I write that I pray that the Armagh Agreement will grow and flourish in the years ahead, bearing much fruit for the kingdom of God.

Br Philip Cooper
Provincial Ecumenical Officer

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
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5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


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