Around 40 members of the four main Churches in Derry-Londonderry, including the city’s two bishops, took part in a walk through the city centre on the evening of Monday 23rd January, 2023 to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The participants had gathered outside First Londonderry Presbyterian Church, inside the City Walls, for the start of this year’s walk, which had as its theme, ‘Be-Longing: Praying for Unity amidst Injustice’.
The Rector of St Augustine’s, Rev Nigel Cairns, explained that they would be walking “as one people, united under God”, and stopping at various points for a bible reading, a commentary, a reflection and a prayer.
Before they set off, Bishop Andrew Forster led the first of these, which included a commentary on institutional injustice. “Many have experienced pain, rejection, abuse and exclusion within the Church,” Bishop Andrew said. “A Christian expression of unity must include everyone, and offer healing and justice.”
The itinerary for the prayer walk took the participants along Butcher Street, where they stopped opposite the Maldron Hotel for a reflection by First Derry’s minister, Rev Colin Jones, on racial injustice, which pointed out that “All of humanity, people of all ethnicities, cultures and languages together represent the image of the Creator”. The group then moved down Shipquay Street, past the Guildhall, and along Foyle Street, where Fr Gerard Mongan, from Long Tower Chapel, delivered a reflection on injustice in society.
As the walkers continued on their way – via John Street, and a reflection from Catherine Hume, the Society Steward at Carlisle Road Methodist Church, on societal injustice – they passed Maurice Harron’s symbolic ‘Hands Across the Divide’ statue, before turning up Carlisle Road. There, outside the Kinship Care premises, the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller, reflected on economic and community injustice. “We are blessed, and we are to bless others,” he said. We are loved and we are to love others. We are to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God together.”
The final reflection – ‘God calls us to walk humbly for justice’ – was led by Bishop Donal McKeown, outside Carlisle Road Methodist Church. “God calls us to honour the sacredness and dignity of each member of God’s family,” Bishop McKeown said. “Caring for, serving and loving others reveals not who they are, but who we are.”
Monday’s walk was organised jointly by Mrs Joan Doherty (Methodist Church), Rev Colin Jones, Fr Gerard Mongan and Rev Nigel Cairns. The event concluded with fellowship and light refreshments in the Methodist Church building.