The Archbishops of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke and the Most Revd Eamon Martin,have launched the Irish version of an “historic, worldwide, ecumenical” prayer initiative pioneered a couple of years ago by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Justin Welby.
‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is, a call to a global wave of prayer over the ten days from Ascension to Pentecost. The two Primates said it was their shared hope that in 2018, they would – certainly in their own dioceses but ideally throughout the island – be joining a global flood of prayer that God’s Kingdom, God’s perfect rule and perfect love, would be advanced on earth and become ever more apparent to all people.
The launch took place at the end of the first day’s business at the Church of Ireland General Synod, which is meeting this year in Armagh City Hotel. Earlier, in his Presidential address, Archbishop Clarke had described ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ as “a call to a global wave of prayer over the ten days from Ascension to Pentecost”. Addressing the ecumenical initiative, he urged Synod members to become better at praying. “Our shared hope,” he said, “is that in 2018, we will – certainly in our own dioceses but ideally throughout the island – be joining a global flood of prayer that God’s Kingdom, God’s perfect rule and perfect love, may be advanced on earth and become ever more apparent to all people. But, essentially, we must also remember that at every time of the year and in every place, you and I must become better at the business of praying.
“I imagine – and I even hope – that very few of us here today are ever satisfied with our own prayer lives. And yet, the prayer of all its members – however hesitant, however clumsy, however shallow, however unskilled our praying may feel for some of us – surely that constant prayer is something on which the Church must be able to rely, if it is to face its future with confidence, with hope, and hence even with real joy.
Archbishop Martin told the gathering that the two Primates’ presence was a way of assuring Synod that they were journeying together, trying to build the Kingdom here in this part of the world. “We are all aware of the challenges that presents, particularly in Ireland at this time, north and south, and yet we travel together with great hope – we have great hope in the future. We do not – as Pope Francis keeps reminding us – we do not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope.” And, he said, they had to keep communicating their reasons for hope.
Archbishop Martin talked about the challenge of the joint initiative. “For me, the words ‘Thy kingdom come’ are not simply a prayer; they are a hope – a manifesto – because it’s over to all of us to try to build the Kingdom wherever we live, wherever we worship, wherever we minister.”
He said it was sometimes easy to lose sight of what we were about – celebrating the joy and the hope that the Kingdom could bring, and that the Kingdom was bringing – “the Kingdom of God which is already here but not quite….already but not yet. It’s up to us to really help people to find the Kingdom in their lives. So, over these coming days between Ascension and Pentecost, as we pray in many ways in our various congregations those words, ‘Thy Kingdom come’, see in those words a hope but see in those words also a task – a task that is given to each one of us to try to communicate the risen Lord with people.”
Archbishop Martin said he was conscious in his own life in ministry of the challenges that were presented these days, not least in the discussion about life in this country. “There is no doubt that in many issues – issues of homelessness, peace-building, equality, life, there’s much that we can say, if we can introduce people to the Lord Jesus. I’m very conscious that the Lord himself embodies the Kingdom; his incarnation means the Kingdom is here but somehow for many people they haven’t discovered the Kingdom in their lives and that’s our task, that’s our duty, it’s our privilege to try to help them to do so.
Archbishop Clarke said people knew how much he and Archbishop Eamon valued their friendship. “As we ask of you that ‘Thy Kingdom come’ may be part of our lives not just through the Synod but through this week ahead, we pray, too, that we may be in another sense prisoners of hope – which was a book written many years ago – that we may become prisoners of hope in Jesus Christ, and that our prayer and our pilgrimage is that through the lives of all of us the Kingdom of God, the will of God and the love of God becomes ever more apparent in the world in which we live.