The words of the Lord’s Prayer resonated strongly, on Sunday morning, as the parishioners of Christ Church Londonderry gathered for the rededication and consecration of their church following last year’s vandalism attack there. “And forgive us our trespasses,” the congregation prayed, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Minutes earlier, the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, had consecrated Christ Church – “this sacred space” – which had been repaired and refurbished in the intervening year.
The shock of the September 2017 attack had been traumatic for his parishioners, the Rector, Venerable Robert Miller, said at the time. One of the stained-glass windows had been smashed by the intruder who had then caused extensive damage to the church organ.
Just over a year later, many of those parishioners were back at Christ Church, along with friends from elsewhere in the Diocese and from across the community, to hear the newly-restored organ being played again, this time at a Harvest Thanksgiving Service led by Archdeacon Miller. The church was decorated beautifully for the occasion, with floral arrays and fruit and vegetable displays.
During his address, Bishop Good produced a cotton handkerchief which he held up to the congregation. He said when he was young, people would knot their handkerchiefs in the middle to remind them to do something which they regarded as important.
“Nowadays we’re more sophisticated,” the Bishop said, “we might use an alarm on our phone. But I’m putting this here,” he said, knotting the handkerchief and draping it over the edge of the pulpit, “as a prompt to remind us about the importance of remembering and taking care lest we forget.”
The Bishop said there were three simple but important things they needed to take care of at harvest time, lest they forgot. The first was they needed to take care lest they forgot to acknowledge God, who had given them what they had. The second thing was to thank him from their hearts for his goodness towards them. And lastly, they needed to take care lest they forgot to share.
Bishop suggested to the congregation that they could perhaps express thanks by giving away something this week. It could be as simple, he said, as leaving the pound coin in their trolley at the supermarket, so that somebody else could be blessed when they found it. “There’s something about sharing,” he said, “that breaks the grip that possessions have on our hearts when we give away. In fact, when we give away more than we think we can afford, the blessing – spiritually – is remarkable.”
During the Service, the congregation thanked God for the guidance, leadership and support they had received in the “moments of darkness” which had followed last year’s incident at the church; for lifting them out of the doldrums, and the feelings of hopelessness, anger and dismay they had felt; and for showing them the hope and positiveness that goes with living in faith.