Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Creation Flourishing on St Francis' Day

This report appeared in the Nenagh Guardian for 16 October 2010
Sharing refreshments after Creation Flourishing (photo Patrick Rowley-Brooke)

Creation Flourishing – a time for celebration and care
Monday 4th October was the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, who had a very special love for all God’s creation. So what better day could there be for a large congregation of nearly100 people from different churches and Christian groups in and around Nenagh to come together at 7.30 pm in St Mary’s Church of Ireland to celebrate the flourishing of God’s creation and to reflect on our duty to care for it.

The liturgy was developed by a team from Nenagh Churches Together, Eilish Cummins served as Master of Ceremonies, and the organ was played by Sylvia Crawford.

Gathering & Welcome
The liturgy began with everyone singing that great hymn How Great Thou Art, led by a joint choir from the CofI and Catholic parishes, as local church leaders Rev Marie Rowley Brooke (Church of Ireland), Fr Anthony McMahon (Catholic), Rev Brian Griffin (Methodist) and Philip O’Regan (Living Water, non-denominational prayer group) processed to their places in the front. Rev Marie Rowley-Brooke gave an address of welcome, commending the Nenagh Churches Together initiative.

God’s creation is so amazing in the diversity of life it supports, in its complex and intricate inter-relationships, in its beauty. Our first response to it could only be wonder.

Children from the four Nenagh primary schools – the Gaelscoil, CBS, St Mary’s Convent and St Mary’s Church of Ireland – began by reading The Story of Creation, adapted from Genesis. Cantor Patrick Rowley-Brooke sang an extract from Psalm 104 with choral response, Bless the Lord O my soul. Sr Christine Quigley read a Prayer of Wonder. Suma and Priya from India then danced a graceful Dance of Wonder in Keralan costume to a traditional Malayalam song of praise – one of the high points of the evening.

As we contemplated the wonder of God’s creation, we realised how perfectly made it is to sustain us, and not just us but the whole web of life of which we are part. Our response could only be to give thanks for all that God has given us.

Philip O’Regan led intercessory prayers, written by Catherine Brennan SSL for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Guitarists Ken Mulcahy and Stephen Normayle then led the congregation in singing a thanksgiving hymn, Thank you Lord for food to eat.

As we wondered at and gave thanks for creation, we recalled the damage we human beings do it by thoughtless and greedy actions. We were moved to repent and seek forgiveness.

Joc Sanders called the congregation to repentance and led them in a prayer of confession. After a period of reflection without words on human responsibility, all joined in a prayer for God’s grace to grant us the courage to change our ways.

Covenant of Care
Scripture assures us that God has graciously made a covenant to preserve and protect his creation, to which we responded with our own covenant to care for God’s creation.

John Armitage read a passage from Genesis, The rainbow is the symbol of God’s covenant with creation. Denis Holmes read St Francis’ lovely prayer, Make me an instrument of your peace. Rae Croft, Joseph Kelly and Nadzeya Piatrouskaya lit candles to symbolise our Covenant of Care and all joined in declaring it. Then the joint choir sang Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn, The God who set the stars in space.

Going out as God’s people
As the congregation prepared to go out together, united as God’s people, filled with wonder and thankfulness for God’s grace shown in creation, penitent for the human damage done to it, and determined to join in God’s covenant to care for it, all joined in saying The Lord’s Prayer together. The church leaders then led the people in saying a Community Blessing, and the service finished with all singing that stirring hymn, All creatures of our God and King.

Most then shared in delicious refreshments kindly provided by a team from the Church of Ireland parish, amidst a happy chatter of conversation between old friends and new. A common theme was how lovely and meaningful the evening liturgy had been.

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