Fermanagh Churches Forum

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Lenten Reflection on Prayer by Dr. Ronald Brown

For the past few years about this time I have to start looking for inspiration to help me prepare a topic for this reflection.  It doesn’t come readily and I often wonder how our clergy and lay leaders manage it week in week out.  I reckon the good Lord is looking down on me and thinking ‘Here Brown goes again looking for inspiration-I will make him work for it and so He does! My topics have been varied over the years from the sleeping apostles at Gethsemane to James and John’s Mum trying to book a good seat for them in Heaven.

This year I was in Waterstone’s in Belfast looking for books to get in exchange for the Book Tokens I got as Christmas presents. I am easy to buy presents for-Book Tokens are always most welcome! Anyway what did I see but a book by CS Lewis ‘entitled ‘How to pray’. Ax you well know CS Lewis is long gone but this is a new book of collections of his thoughts on prayer. Up flashed the flag-this is your topic. Ah no I thought. I was not at all keen as there are few topics that create more dissension, doubt and questioning than Prayer. What is prayer? How should one pray? Is prayer really answered? Surely God should already know what we need and does it not reflect poorly on him that we have to ask? How come we are so quick to be thankful for what seems answers that please us but not so keen to recognize the times when answers are not to our liking or seemingly absent. This last may be so; even in what we might think are absolutely cast iron cases.  I could give you examples of these but don’t think I need to. All these questions can cause, at best confusion, or in many cases pain, doubt, disbelief or loss of belief. We are often told that if everybody prayed then great things would happen-does this mean that God is impressed by numbers? Of course not, but I fear these are questions we don’t often like to ask ourselves but are often asked by others.

C.S Lewis is quoted as saying ‘I don’t feel I could write a book on prayer: I think it would be rather a cheek on my part’. Most certainly it would be a cheek on my part to give this group any teaching on prayer. What I am going to give you is my own experience and thoughts on prayer.  Perhaps you may think what has this to do with Lent? Well, surely our Lord was in constant conversation with His Father during the 40 days in the wilderness?

I expect we all recognize prayer as petition, asking for things or better outcomes, confession and penitence, praise or adoration and sometimes a real feeling of His presence, perhaps felt at odd times or during Holy Communion.

I am always aware that although I know God to be a personal God and that his Grace is directly available to us through his son Jesus Christ I acknowledge also that his whole being is far beyond my comprehension and remains a Mystery.  Acceptance of His majesty and central place in our being alone makes it inevitable that we should wish to praise and communicate with him. For me this mostly means mentally talking and discussing frequently daily matters with Him. I frequently feel and say I do not understand but this does not reduce my belief.  The Psalmist had no trouble praising or arguing with the Lord and neither do I-in suitable humility I hope.  Some believe that prayer should be at certain times, for example morning and evening, and see this as a worthwhile discipline. I do not find it so and reckon it should be more like a conversation with a definite effort to listen as well!

In set prayers and prayers at routine times the words can be on the lips but not really in the mind!  Certainly I have a love of the Book of Common Prayer and indeed our own Methodist Service Book. One really needs to actively think about the words and not just say them which is far easier and dare I say more usual! I sometimes find meetings, where prayer is the main theme, disconcerting especially where some of the seeking is for unlikely miracles, which experience tells us is not the way God usually answers prayer, certainly in the immediate sense and my scepticism asks does this person truly believe this is likely? Are we trying to put God on the spot? I am sure this is never really in people’s minds but for me God’s answer is in supporting and helping us to cope with whatever comes our way. I have many good things to be thankful for in my life and have had, like most people, some hard times as well.  I see the hand of Heaven in some of it (though not always apparent at the time) but I accept it all as part of God’s plan for me. His answer is often through the works of others and it is good to remember that God works through us all. As Paul quotes in Corinthians-we are all God’s fellow workers.

We have three readings which I find particularly helpful. The first which runs on from the Beatitudes and Jesus’ teaching on a number of topics ends with the model prayer that he gave us all-the Lord’s Prayer.

The second reminds us not only that loving your neighbour includes your enemy but is also a useful reminder that prayer and being a child of God does not protect from the things of the world-or as it says the rain falls on the righteous as well as the unrighteous, something which may be especially reassuring in this part of the world!

And then we have the third-the well known passage about Jesus at Gethsemane before his arrest. Some passages in the New Testament seem at first sight to promise an invariable granting of our prayers but this cannot be what they fully mean for in the very heart of the Gethsemane story we meet a glaring instance to the contrary. There the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not. But, of course he goes on to pray ‘Not thy Will but Thine, oh Lord’!   This we really must remember.

I will sum up prayer for me. I converse with God on a frequent and undoubtedly inadequate way. I have faith that this is responded to by Him and sometimes I even pick up the message, if I am listening well enough. It sustains me through good times and bad. There is no doubt that in doing this there will be a greatly increased likelihood that I will travel my life in a way more pleasing to Him.

 

 

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Lenten Reflection and Prayer for March 18 (presented by Dr. Ronald Brown)

ENNISKILLEN METHODIST CHURCH DARLING STREET

 Opening Prayer.

Following Jesus

Gracious God, once more we meet together during this season of Lent.

 We come in the name of Jesus, remembering again those lonely and testing days he endured in the wilderness.

We come recalling how deliberately he spent time there alone, reflecting on who he was and what you wanted of him.

 We come reminded of the courage, the faith and the commitment he showed during that time – qualities that were to be shown in the rest of his ministry.

Gracious God, help us to use this time given to us.

 May we draw closer to you through it, understanding more of your nature and our own.

May it deepen our faith, strengthen our commitment, and confirm our sense of calling.

 May we learn what it means to follow Christ and what it means to serve you.

May we recognise more clearly the true cost of discipleship but equally the rewards.

 May we understand more fully why you have put us here, what you would have us do, who

 you would have us be, how you would have us live and where you would have us go.

Gracious God, prepare us through this time of worship, this day and this season, to understand and celebrate more fully all you have done for us in Christ Jesus.

 And so may we love you more dearly and serve you more faithfully, to the glory of your name.

Amen. 

 Hymn.   What a friend we have in Jesus.

 What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and grief to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Oh what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer.

 

Have we trials and temptations,

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged:

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful?

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness:

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

Are we weak and heavy laden?

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Saviour, still our refuge-

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

Do thy friends despise forsake you?

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In his arms he’ll take and shield thee,

Thou wilt find a solace there.

 Readings followed by a reflection and open discussion.

 

Prayer-what’s it all about?

 Matthew 6 vv 5-15.                The Lord’s Prayer.

 Matthew 5 vv 43-48.              Rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Matthew 26 vv 36-44.           Gethsemane.

Final Prayers.

 

Failure to listen.

Living God, We thank you for our world full of so many wonderful sounds-the sounds of children laughing, babies crying and people talking,

the sounds of birds singing or an orchestra playing,

the sound of wind blowing in the trees and waves crashing on the seashore,

the sound of everyday life in a busy street, and the sound of silence.

Lord of all,   teach us to listen.

 In all kinds of ways you speak to us, but so often we fail to listen to what you are saying.

We come to you in prayer, but we do not wait to hear your answer.

We give ear to a multitude of voices clamouring for attention,

but we do not hear the still small voice within.

Lord of all,    teach us to listen.

 Forgive us that we close our minds to what we do not want to hear,

or that we are sometimes too busy to hear,   or that we hear only with our ears and not with our souls.

Lord of all,   teach us to listen.

 Living God we thank you for speaking to us.

Teach us to listen, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.

Closing Prayer and Benediction

 

 

 

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Cancellation of Fermanagh Churches Forum Lenten Lunches

 Members and Friends of Fermanagh Churches Forum
 
In light of the increased  threat from Covid-19 a decision has been made to cancel the remaining Lenten Lunches. We do this regretfully as we will all miss this time of shared fellowship and worship. 
Our next  Lenten lunch was scheduled for Wed March 18 in the Methodist Church, Darling Street, Enniskillen led by Ronald Brown. He has kindly shared the reflection and prayers he prepared and they will be uploaded. The central focus is on prayer which is so important right now.
 
These unprecedented times make it necessary for all of us to follow guidance and take whatever mitigation measures we can, in order to look after ourselves and others.
We need also  to call up all our powers of resilience to remain positive and hopeful – no doubt this too will pass.
Meantime we will hold each other, our community and  all the world in prayer . 
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Lenten Lunches and Reflections 2020

FERMANAGH CHURCHES FORUM

FOOD AND FAITH

LENTEN LUNCHES AND REFLECTIONS 2020

On Wednesday 11th March from 1230 to 1.45 pm we will (DV) be holding the first of this year’s Lenten Lunches.

As in previous years, we will share a simple lunch, provided by the host church community, followed by Scripture readings, reflection and prayer. Devotions normally commence about 1.10pm.

There is no charge for lunch but a collection will be taken for Christian Aid and Trócaire.

Further Lenten Lunches will be held as follows, all on Wednesdays from around 1230 to 1.45 pm.

11th March:  St Michael’s Parish Centre, next to St Michael’s Church.

18th March:  McArthur Hall, Assembly Room, Darling Street Methodist Church.

25th March:  The Bridge Centre at the Scots’ Presbyterian Church.

1st April:                St Macartin’s Cathedral Hall.

We look forward to welcoming you all.

 

 

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Enniskillen Inter-Schools Conference

Enniskillen Inter-Schools Conference

 0n Thursday Feb 13th more than 70 students from post-primary schools in Enniskillen and their sixth form teachers attended a very successful event which included a viewing of the film ‘The Quiet Shuffling of Feet’ and a follow-up workshop.

The event was hosted by Fermanagh Churches Forum and members of the Churches Forum participated. It was supported by the Good Relations Department of Fermanagh and Omagh Council.

The 55-minute documentary film ‘The Quiet Shuffling of Feet’ produced and directed by Fergus Cooper, addresses the issue of trauma through the eyes of David Bolton who has worked with the victims of trauma both here and internationally. He published a study on trauma titled ‘Conflict, Peace and Mental Health’ in 2017.

In the workshop participants had an opportunity to explore and share reactions to the film and discuss what they saw as its key messages. In the follow-up question and answer session, chaired by Noelle McAlinden, young people had an opportunity to pose questions to Fergus and David and hear further about their experience both in the making of the film, and in dealing with its subject matter.

Among the issues highlighted by young people were the challenges of living in a post conflict society, the importance of investment in Mental Health and Well-being and the significance of the opportunity which allowed pupils from different traditions to come together to discuss the sensitive subject-matter of the film.

Karen Whaley Psychotherapist from The Aisling Centre also attended and highlighted some of the services, courses and support available locally.

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Enniskillen Christian Unity Week Service Thursday 23rd Jan in Presbyterian Church Enniskillen at 8pm

 Enniskillen Christian Unity Week Service 2020

Traditionally the week of prayer for Christian unity is celebrated between 18-25 January, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul. Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (see John 17.21)

Each year the Enniskillen Christian Unity Week Service is organised by Fermanagh Churches Forum and rotates around the 4 larger Churches in the town. This year the Service will take place in Enniskillen Presbyterian church at 8pm on Thursday January 23rd. 
Resources for this Service were prepared by Churches in Malta and the theme  is ‘Unusual Kindness.’ 
 Malta  at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, halfway between the southern tip of Sicily and Northern Africa lies at the crossroads of civilizations, cultures and religions. The history of Christianity in this small island nation dates back to the time of the apostles. According to tradition, St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, reached the shores of Malta in the year 60CE. The narrative describing this eventful and providential episode is conveyed to us in the final two chapters of the Acts of the Apostles which describe the ship wreck and the ‘unusual kindness’ with which St. Paul and his friends were received.
 We are reminded  that in the most difficult situations, inhospitable places and even in the most inhospitable people, there we can find  something of God’s grace and some source of hope.
We are invited in this year’s Week Of Prayer for Christian Unity materials to see God working through people and places which offer unusual kindness -  if only we would do the appropriate kind of looking.
 
The address will be given by Rev Gunther Andrich from South Africa who is now minister of Irvinestown, Pettigo and Tempo Presbyterian Churches.
As always, the service is open to everyone, and a warm welcome is offered to all.
Tea and coffee will be served afterwards giving us a chance to meet and talk with old and new friends.

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Fermanagh Churches Forum AGM will be held in the  Bridge Centre (Presbyterian Church Hall) Thursday  Nov 14th at 7.30pm. 

We are very pleased to welcome as our guest speaker Rev David Cupples who has ministered in Enniskillen for more than thirty years. The title of his talk will be ‘Making Time and Space for God’ a reflection on his personal experience of the famous 670 miles Camino de Santiago de Compostela walk. Rev Cupples has written a book of spiritual reflections and devotion titled ‘Peregino’ based on his thoughts and reflections while on the two month walk.

 

Refreshments will be served, entrance is free, and all, including new and potential members, are very welcome. The Fermanagh Churches Forum, which was founded in 2002, is a group of Christian believers in the Fermanagh area who seek to promote reconciliation in the community and among the churches

 

 

 

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FCF autumn programme

As summer draws to an end we turn our attention again to the autumn FCF programme. We begin on Wed September 18th with our annual Good Relations Week conference.

ENNISKILLEN CONFERENCE

 Date: Wed  18 Sept

 Theme:  Making Change For Peace : 100 Years of Democracy in Ireland?

Venue: Killyhevlin Hotel Enniskillen

Time: 10am – 4pm

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Johnston McMaster

One  hundred years ago Ireland, north and south, began their journeys in democracy. In 1919 the Dail or Assembly was formed in Dublin, and in 1921 the Northern Ireland Parliament was opened in Belfast. How has democracy fared in a century? Did violence maim democracy from the start? Has continued violence, constitutional contestedness and a pervasive culture of sectarianism hindered democracy in Northern Ireland? Today there is a democratic recession in many parts of the world, including the Atlantic-West. Will democracy survive here and in the wider world? Then again, maybe there is a better form of governance and organising society to be created. At the moment democracy is the best we have. If peace and democracy are two sides of the coin, how can we make change for peace, build on the Good Friday Agreement of 1998? This conference will explore how we can do that by critically looking at how we can shape a democracy that is inclusive, participatory, deliberative, compassionate and committed to the creation of the common good. That may mean doing politics and civil society very differently. So let’s make democracy truly democratic!

For catering purposes it is necessary to register for the conference . You can do so by email:eccgallagher@yahoo.co.uk

Autumn Seminars

Venue: The Bridge Centre Enniskillen

Time: 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Introduction

Over the last number of years we have marked significant events that shaped Ireland to the present. To date centenaries have been peaceful, mature, balanced and complex. Over the next four years we mark two of the most significant and sensitive events in our shared history, the partition of Ireland and the Irish Civil War. The latter has left bitter legacies with families still divided. Northern Ireland remains a contested and divided society and Brexit has raised old and new issues which will dominate our lives for the next decade and more. Politics have already changed in these islands. How will we mark partition and the civil war? Can we bring an ethical remembering to the events and engage in civil conversations, which means respectfully and honestly and with an hospitable generosity to our contested narratives? This course will explore what led to partition and the civil war, taking time to look at a bigger picture shaped by the Paris Peace Conference 1919, it’s failures and legacies that still threaten world peace, not least in the Middle East. After exploring the events of 1919-1923 and how we might mark the centenaries, we will try to break a great silence, the reluctance to speak of partition, and ask, have we a future? What is it and what might it look like?

 

 

Wed  2 Oct   The Road To Partition : Centuries Of Gestation

 

Wed   9 Oct   The Big Picture : The Legacies Of The Paris Peace Conference 1919

 

Wed  16 Oct   The Birth Of Confessional States In Ireland

 

Wed  23 Oct   A Bitter Freedom : The Treaty And The Civil War

 

Wed  30 Oct   Partition Is The Elephant In The Room : But Have We A Future?

 

We look forward to seeing many of you at these events.

It is not necessary to register for the seminars

 

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FCF Lenten lunches 2019

 As in previous years Fermanagh Churches Forum are organizing a series of Lenten Lunches.

We will share a simple lunch, provided by the church community, followed by Scripture reflection and prayer. There is no entrance charge but a collection will be taken for Christian Aid and Trócaire. Lenten lunches will be held in Enniskillen as follows, all on Wednesdays from 12.30 to 2pm:

 Wed March 13th . McArthur Hall, Enniskillen Methodist Church (Wesley Street entrance)

Wed March 20th St. Michael’s Parish Centre, next to St. Michael’s Catholic Church  

 Wed March 27th Bridge Centre at the Presbyterian Church 

 Wed April 3rd  St.Macartin’s Cathedral Hall  

We look forward to seeing you at these events.

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FCF AGM November 14 in the Bridge Centre Enniskillen at 8pm

 

We are very pleased to welcome as our guest speaker Rev. Dr. Harold Good. The title of his talk will be ‘Healing the Hurt – what has faith to offer?’ Rev Good will reflect on the distinctive contribution Churches can make to healing the legacy of hurt in our community.

As many of you will know Rev Good is an eminent Irish Methodist who in the first decade of the 21st century played a vital role in the Northern Ireland peace process

He served as a minister in Shankhill, Belfast and also at Crumlin Road prison. From 1973 to 1979 he was director of the Corrymeela Community Centre for Reconciliation. In 2001 he was appointed president of the Methodist Church in Ireland. In 2005 he was one of two independent witnesses, the other being Father Alec Reid, who oversaw the decommissioning of arms, a vital part of the peace process. In 2007 he was awarded the World Methodist Peace Award.

We are very pleased it is possible for Rev Good to be with us on this occasion.

 

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