A quick trip to Dublin to preach in St Patrick’s Cathedral – the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland – in the centre of the city. The Service marked the start of the Academic Year for Church of Ireland Schools across Ireland.
I thought I was going to preach an elegant sermon on faith and identity for staff and governors who were having a Day Conference on that theme. But I gradually came to realise that the ‘main business’ was that they had 450 teenagers in the Cathedral – with President Michael D Higgins. So no sermon on the blog because it changed quite a bit.
Dublin was looking smart and prosperous. It was interesting to find out how the Irish Government’s efforts to move to a more secular base for the education system were going – to which the answer is that that is an issue with some distance to run,
This kind of outing is full of ghosts for me. As I climbed into the pulpit – and it was quite a climb – I thought about my maternal grandfather, Ernest Bateman, who was a Canon of the Cathedral. There are 11 boxes of his sermons in the Church of Ireland Library. They cover the experience of the Southern Irish Protestants post-Partition and through the Independence of the Irish Republic. What goes around comes around, as it were.
I don’t imagine any of the teenagers in the Cathedral spared a thought for the innocent formulation in Evensong, ‘O Lord, guide and defend our rulers’. Behind that lies what was called the State Prayers controversy in which my grandfather and others ‘encouraged’ the Church of Ireland to recognise that they could no longer pray for the British monarchy. It was resolved by Archbishop Gregg who said simply, ‘We must have reality in our prayers.’
And so just as quickly back again – apart from the experience of a ‘go-around’ as we landed at Edinburgh Airport, a first for me. Ten feet off the ground and the straight up again. Turbulence – do you know about wind shear close to the ground?