2009 unity week
Bishop of Clogher's Sermons for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Focus on
Opportunities for Change in Uncertain Times

The Rt Revd Dr Michael Jackson is to preach at services in two cathedrals to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: at St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh tonight (21st January) at 7.30pm and tomorrow (22nd January) at St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Belfast at 8.00pm. Drawing on Ezekiel ch.37 v.9, Bishop Jackson will say that the contemporary
ecumenical movement needs urgently to make a number of paradigm shifts. He will say that in Northern Ireland we need to become more community focused; must demand more creativity from our politicians; and use the current secular climate to examine and represent the strengths of the Christian faith.

Bishop Jackson is to say, 'Empowered by the refinements of theological argument and given voice by virtually every Christian leader of substance, lived out by millions of faithful and hopeful believers world-wide' people of faith across denominations need 'to move from apathy to activity, from mind to matter and from faith to inter-faith.'

On the theme of moving from apathy to activity, he will say, 'Like Ezekiel, but from the bones of a different battlefield, that of contemporary consumerism, a philosophy lying now in ruins, we need to return to active life in a way which is going to be in many ways simpler, but which will, Ihope, be more direct and more community-based.'

Expanding on 'mind to matter', he will comment, 'We expect too little of our politicians in terms of matter over mind. Northern Ireland requires creative, collaborative political life, urgently: in education, in healthcare provision, in infrastructure and in the rehabilitation and reintegration with one another of those who locally have been and remain divided.'

Finally, on faith to inter-faith, Bishop Jackson will express the need for 'understanding of and respect for one's own tradition as a building block of sharing that tradition with those who do not live by it'. He will say, 'Respect is grounded in the confidence which comes from knowing one's own tradition, blemishes and all, and listening to, and then acting with, those of another faith tradition. A golden rule of such engagement is that you do not look for the worst in the other while presenting the best of yourself.'

He is to conclude, 'Eleven years into The Peace, Northern Ireland is a physical, human body which hurts and it hurts particularly because - rather peculiarly in contemporary Europe, I suggest - we are religiously sensitive. Of course, secularism is alive and well in our society every bit as much as it is elsewhere and many of us are beneficiaries of it. Too easily have we accustomed ourselves to a negative reading and understanding of the secular. But the secular also lets the daylight in on our practice of religion. And in this daylight we need to let ourselves be opened to the rush of the Spirit of God. Restoration is such that as Ezekiel moves from despair to hope, he sees the potential glistening within those dry bones - and they become living people. From defeat to potential to activity: this is the progression through which the Lord leads the prophet.And it can be ours too.'

* The full transcript of Bishop Jackson's sermons are available on

Date: 21 Jan 09