I know Presbyterian ministers shouldn’t be suggesting that we put up Confessional booths all over the country but hey… bear with me.
Around 10 years ago I read a book by American writer Donald Miller called Blue Like Jazz. In the book Miller wrote about something that the Christians had done as an act of mission in a University during one of the party seasons on campus. They set up Confessional booths.
However, those who were brave enough to enter the Confessionals were in for something quite subversive. As they took their seat, perhaps all ready with their confession, the Christian on the other side of the shutter started confessing the sins of the Christians on Campus and asking for forgiveness. How brilliant!
Maybe the Church should do it here in Northern Ireland. You walk in to a booth on Royal Avenue and a church leader confesses the mistakes and failures that the Church has made over say the last 100 years.
Perhaps political parties should use it as an electoral campaign too! When they come to your door electioneering they start by saying sorry.
If we listen to each other on our radios, televisions, podiums and pulpits we do come across as a tad arrogant and over eager to point the finger of blame at others rather than ourselves.
The Bible is clear from beginning to end that we ALL have made mistakes and done wrong. Indeed the apostle John wrote that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
There is a wonderful project happening just now called 100 days Prayer For 100 Years history. Basically Christians and churches are praying these next 100 days leading up to Pentecost Sunday in May. There are three themes - healing of the past, honouring one another in the present and bringing hope for the future.
I wonder if the best way to bring healing, honour and hope would be to start with humility and honest confession.
Let each one of us admit our complicity in our divided and often violent history. Let all of us, like those University students, set up a Confessional Booth, real or imaginary. But most of all, please let us confess.