(wrote this for my weekly pastoral email and thought some of you might like a read)
It was a musical and spiritual revelation to be at the Celtic Passion in Clonard Monastry when we were led through Good Friday and Easter Sunday with 12 hymns led by the world famous Irish Traditional band The McPeakes. Concocted by John Kelly and Clonard’s own Fr. Clem this was a poignant and profound night that at many times reached a searing beauty of music that I honestly don’t think I have ever experienced. The idea was to use the two hymnal traditions of Protestant and Catholic traditions to lead us through the Easter weekend. It was a potent revelation of how the objective words of our Christian story and theology could be made subjective in order to come alive and stir up our emotions and cut deep to the soul. Clem’s voice was remarkable and one of my criticisms was that we didn’t hear it enough. I was also struck by the beauty of the Irish language in song. Fitzroy member Philip Mateer did his Mark’s Gospel recital (he does the whole Gospel) of the cross and resurrection with the soundtrack of pipes and whistles giving the Scriptures drama and mood. There was an instrumental suite that led us from the hymns Friday to Sunday and when the music switched from dirge to celebration I have to say that I was so moved by it that I whispered, “Lord, may this last forever.” By the time we got to Amazing Grace I was thinking that this is our music, whether you are Protestant or Catholic, if you are Irish then what these McPeakes were playing is our groove, our muse, our soul. I even joked with myself that if an African American from Memphis was in the congregation that they would have been saying, “Darn tootin’ I wish I was white” because the spirit and the confident belief of the song was to Belfast what those negro spirituals are to the southern States of America. My only regret on the night was not forcing more people to come but hopefully this might become an annual event or we can pay the £70 plus when it tours the world and comes to the Waterfront Hall!