It is a lovely moment that I love to retell. A couple
of young Catholic boys are in Belfast for the weekend, to test out the city for coming up to University. By Sunday night these two boys had got themselves freaked by the drunken hedonism of it all. They decided on the way back to their digs to find a Church for a moments respite. With no Catholic Churches in the area they rang the side door bell of my Church, Fitzroy Presbyterian. Church was long over and only the Youth Group were left. Our Youth Director Chris answers the door and when he quickly diagnosis their plight he asks them to
take a seat. That evening the speakers at the Youth Event happened to include Fr. Gerry Reynolds who was speaking with my predecessor Rev Dr Ken Newell about their reconciliation work in the 80s and 90s and so before these Catholic boys could blink a Catholic Priest had come down a Presbyterian corridor to pray with them! You couldn’t make it up and I am convinced that it would took a lot of convincing back in South Armagh – “Honest Ma, I swear on the Holy Rosary, we
knocked the door of a Presbyterian Church and a priest fell out of a cupboard and prayed with us.” “Ach son, you told me you wouldn’t be drinkin’.”
For me this is real reconciliation work. This is mind changing stuff. It is not the contrived joint service or mutual understanding programme. It is a natural messing with the heads of our stereotypes and deeply engrained sectarianism. It is only out of deeply worn friendships, like Ken and Gerry’s, that such a sense of normality can begin to re-groove the relationships of a divided society. It is as Fr. Martin Magill becomes an everyday part of our evening events and as I spend more time up around St. Oliver Plunkett's in Lenadoon walking around with him, or with my friend Ed Peterson just off the Falls Road, that our country sees a different way to live; not a different way to contrive situations but a different way to live.