Irish Council of Churches. Irish Inter-Church Meeting

Cork Ecumenical Bible Week 2019

Anne Francis





The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,’ (Ps 24)

Cork Ecumenical Bible Week is a week of discovery, conversation and encounter around the Word of God for the people of Cork. Now in its second year it took the theme of ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,’ (Ps 24) to explore the theme of ecology and care for creation in the Bible. 

Rev Geraldine Gracie from Cork Methodist Church had been sharing her dream of an ecumenical bible week with colleagues for some time, before a ‘let’s do it,’ moment in 2017 brought about the first Week in 2018. It made sense to gather around the gift of scripture which we hold dear and in common. A working group from the Church of Ireland, Catholic and Methodist communities generated ‘Word Alive–’ a series of Bible talks and studies hosted in different churches and coming together for a keynote on the final night. There was certainly a demand for more! An expanded committee brought about the second Week, May 21st–26, 2019, with different hosts and speakers and diverse participants.

The theme of ecology could not have been more relevant, withthe adoption of climate justice affirmations by the Irish Inter–Church Committee in April; Ireland declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency on May 10th and climate strikes happening all over the world on May 24th.  The Eco–Congregation Ireland climate justice candle was lit at each event which was a reminder that climate justice is an urgent concern for Christians everywhere. 

Tuesday 21st May saw Rev Elaine Murray of Carrigaline visit Monkstown. She brought practical passion from an Eco–congregation perspective and offered ideas such as wild–flower planting and refusing to take packaging when shopping. In a popular suggestion she proposed doing something concrete every day in Lent: no plastic bottles, no packaging, no driving etc. She reminded us that environmental protection is the responsibility of everyone and not just those from a particular religious persuasion. This could open up dialogue and shared action between Christians and those of other faiths or none.

On Wednesday, Dominican Fr Ben Hegarty travelled to Glanmire and proposed that we are not stewards but partners in creation. He criticised human arrogance towards creation and took us on a wide sweep of salvation history (with plenty of notes to take home and ponder) to reconfigure the human–planet relationship.

UCC’s Dr Richard Scriven came to St Michael’s in Blackrock on Thursday to speak about ‘Exiles and Strangers.’ He focussed on pilgrimage and the experience of walking to get in touch with ourselves and creation. We were challenged to hear him compare our personal choices to the non–choices of ‘exiles,’ – refugees who are forced to walk away from their homes and countries, often never to return.  

Our keynote speaker, Dr Jessie Rogers from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, led us in prayerful reflection on Psalms 104 and 24, and stirred us to respond to the incentive to eco–justice present in the Psalms. Here we were reminded that not only the content of the Bible but the experience of reading and engaging with scripture in the context of our world brings about change and transformation, and new understandings of what it means to be followers of Christ. 

Good ecumenism is always an exploration in friendship and this series of events brought people together with welcome and hospitality as well as scholarship and faith. There was a quality of listening and sharing which led to deep engagement with the Word and with each other. The varied church perspectives added richness to the mix of life experience, insight and good humour. The tea, as always, sealed the deal. We will see one another again next year. 

Report compiled by Anne Francis with the Cork Ecumenical Bible Week committee.