Church marks Covenant year

THE Church of Ireland has approved an official liturgy for services this year to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant.

The order of service has been sent to all Anglican clergy in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and includes suggested readings and hymns to mark the historic document.

A letter to clergy from the church’s two archbishops, the Rt Rev Alan Harper and the Rt Rev Michael Jackson, suggests that the liturgy could be adapted for services to mark nine other centenaries in coming years, including those of the Easter Rising, Somme Offensive and The War of Independence and notes that the church was “profoundly affected by the events of 1912-1922”.

The archbishops’ letter says: “As a church we can contribute to marking these occasions in a manner that enhances understanding and helps build a shared future.”

The liturgy, which was authorised by the House of Bishops this month, includes an introduction which says: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, at this time, one hundred years ago, half-a-million men and women signed a solemn declaration, a covenant rejecting the transfer of political power from Westminster to Dublin.

“Today we gather to recall a time of unprecedented change for the people of Ulster, of Ireland, of the United Kingdom and of Europe.

“In 1912 the prospects for social, political and economic catastrophe were evident, Europe eventually spiralling into a war of such costliness in terms of lost human life. National wealth and pride were such that these islands, in common with the rest of Europe, experienced a number of years of instability and transformation.

“Within Ireland, and especially in the Province of Ulster, the issue had its specific outcome in the work of establishing where political power should lie.

“This issue has continued to make significant demands on the society in this place; on the life and work of this city/town/parish, and so today, and in the coming years that chart the anniversaries of important milestones on the journey, we meet to mark in prayer, the points of both change and stability that form parts of this island’s story.

“We do this in thanksgiving before God for those who have gone before us; in gratitude for the life we now possess, in all its opportunities, in sorrow for the times when we have failed to imitate Christ as we should, mindful of those whose lives have been lost or blighted by physical violence or inner unrest of the soul and spirit, brought to the fore by conflict.”

The liturgy suggests that the “lighting of a candle of hope by representatives across the community may be appropriate”.