Bridie Stringer

This article explores some surprising gateways to the Divine. These can provide opportunities for both evangelisation and healing. Bridie Stringer is a visiting lecturer in Pastoral Theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

I was intrigued by a recent news item from the Northern Irish city where I was born (Derry/Londonderry/Doire). This city is, of course, frequently associated with political turmoil and violence and, more recently, reconciliation and profound soul-searching about historical narratives, political solutions and religious discourse. The news item related to a wooden sculpture called The Temple created by American sculptor David Best. The idea behind the sculpture was to ‘inspire reflection, contemplation and honouring’1 and in the period from its completion to its consumption by fire, the Temple was a place where people gathered to reflect, remember and to place messages for those who were no longer alive. One religious minister criticised the concept as a pagan practice, leaving people open to the influence of the occult and Satan2 and took the view that it was not the way to God. He said that ‘the idea that flames would bring healing or restoration is not an idea found in the Bible’.

I have no desire to weigh in heavily with a counter argument about the validity of this religious viewpoint but instead to reflect on the burning of the Temple artifact as an example of how we appropriate ritual and symbol to authenticate our profound experiences and express our unspoken aspirations.

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May/June 2015

Bernard Howell

The Church as mother is an old idea, and maternal love – as embodied by Monica for her son Augustine – is a sign of God’s presence in the world. Bernard Howell is lay chaplain and counsellor at St Thomas More School in Walsall.

In 1857 John Henry Newman sent a bound set of his recent sermons to the Rev Henry Manning, later to be Cardinal Manning, which he prefaced with a note asking that they be accepted as a gift to celebrate the opening of a new Church and Mission at Bayswater in that same year.

The first of the sermons in the set had been preached at the University Church, Dublin in 1856, yet even today its content could be regarded as both topical, appropriate and, to some even, radical in its message.

The sermon, preached on the feast of St Monica, the Sunday after the Ascension, bore the title Intellect, the Instrument of Religious Training. However, this title gives little hint of the unexpected gems, in terms of challenge and imagery that it

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May/June 2015

Claire Fernandes

Claire Fernandes continues her series of class acts of worship, drawing on her experience as a visiting lecturer in Primary Religious Education at St Mary’s University, Twickenham and as a children’s catechist in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Resources and set up
Lay a red cloth on the prayer table. Place nine night-lights on the cloth in an arc with nine small red cards in front of them (one card in front of each candle). The nine cards should each have a fruit of the spirit written on them. The children will need a small card with their name written on it for later. Have a picture of the Pentecost scene available either for the prayer table or on interactive whiteboard (IWB). You will also need matches and a taper.

Teacher’s introduction
Pentecost is a wonderful feast to celebrate with children in primary school. It celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, the birthday of the Church and can be used to introduce the children to the third person of the Trinity,

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May/June 2015

Rodney Schofield

Pope Francis has called for interfaith dialogue with Muslims. This article looks at the central religious text of Islam, claimed to be handed down by direct revelation and crucial to the faith of Muslims. Rodney Schofield is a priest of Plymouth Diocese.

First impressions
Anyone unfamiliar with sacred writings other than the Bible is likely to experience a certain culture shock on opening the pages of the Qur’an. Whereas the Bible is a library of diverse texts that emerged over a long period of history, written – and partially reworked – in a variety of genres, and eventually ‘canonised’ after long debate, the Qur’an is composed of 114 suras revealed to one prophet alone over two decades in the early 7th century. With roughly 6000 verses it is about one-fifth of the length of the Bible. Although the suras differ in length, many of them offer impassioned variations on much the same theme, often using similar illustrations and arguments e.g. the experiences of earlier prophets such as Moses.
Thomas Carlyle perhaps speaks for many non-Muslims who have sat down with the Qur’an:

I must say, it is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook.1

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May/June 2015

John Mulligan

Here the author reflects on the pastoral impact of Evangelii Gaudium. Has this document made any real difference to our perception of parish or are we just too entrenched to change? John Mulligan is a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark.

The pastoral and practical invitation articulated by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium is an extraordinary challenge to the present parish system. The challenge comes straight to the door of those who exercise responsibility for parish life and leadership. We may not fully appreciate the implications involved because we have all grown accustomed to an inherited model of parish, tried and tested, revered by some people and deserted by others, but desperately in need of renewal.

Parishes and schools share the same strategic mission of educating people for multiple aspects of life. Parishes however, have no officially established method that would hold the parish leadership to account or indeed keep dedicated and experienced practitioners at the cutting edge of pastoral life.

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May/June 2015

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