Page 17 - Church Review JUNE 2020 [IM)
P. 17

 NEWS
CHURCHES IN DUBLIN
AND FINLAND COMPARE
MRESPONSES TO COVID-19
embers of faith communities in Dublin and Finland gathered
online on Friday morning May 15) for a webinar on how they are dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. The webinar was hosted by Dublin City Interfaith Forum and the Anglican Church in Finland and the panel discussion was chaired by Archbishop Michael Jackson.
Opening the discussion, Archbishop Jackson recalled the days running up to lockdown in Ireland. “The idea of gathering for worship, all that changed immediately. So we had a move from the tangible to the virtual and I hope we didn’t lose the symbolical,” he said. The Archbishop suggested that the lockdown had been a tremendously theological time in which to live. “There has been an opportunity to dig deep into the core of our faith. Digging together we can find values that we have in common,” he said. He added that there had also been bereavement and trauma, domestic abuse, the impact of de-socialisation on children and the virtual disintegration of the economy.
The Revd Katri Kuusikallio executive director of the National Forum for Cooperation of Religions, Finland, said their first reaction to the crisis was to strengthen their communications, both internal and external. She explained that the Finnish government had strong trust in the country’s religious leaders and asked her organisation to share information. The togetherness of church leaders over the years paid off as they were able to make common statements. “This exceptional time has really shown the power of interfaith dialogue and cooperation. We can see our commonality,” she commented.
Chairperson of Dublin City Interfaith Forum, Hilary Abrahamson, said DCIF acted swiftly and issued a statement promoting unity and speaking with one voice. Hilary, who is a member of the Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation, reported that Synagogues closed on March 5 and although people were shocked, it was important to adhere to the government guidelines. “From the Jewish perspective, we have a small community. We have had most of our services online although the Orthodox cannot have services online on Shabbat. Our funerals are vastly curtailed... For older people, it has been wonderful that they can attend events online,” she explained.
Fr Alan Hilliard of TU (Technical University) Dublin’s Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy Service, said it was a very strange time to be a university chaplain. In conjunction with a number of students he came up with six types of pain produced by the pandemic: the pain of isolation, the pain of disconnection, the pain of pain and suffering, the pain of anarchy, the
pain of death and the pain of diminishment. “In ministry you have to start with what is going on. It is at the heart of our faith to listen to God and name our pain before we respond. When we look at these six pains we begin to see how to work in this situation,” he said.
In the case of isolation he suggested that we can let our spaces be empty and fill them with rituals of care. We are disconnected but as Christians we can remind ourselves that we will be connected again. The anarchy, he said, is of those who don’t care about others and who feel their rights are more important that the rites of the community.
The Revd Eeva–Kaisa Heikura, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland, outlined what her Church had done. She said normally Pastors would visit hospitals but now they offered support by phone. They now gathered for church digitally and she forecast that there would be increase in online worship in the future. She said every parish was working to find people who were at risk of being ignored and many parishioners were volunteering in foodbanks. “Pastors are being innovative and active in supporting those in quarantine and streaming worship online on websites and social media channels. This is something I am very proud of... The power of social media and traditional media is strong and our job as communicators is to communicate faith, hope and love,” she commented. She said there were challenges in getting the message of faith communities across in a complicated media world.
The Revd Tuomas Mäkipää of Anglican Church in Finland, which is part of the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, outlined the response of his Church to the pandemic. While the number of Anglicans in Finland is small he said they benefited from being part of the larger Diocese in Europe and learned from the experiences of southern Europe. They cancelled church gatherings before the Finnish government advised it and they are now starting to look into the new normal based on the experience of the south of the diocese. He said the main duty for them was to give pastoral support and disseminate information. Many members of the Anglican Church in Finland were not Finnish speakers and therefore the Church played an important role. He spoke of the global nature of churches in recognising all people. “Can we and should we recognise the variety of people in our society? Here religious communities have a role to play in that we are global communities. In the online world we are not speaking to our own nations but to the global audience,” he explained.
Archbishop Jackson spoke of a new theology which might emerge in a post pandemic world. This could be a theology of compassion and hope. It could speak to people hitting a brick wall of trauma, to people who have not expressed their grief, to the six pains outlined by Fr Hilliard. It could address those who prefer to engage in worship online rather than engage with people, those who like to worship at home and pick and choose their parish. He hoped that a theology beyond the coronavirus could be written by participants in Dublin and Helsinki.
 Dublin’s Faith Leaders
Unite in Interfaith
Prayer Service
Faith leaders who are represented by Dublin City Interfaith Forum joined people of faith from around the world to pray that humanity overcome the coronavirus on Thursday May 14. As part of a global initiative at the invitation of Pope Francis, Dublin City Interfaith Forum live streamed an Interfaith Prayer Service on their Facebook page.
All seven faiths involved in DCIF – Bahá’í, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism – took part. These included both the Church of Ireland and the Catholic Archbishops of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson and Dr Diarmuid Martin as well as Dr Ali Al Saleh of Milltown Mosque, Pastor Stephan Arras of the Lutheran Church, Zen Buddhist Rev Hodo, Kieran Coghlan PP in Castleknock, Alison Wortley of the Bahá’í community, Swami Purnananda Puri of the Hindu community, Hilary
Abrahamson of the Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation and chairperson of DCIF, Sheikh Ahmed Halawa of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dr Jasbir Singh Puri of the Sikh community and Rabbi Zalman Lent of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation. They were facilitated by DCIF executive officer, Adrian Cristea.
Speaking about the service, Archbishop Jackson said: “The global pandemic which has been named coronavirus COVID 19 remains with us. It retains its devastating capacity to destroy individual lives and therefore to shatter families and communities. It respects no distinctions of race, gender or Faith.”
He continued: “The initiative of the Dublin Inter Faith Forum took up an invitation extended by Pope Francis to people of faith everywhere to offer a reading and a prayer each from within her/his tradition in this time of human crisis. The hope is that peaceful offering will build shared solidarity based on common humanity.
“Those of us who have been invited to participate in this initiative in Dublin are honoured to be asked to do so. In our participation, we ask
people across Ireland to set aside divisions and prejudices and to pray for one another and for people everywhere offering hope in the midst of fear. Please pray and please stay at home and please remain safe.”
The Archbishop took as his text 1 Corinthians 13.13: “There are three things that last for ever: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
“Faith in ourselves is very important at a time when we are fearful, when we are sick and when we are alone. Hope in a way through to the other side of the situation that surrounds us, hope in a vaccine most of all, is something that binds us all together. Love of our neighbour, near or far from us, gives expression to the ways in which our faith, our belief connect with our empathy and our longing to care for others with great and lasting kindness. While people have genuinely done wonderful things in this time, nobody would have wished this time to come upon us. People of faith have the opportunity to connect their own Faith with a humanity of need and a humanity of response,” he said.
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