St. Macartin's Cathedral
Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
The Church of Ireland - part of the Anglican Communion
(last updated 30th June 2013)

Yes, it's true - the Group of Eight (G8), a forum for the governments of the world's eight wealthiest countries, met in Fermanagh on the 17th and 18th June. All of these VIPs were in attendance! 

The Pre-G8
Summit Weekend
The previous day, Sunday 16th, was a special one for us. It started with the broadcasting from St. Macartin's Cathedral of Morning Service on BBC Radio 4. The preacher was our Bishop, the Right Reverend John McDowell, whose excellent sermon is reproduced here:

I can hardly begin to imagine the amount of work which the members of the G8 countries have had to do to prepare for their meetings here in County Fermanagh over the next few days.  I know that those preparations have been going on for a long time; probably since the end of last time that the G8 met.

There will have been hundreds of people involved- politicians, advisors, experts in every field of knowledge imaginable. They will have had to read many articles and policy documents and learned papers to prepare for the work they have to do in so short a time. 

I wonder (and this is simply idle speculation) did any of them, by any chance, prepare by looking up the Revised Common Lectionary, and perusing the Bible readings as they are set out for this morning; passages which will be read in thousands of Churches around the world today?

Probably not, I suppose.  And I can quite understand why.  They already had quite enough stuff to read without bothering with interesting but rather exotic and remote material like the First Book of Kings or the Gospel of St. Luke.

After all what could the story of a Near Eastern, Iron Age king have to say to the era of the knowledge economy?  Or what has a poignant story about a Jewish Messiah and an emotional woman to do with development economics?

“And Ahab said to Naboth- Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house. I will give you a better garden for it...or I will give you its value in money.  But Naboth said to Ahab, the Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance”.

Naboth’s Vineyard is a story about greed, but a particular sort of greed. It is about greed which sincerely believes itself to be benevolence.  And we are all prone to it; but the rich and the powerful are more prone to it than most. 

When I say the rich and the powerful I mean you and me, and, of course those who make decisions on our behalf.  But we can’t pass the buck onto them, because in a democracy every person is a politician in some sense.

It mightn’t be a bad idea if rich countries who have a genuine desire to help developing countries added the Naboth test into the economic algorithms which no doubt have to be made when aid or investment is being contemplated. 

The Naboth test would require a healthy amount of self suspicion about our own motives.  It might involve questions like- Who is really benefiting in the long term from this transaction, and, are there any hidden motives that I am conveniently ignoring?

The Naboth test might also take into account some factors that have greater value than money; in fact may be something that money can’t buy.  Something like the self respect of the receiving country and its real long term interests. 

Naboth knew something that we in the West have forgotten (although it was pretty clearly articulated by a prophetic Irishman-Edmund Burke- nearly three hundred years ago).  It is that any society can only thrive in the long term when it remembers it is based on a sacred contract between the dead, the living and the unborn.

“The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance”.  No country  (whether one that gives aid or one that receives aid)  has the right to barter with the riches it has received from a previous generation in whatever form, without first guaranteeing that an even better result can be handed on to another generation.

Today in most western countries there is a large group of people who are not quite the unborn generations but who have every possibility of becoming the forgotten dead without having the opportunity to become the fully living; the young unemployed.

The levels of youth unemployment in wealthy countries is not only an economic problem, it is also a moral tragedy.  Useful work is a God-given means to develop both the good of society and the capacity of the individual.  Not to have useful paid work to do is to be deprived of one of the means of developing great virtues. 

It is through the world of work that most of us learn the habits of regularity, team working, application, balanced judgement, reliability and toleration. For millions of young people to be deprived of the opportunity to acquire and deepen these virtues, which are as necessary for economic development as much as personal well being, is to store up enormous personal and societal problems for decades to come.

The pace of economic recovery has been slow but there are glimpses that may be changing.  Perhaps if some measures to cater for this generation can now be made, they will avoid spending the most creative and productive years of their lives in a sterile no man’s land of economic inactivity.

It is hardly a coincidence that Jesus had his character formed through the normal routines of working life in preparation for his ministry.  Work must have formed his character, and he was fully alive to the moral possibilities and the moral dangers of the ordinary commercial world.  

And Jesus said “Simon, I have something to teach you….A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty”.

Perhaps the most important thing to say about the nameless woman who anointed his feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee, is that her generosity greatly moved Jesus.

No doubt there is such a thing as extravagant waste and there is no doubt a right time to keep every penny a prisoner. But there are also times in the lives of every man or woman living, and in the lives of nations too, when our true character shines out in acts of almost reckless generosity.  Un-repayable debt demoralises people and crushes hope, and eventually destroys whole societies. Generosity gives hope and life. 

There will always be those whom it scandalises, just as Simon the Pharisee was scandalised.  Those who carp at extravagant generosity would always claim to have reason on their side and they usually have love against them; and love is the greatest moral reality of all.

Generosity is at the core of the Gospel and we all can think of a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t be generous.  But generosity is the very spirit of Jesus. 

There was nothing sensible in His life.  He gave without calculating the cost.  The Pharisee would have looked at His life and His death and asked “ why this waste?”   We all fear becoming poor.  Jesus dreaded that any man should be rich; such was the danger of riches to the soul.

It is not a bad way to test what we are as individuals and as a nation. To ask when was the last time we did something generous or extravagant out of love. In the Scriptures eternal life, the life of God, does not belong to the sensible people.  It doesn’t belong to those who hoard their lives, but to those who spill out their lives for the love of God and their neighbour.
The Group of Eight ("G8") was here in Fermanagh!
This is a long page! Scroll down for photographs and information about our pre-G8 service

At 3pm that day we held a special pre-G8 service at which our honoured guest speaker was the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Dr. John Sentamu. We reproduce an article about the service and press conference that followed that was published in the main local newspaper on 23rd June 2013, The Impartial Reporter. We do so with the kind permission of its editor, Mr Denzil McDaniel.

Archbishop tells congregation; you could see that everyone has enough to eat

Fermanagh could hold the key to the decision making of the G8 leaders, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. Dr. John Sentamu predicted, speaking at a major service in Enniskillen on Sunday.  Preaching at the Enough Food for Everyone IF service in St. Macartin's Cathedral, he revealed a plan to help solve what he called the "scandal" of world hunger and poverty. The IF campaign is a coalition of over 200 organisations across the UK and Ireland that called on the G8 leaders to take action to tackle some of the root causes of poverty.

Taking out five brown batch loaves, he distributed them to the congregation to be shared among everyone in a gesture that ordinary people can make a difference to their neighbours. He then revealed his plan for shoppers when paying for their groceries at their local supermarket or shop, to pay an extra £1 on a rewards card with the money going to a global food fund which could be distributed to countries where harvests fail because of drought.

Afterwards at a press conference, when asked if there was a mechanism for this, he said this was the first time for this to be launched and he said Enniskillen would be the place where it all began.

"I hope that 2013 will be the year that goes down in the history books as the one where Enniskillen hosted the decisions that would mean that children all over the world, whatever their nationality or ethnicity, could grow up well fed, healthy and able to build their own future. It is our moral responsibility to pray, campaign and work together to ensure our leaders understand that all deserve justice regardless of international boundaries.

Preaching at a very moving and uplifting service, the Archbishop began by reminding them of his time as a child in Uganda. When he was five, there was a serious drought which hit his village and because they were a family of ten, it was a struggle to find enough food for all their hungry mouths. Each time they had a meal, they would pray but when it was his turn, his father asked him to pray after their meal. He said after they had a plate of just a few small potatoes and little else, he said in front of his family, "Dear God, thank you for the food but I would have been thankful for a little bit more to eat. Amen."

He told the 700-strong congregation, "A quiet and momentous change is happening, enough is enough. We are at the tipping point and yours could be the generation to see everyone has enough to eat."

He outlined how one in eight people would go to bed hungry every night and that three million children die from malnutrition each year or one child died every 10 seconds.

"This is a scandal on our conscience," he said, asking the congregation to join him to count to ten after which he told them that one child had just died in that moment.

He referred to the ideals set by Nelson Mandela and referred to the big changes he would like the G8 Summit to address: stop tax evasion, stop land grabbing and be more transparent.

"If we can persuade big companies to be more transparent, we would see world hunger a thing of the past," he said.

During the service, an ensemble from the Ulster Orchestra accompanied the singing group, "The Priests" as they performed "You Raise Me Up" and Dave Thomas, Chairman of the IF Campaign Northern Ireland, interviewed the Rev. Suzanne Matale, a Christian Aid partner and General Secretary of the Zambian Council of Churches and Mr. Sudarshan Sathianathan, Tearfund's Head of Region for Asia about life for people in Bangladesh and Zambia.

The scripture reading was by Cliff Onega who works for Trocaire in Uganda and who met his spiritual leader, the Archbishop of York after the service.

Glenn Moore was organist and Jayne Haslett conducted the choir.

A welcome was given by the clergy from the four Enniskillen churches; Dean Kenny Hall, St. Macartin's Cathedra; Canon Peter O'Reilly, St. Michael's Church; Rev. David Cupples, Presbyterian Church and Rev. Kenneth Lindsay, former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland.

At the end of the service, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, the Right Rev. John McDowell; the Most Rev. Liam MacDaid, Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher; the Right Rev. Robert Craig, Moderator, Presbyterian Church and the Rev. Kenneth Lindsay, gave the blessing.

There was a great response from people attending the service. Raymond and Pearl Bell were among those in the congregation.

Pearl said, "It was so uplifting, very meaningful and cheerful. There was a great message in a simple way The Archbishop gets everyone interacting. Hopefully the G8 leaders will listen to it. There was a sense of peace with the interdenominational aspect."

Among the many aid agencies represented was Fermanagh woman, Eithne McNulty who is Trocaire's NI Director, said after the service

"It was wonderful and I think it's incumbent on us to keep the type of pressure that the Archbishop referrred to on the G8 leaders to alleviate poverty."

Eithne has just returned from India where she visited the poorest region and saw how people were struggling.

The Priests perform in fine voice as always!
Archbishop Sentamu during his sermon. (photo courtesy of Neil Harrison Photography)
Parishioner and Head Boy of Portora Royal School, Adam Shaw, reads a prayer during the service
Meeting with Viscount and Lady Brookeborough as Dean Hall looks on.
Bishop John chatting to Archbishop Sentamu after the pre-G8
service.  In the background is Rev. Sampson Ajuka.
During the press conference
Enough Food for Everyone a coalition of organisations which  joined together to lobby the G8 on the issue of global hunger.

Organised by Christian Aid, Tearfund and Trocaire as part of the IF campaign, the service was a coming together of many different congregations and invited guests.

An open letter to British Prime Minister, David Cameron and An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
from a number of Northern Ireland Church leaders:

Dear Prime Minister/An Taoiseach,

We are writing together as faith leaders to urge you to use the opportunity afforded by the UK’s position in 2013 as chair of the G8 to address the scourge of hunger that effects millions across the globe. It is a scandal that in 2013 we live in a world that produces enough food for everyone and yet one in eight women, men and children go hungry every night. All of our various faiths teach us to show compassion and to work for justice in the world. We share a duty and commitment to those that are living in poverty and to tackle the structures and systems around the world that perpetuate this injustice. The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign is a coalition of more than 170 development agencies, faith groups and trade unions who are calling for action from political leaders on four key issues that if effectively tackled at the G8 summit could mark the beginning of the end of the global hunger crisis.

IF we give life-saving aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves.

IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and we grow crops for food, not fuel.

IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries, so millions of people can free themselves from hunger.

IF governments and big companies are honest about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

It is significant that you are meeting in County Fermanagh, which was the worst affected county in Northern Ireland during the Irish famine in the 1840s. Please ensure that as the G8 leaders meet that the world’s hungry are at the top of the agenda.

Yours sincerely,

Cardinal Seán Brady, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
Most Revd Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
Most Revd Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
The Rt Revd Trevor Williams, Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe
Revd Dr Heather Morris, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
Revd R. Kenneth Lindsay, Former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
Ms Gillian Kingston, Former Lay Leader of the Methodist Church in Ireland
Revd Robert Craig, Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Mrs Felicity A. McCartney, Clerk of Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends in Ireland
Major Elwyn Harries, Divisional Commander, Ireland Division, Salvation Army