This morning, about 100 people from Belfast and beyond gathered in the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill for a prayer breakfast in advance of next month’s 4 Corners Festival (1-11 February).

The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Now. Here. This.’ You can find the full programme here. It’s appropriate that the prayers were situated within the annual worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January), traditionally celebrated during the octave of St Peter and St Paul.

The gathering was addressed by Rev Dr Norman Hamilton, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the convenor of the church’s Council for Public Affairs.

Hamilton’s remarks focused on the current political impasse, and the public role that the churches can play in contributing to civic reconciliation.

Hamilton welcomed next week’s talks about restoring the devolved institutions. He spoke of not simply restoring the institutions for their own sake, but of the need for building quality institutions that could deliver good governance.

Citing recent addresses by Bishop Noel Treanor and Prof John Brewer, Hamilton urged the churches to model good civic relationships. He said we should ‘stand shoulder to shoulder with one another’ to articulate a ‘new narrative for the future, which spells out the importance of forgiveness, generosity, compassion, and thoughtfulness.’

The breakfast concluded with a prayer by Dr Gladys Ganiel, which drew on the themes raised in Hamilton’s address, as well as Rev David Campton’s poem about the theme of this year’s festival.

We invite you to join us in the prayer:

Let us pray.

In the silence, let us hear what you have to say.

We know you are with us today and will move among us throughout the festival.

We need a new narrative, and a radically new future.

We need to show forgiveness, mercy, compassion, empathy, grace and justice.

Lord, hear our prayer, and empower us to move together into that radically new future.

 

Help us venture into new places and new spaces throughout the festival.

It is difficult to cross boundaries. It is difficult to forgive. It is difficult to show mercy.

But together, we ask for your help:

 

One thing at a time

This is enough for now

Not that or the other

But this

Now. Here. This.

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and the of the Holy Spirit,

Amen.