Good Friday

I am absolutely utterly convinced that this ‘Shared Medley’ living is the way life is meant to be.  I’ve had the best week!

I’ve connected with Holy Week services in my own denomination (Church of Ireland) and also in a new Shared Medley context (St Oliver Plunkett’s Parish in West Belfast).  I’ve enjoyed being up front preaching; I’ve enjoyed being a congregation member in the pews; I’ve loved following the Holy Week narrative through Wordlive.  I’ve met people for coffee in places which are almost becoming like a familiar second home (like the fab coffee lounge in the TQ Premier Inn) and in places that are brand-new (like the swish new Public Records Office, now located in the Titanic Quarter – pictures below).

I’ve met old and new faces.  I’ve talked Dock with tourists, priests, chaplains, businessmen, sailors, lawyers, directors and students.  I started Wednesday by broadcasting live to (an enthralled?) nation on Radio Ulster.  I started today with a coffee with co-Chaplain Karen, to remind me that I’m not on my own any more. I had a fantastic day today as a Titanic Walking Tour guide (including, in this afternoon’s tour, the great honour of leading the biggest-ever group to turn up for a Titanic Walking Tour – 45 of them! – pictured right)  In short I am out of my comfort zone, doing things and meeting people and taking chances and making contacts that never would’ve crossed my path if I’d stayed in the safe confines of my own denomination and community – and it is the best thing ever!

Today I want to leave you with a striking story told in Fr Martin’s sermon from the service I attended at St Oliver Plunkett’s.  Its a story he first heard on last week’s Sunday Sequence (and if you’re reading this before Easter Day, you can still hear the story on iPlayer here – it’s from 5:50-10:15 in the programme), from a new book called The Band Played On, looking at the eight extraordinary musicians on board the Titanic who chose to sacrifice their own lives and continue playing right until the fateful moment when the ship sank.  Eyewitness reports recall that they played uplifting, lively music to keep spirits up during the frantic evacuation of the lifeboats, before concluding with the hymn Nearer My God To Thee in the ship’s final moments.

The incredible message for The Dock is that this band was the very definition of the ‘Shared Medley’ – composed of a mixture of Catholics, Congregationalists, Anglicans and Methodists.  The impact that their sacrifice and service made on the survivors was one of the first stories to emerge in the papers in the days following the tragedy, and was never forgotten.  (Even today, Nearer My God To Thee is often first and foremost associated with the Titanic.)  They did something profound, heroic and immensely powerful.  And they did it from a shared basis – not letting any of their differences of background or denomination get in the way of the important, beautiful thing they were doing.

What a challenge.