In this issue of the Herald, there is one word that pops up as an unintentional recurring theme: grace. It is the idea central to the reflections of both Dr. Norman Hamilton and Rev. Steve Stockman as they consider the current political landscape of Northern Ireland. While both present a strong challenge to our politicians in regard to behaviour and language, they are also clear that we as the public must play our part. Steve is convinced that change will not come from Stormont down the hill, but rather must creep up it, while Norman urges that we get more involved and pray “for the grace of God to be visible”.
One article that may, at first glance, seem at odds with the notion of grace is Ruth Sanderson’s look at the subject of anger. Whilst anger can be very destructive, Ruth highlights that it can also be a tremendous force for good. Righteous anger for the injustices of this world is key when it comes to effecting change in our society. If we are indifferent to those who are suffering we are not exactly displaying grace.
True grace therefore is not just theology and so just as faith without deeds is dead, so too is the idea of grace without any practical application. Matt Williams reminds us of this in his final article on extreme poverty in the context of Malawi. He says, “…the gospel cannot be ‘spiritualised’ so as to exclude practical action.”
This edition shows just some of the ways our denomination is involved in practical grace. In our congregational story we hear about the inspiring outreach work of Greystone Road Presbyterian Church in Antrim, in particular its ministry with Christians Against Poverty (CAP), which shows love to those struggling with debt. Overseas we also hear about the work of PCI missionaries Csaba and Ilona Veres, who offer practical grace to the marginalised Roma people of Romania.
Collectively as a Church, our Good Relations Panel has produced a ‘Vision for Society’ statement, which will soon be distributed to all congregations. Rev. Stephen Johnston explains what this timely 146-word statement means. He urges us to fully engage with it with real ‘on the ground’ action. He says, “We are saved by grace to relate with grace.”
Against the backdrop of our divided society, apathy abounds. Yet Jesus never exhibited apathy. To follow His example we must truly grapple with what practical grace means for us as a Church and as individuals. Steve Stockman sums up grace beautifully when he describes it as “the fuel that fills us with the fruit of the Spirit and strengthens us to follow Jesus…the very oxygen of the kingdom of God.”
Sarah Harding, Editor
The Presbyterian Herald is the official magazine of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It provides a forum for debate and discussion on a wide range of topics and aims to challenge and encourage Presbyterians, as well as inform them about what the wider Church is involved in. It has a readership in excess of 25,000 and is distributed throughout Ireland.
To find out more go to www.presbyterianireland.org/herald