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Old age is when You tend to use more four-letter words ... "what?" ..."when?"...

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Death . . . is the great leveler, making equal the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the celebrated and the hidden. How we live in the eyes of God, needless to say, is the only thing that really counts.

— Donald DeMarco


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Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
his sojourn in Northern Ireland'

A Protestant parade in the Shankill
and a Nativity narrative for lent


Jon Kennedy  

JONAL ENTRY 1274 | April 1 2013

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore."

— from Isaiah 8,
from today's lenten Orthodox
lectionary readings

Diary: This is Easter Rising day, comemmorating a failed attempt to drive the British out of Ireland on Easter Monday 1916. Though the fighting and casualties that that failed uprising caused were centered in Dublin, over 100 miles south of here, it has been remembered by "republicans" (that is, people who want Ireland to be one republic completely free of British control) in the past, here in the north where Ulster is still part of the (British) United Kingdom, to make their wishes for independece known. Most of these republicans identify with the Catholic church.

And in anticipation of "republican" demonstrations on Easter Rising day, the pro-British or "loyalist" majority here in Ulster sometimes tries to "get the jump" on their opponents by scheduling a march or parade before the other group does. It is only loyalists, who identify with Protestantism, that I have heard of demonstrating today, by parading in the Shankill area this morning and in East Belfast this evening, and by standing in the center of the street with banners in evening traffic (guarded front and rear by "Belfast's finest").

After our Monday morning prayer meeting here at the Loom this morning, Jack Lamb and I set out to get breakfast and he offered to drive to a vantage point along the morning parade route. The video below is of that parade on Woodvale Road, just above where it turns into Shankill Road and just after it passed a point where Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods interface and more than a dozen police vehicles were on site, ready to curb any outbreaks of violence. None apparently occurred then and I have heard of none otherwise around the city today. Notice the printing on the bass drum, "Protestant Boys" in this short video. Jack told me that unlike this parade, others he has seen sometimes have had dozens or scores of band units or contingents marching.

Click the > on the video to launch. After the video launches, you can double-click the screen to enlarge it to full-screen. If your browser cannot open the video in Windows Media format, you can try it on YouTube, here.

The expressions on the marchers' faces, showing grimness bereft of joy, are said by some to reflect a "religion" that has no devotion to any God and no hope. I was reminded of the grimness I often saw in the older generation of Kennedys when I was growing up...people who professed to be Protestants but rarely attended a church service and showed no evidence of godliness. Maybe this is a key to understanding their insistence that they were Protestants, even though in the early days of my childhood there was little if any evidence that any of them were showing (or trying to show) spiritual fruit. If so, it must have been a trait and pattern of living and thinking that had been handed down for many generations in the Pennsylvania valleys far removed from Ulster's animosities. (Shankill, by the way, is Irish or Gaelic for "Old Church." Irish names with "kill" or "cill" always refer to a church.)

The photo below is another one from my tour around Belfast, taken by Trevor Buchanan. Here I am standing on the grounds Stormont Palace, Northern Ireland's parliament building. And on closer inspection, maybe the grimness on the marchers today was caused by the freezing temperatures outside instead of coldness in their hearts, if this is any indication. Let's hope so.

Today's Scripture is more familiar to us all as a Christmas or Nativity passage than a lenten one, but I think these "messiah narratives" from the prophets are being introduced by the church at this time, prior to the resurrection feast, to prepare us for the revelation that our Lord Jesus is the Son of Man, God's messiah, of prophecy.

§     §     §

If you missed my overview of my venture in Northern Ireland, check it out here.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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