On the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, we have deep roots from the Europeans who have come before us to fish the sea and settle in the land. The French and English coasts were granted by foreign kings for their own to harvest. The Irish Shore was settled by poor Irish immigrants who were fleeing the desperation of their own land in hope of a better life.
I’ve recently had the joy of being able to tour Ireland. One of the people we met referred to Newfoundland as the “next county over.” Born on the Newfoundland “Irish Shore,” and with family roots continuing there to this day, it is with Irish culture that I most identify with. Yet that is only a small part of who I am. Being in Ireland reminded me of a much bigger picture.
From standing in a megalithic structure at New Grange where human beings stood and participated in sacred ritual 5000 years ago, to seeing Druid chieftain structures 2000 years old, to Cashel Mount where St.Patrick converted and crowned Irish Kings, to standing within Christian monastic ruins 1300 years old, to hearing the stories of the Vikings and their settling of the land, to the conquering English under Henry the VIII, to the flood gates of Irish immigration after the discovery of the New World, to the story of the surviver of Bloody Sunday in 1972 when the British army fired into a group of unarmed Irish civil rights protesters, to the lady from Poland working at Hertz Rent a Car, in the process of immigrating to Ireland. This story is part of all of our collective story. It is part of who we all are.
Over the summer I have been reading the Irish writer and poet John O’Donahue’s “Eternal Echoes.” In it, he reminds us that we are all just visitors, here for a while, and then returning to God. Our truest identity is much deeper than language, culture, geography. It is out of a deeper spiritual awareness that we experience true belonging, and a place where all human beings belong.
The Irish immigrated. My family immigrated, your family immigrated. Human beings have always immigrated and sought belonging in the process. The world we live in has always changed and continues to change. Let us be open and welcoming to today’s immigrants. Let us be open and welcoming to those who are different on the surface, yet who share in our deeper and truest identity in God. And as we gear up for a new year of ministry in our churches, let us make room for everyone, regardless of differences, who may want to join us in discovering the joy of Life in Christ.
Kiss me, I’m Irish!