Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Family Silver

My old-new Home Communion set.  The chalice stands at
barely 4 inches!
Look what I was given recently!

We drove to my native North Antrim to visit Canon Johns, a retired Church of Ireland clergyman.  He spent nearly all his active ministry in rural Billy Parish, the parish that my great-great-grandparents considered home.  
According to the census carried out across Ireland in the late 1901, there were already lots of Mac Bruithins/Browns in Liscolman, a little village in Straidbilly townland, named after Saint Colman who many centuries before came here with the gospel.  

I wonder was it Colman who found religious pagans in the area, venerating their gods in connection with An Bhile (Anglicized as 'Billy'), the 'magic tree'? And who initiated Christian worship on the same site, convincing the pagans in good old Celtic mission style that Christ is the full revelation of the one God.  Of course, it could have been Patrick himself - he was active in these parts.

Several generations of our wee family - farm labourers, mill workers, housekeepers, and more recently my own grandfather who mended clocks and worked for the Department of the Environment - are buried there, by that same ancient place of worship.

Billy Parish Church today
All this intrigues me.  First of all, I tend to forget that my family roots are Church of Ireland (Anglican) because I only remember very vaguely those formative years under the age of five when my father and I went weekly to damp, draughty Billy Church.  By my early primary school years, the family had left and gone to a 'Brethren' church instead.

Secondly, as of this summer, I have lived away from Liscolman slightly longer than the 18 years I spent growing up there.  Sometimes I forget that's where I come from.

Anyway, back to the home communion set.

When we arrived at Rev. Johns' home, and I introduced Sarah, and he told me again and again how delighted he is that an old parishioner of his is heading towards ordination - 

- yes, an old parishioner of his; I had barely seen my baptizer for thirty-odd years, yet he always considered me one of his own -

then he gave me this.  His home communion set.

OK, it's old.  It was made in 1870 in London, according to the box.  And the silver chalice and paten have faded and the flagon is stained.

But did my great-grandparents receive the Eucharist from this set?

Or my grandparents, maybe my late grandfather on in his last weeks?

I'll never know.

But isn't that really special?  To be given something that has been used for so many encounters between Jesus Christ and the sick and homebound of Liscolman all those years, maybe my own folk.

There's a bit of a homecoming in being given that little communion set.

I've given it a wash and polish as best I can.  I think I can rehabilitate it.

And just maybe I'll use it when I do home communions one day?