Proclaiming the Promise: Reflections on the God of Love is a book of reflections that have emerged as Ruth has journeyed through specific events, times and seasons, and as she has travelled in her spirit through some of the sacred moments of the Cycle of the Christian year. While these reflections are largely born out of a life shaped by the last forty years or so of Ireland's story, the underlying themes are universal. It is Ruth's prayer that the many thoughts and images in this book may enable the reader to see beyond the immediate and be seized by hope in the present and for the future.
Ruth Patterson is a Presbyterian minister who has worked with Restoration Ministries, based in Lisburn, County Antrim, since its inception. Restoration Ministries is a non-denominational Christian organisation that seeks to promote healing and reconciliation in Ireland and further afield. It came into being in 1988, during the thirty-year conflict in Northern Ireland. Through a ministry of reconciliation, healing, hospitality and prayer it seeks to provide a place of safety where people can tell their story and be heard, where they can develop a vision, and where they can feel welcomed and loved. Other publications by Ruth Patterson include Proclaiming the Promise (2006) and Looking Back to Tomorrow (2009), both published by Veritas.
From my bookshelf, Tom Kiggins
If you would like a little book that you can dip into now and then for encouragement, wisdom, hope and gentle humour, you should get your hands on Proclaiming the Promise. The author Ruth Patterson is a Presbyterian Minister who has made reconciliation in Northern Ireland her life-work.
The book consists of short reflections on some twenty-three topics, many of them relating to the Churchs seasons, Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. The others are reflections on individual events: for example, the renovation of the Catholic Cathedral in Belfast; the discovery of the remains of Jean McConville, one of the 'disappeared' of the Northern troubles; the birth of grandnieces; her own sixtieth birthday; her work as Director of Restoration Ministries (for which she received an OBE); and her love-affair with Donegal. Each topic, with one exception, is reflected upon first in prose and then in verse. Northern Ireland with its deep divisions, now being slowly healed, casts a shadow and a light on every reflection.
I have chosen some passages from the book which give a flavour of the fine writing and an indication of the authors deep faith and insight. Reflecting on Advent, she writes: 'We are called, all of us, not to strive to hold back the dark, and sometimes it can be very, very dark, but rather to enter into the heart of it with the confidence of an Advent people whose hallmarks are hope, joy, peace and love.'
Writing of John the Baptist she asks:
'Where are those who will pick up Johns mantle
And seek to be prophets today?
So often their voices are silenced
Theres no one to point out the way.
Corruption, greed, fear are our masters
In this wilderness, what can we do:
Pray for voices to speak out with courage,
And someday that voice could be you.'
The choice between Barabbas and Jesus put to the crowd by Pontius Pilate inspires her to write: 'Jesus still comes. He stands before us and in his very coming offers us the choice. Ecce homo! Here is the man! If we dare to choose him it will not be an easy way. It will be a cross-bearing way as it has been for many throughout the years, those who have borne the cross of beginning to see things differently and then being courageous enough to act upon it. It is a hard choice, but one that will mean new life for us as individuals, for this island and for this world.'
Of the Eucharist she notes: 'Every time we come to the sacrament of communion, Jesus himself puts flesh again on the past. He comes to us in the bread and wine. He really hears us. And in the stillness of the moment he asks the question and responds with the answer at the same time. Remember me? I am the one who hung on that cross for you. I am the one who hears your cry for mercy. I am the one who loves you. And I have prepared a place for you.'
For Ruth Patterson, the fact that Mary Magdalene was the first to encounter the Risen Christ bears unique testimony to the equality and dignity of women. She writes:
'Could it be that in that garden,
on that morning long ago,
God especially chose a woman
so that she might rise and go
to her brothers, hurt and grieving
with her passion and her grace
to hear from her the glorious message,
I have seen him face to face!'
There are over a hundred pages of such material. Every page is laden with insight and compassion, fruits of a life of closeness to God and service to neighbour. Readers of Africa would surely enjoy this book.
- Africa Magazine, July/August 2009 (Book Review)
The Revd Dr Patterson OBE is a Presbyterian minister and the director of Restoration Ministries, an organisation that seeks to mend and reconcile wounded people and communities. Her poems and reflections arise from Ireland problems, but are of universal validity.
- Books Ireland, December 2006