The period in the history of Northern Ireland we colloquially call ‘The Troubles’ lasted from 1969 to 1998. Over 3,700 people died and many thousands more were injured physically and psychologically. The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement though not universally welcomed or supported at the time or now, was a significant political, constitutional and cultural moment.

Monday, 10 April 2023 is the 25th anniversary of the Agreement and some local churches might want to appropriately make mention of this in the weeks ahead. So below are some words and prayers which might be helpful. We recognise that various church traditions and expressions will take different approaches. Please feel free to incorporate any or all of this into a service during Holy week, Easter or the weeks following.

We also understand that this is a very sensitive issue and that publicly marking the Agreement may not be appropriate in some contexts.

You will obviously know your congregation best and be alert to the fact that even the most careful acknowledgment of this event may raise political, theological or pastoral concerns.

Perhaps you might want to read some of the following scriptures:

  • 2 Chronicles 7:14
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21
  • Revelation 21:1 – 5

Some wording which you might wish to use:

This Easter marks 25 years from the signing of the Good Friday/​Belfast Agreement.
Personal and political views varied then and continue to vary today.
However, perhaps everyone can agree that this was a critical moment for this place we share and call home.

Some of us supported the Agreement and continue to see some good in it – but this is not about celebration.
Some of us did not support the Agreement and continue to hold reservations – but this is not about condemnation.
This is not about affirming or opposing anyone’s party politics or constitutional preference.

The Agreement was a very specific political, legal and constitutional document in a very specific time and place.
Despite being reached on Good Friday, it was not a theological statement.

However, as we approach Easter, maybe this is a good moment to stop and consider our wider understanding of reconciliation.
Truth, justice, repentance, forgiveness, mercy, redemption – difficult, emotive and potentially transformational words.
The language of the cross. The language of the resurrection. The language of the gospel.
We who were once God’s enemies through sin,

Pursued by Him to become family through Christ.
Rescued from captivity into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life.

So, as gospel people today in 2023, let’s prayerfully consider how we might bear witness to the good news of reconciliation with God through Christ in the days and months ahead.

This is sensitive and difficult terrain for us to navigate, even to pray about.
So, we tread carefully and simply want to make space in our service to be still and to pray silently.

A prayer you might wish to use or adapt:

(Perhaps leave some space after each line and/​or add a congregational response of Lord, hear our prayer.’)

Prayer

God, holy, sovereign, faithful and generous,
God of healing, God of honour, God of hope,
Yahweh – the one true God.

We remember the lives taken and the brave sacrifices given, before and beyond this Agreement.
We acknowledge residing pain, ongoing injustice and unfulfilled dreams.
We bring our fears and hopes to you, about what has been and what is yet to come.

We are grateful for the relative peace we live in, yet mindful of the distance still to travel.
We dare to believe that there are better things to come for this place and its people.
Give us new vision and a hope-filled imagination, soften our hearts and strengthen our hands.

Help us to be brave and kind in the pursuit of your goodness, truth and beauty amidst ongoing pain and political conflict.
As we celebrate Jesus Christ as our risen Lord this Easter, we are reconciled to you.
Help us to be reconciled with each other.
Renew this land, restore your kingdom, revive your people.

Amen.


This prayer was kindly included in a resource created and compiled by the Irish Church Leader’s group. You can find more prayers and liturgies which can be used to mark the Belfast/​Good Friday Agreement here.

You may then also like to pray the Lord's prayer.


Explore more:

You can read more reflections from David about the 25th anniversary here in his article for Christianity Magazine.

If your church would like to explore these themes further, why not consider the Be Reconciled small group resource. You can find out more and download free copies here.