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LEADING figures from the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland will sign an historic covenant at a famous site in Lambeg later this month. SIGNING OF AGREEMENT WILL RECALL VISIT OF JOHN WESLEY TO CHROME HILL

The covenant committing the respective churches to a 'closer and full relationship' will be formally signed during a short ceremony at Chrome Hill on Thursday, September 26.

Senior figures from both churches including Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames will take part in a 'simple act of worship' close to Chrome Hill's 'historic trees'.

It was at Chrome Hill, then called Lambeg House, that an elderly John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, stopped during his travels in 1787.

Wesley entwined together two beech saplings, saying, as he did so, that this was how he wished, the Church (of Ireland and of England) and the Methodist people to be.

The now fully-grown trees are still to be seen in the grounds of Chrome Hill. It was from these trees that the Reverend Harold Good,- former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, picked two sprays, one of which he presented to the Primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, in the course of a debate at the General Synod of the Church of Ireland earlier this year in Dublin.

The 2002 agreement between the churches is focused on Wesley's belief that God wants both churches to have a fuller relationship.

Through this the churches will 'share a common life and mission' and 'grow together' so that unity will be 'visibly realised'.

Despite the significance of the occasion, church leaders say the signing of the covenant will be a 'low-key and informal event'. The event will be attended only by the primate, the president of the Methodist Church, and district and local church leaders. Officers of the churches and members of the Joint Theological Working Party (JWTC) will also be in attendance.

The JWTP believe that the main celebration and marking of this new relationship should happen at local level.

To this end the Rector of Lambeg Parish Church, the Rev. Ken McReynolds and the Rev. Ken Best, Minister of Seymour Street Methodist, plan to do a 'pulpit exchange' in January.

The convenant has been described as representing 'another step in faith on the pilgrim path to which both churches believe God has called them in this land'.