One of the last official functions of my moderatorial year will be to preach at the annual Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation service in Armagh at the beginning of June. In order to get a fuller picture of the work of the Foundation I visited the Garden at Knock, within the grounds of the PSNI Headquarters. The Garden is not only an impressive piece of landscape architecture, but it is also very moving in what it represents.
It was created to mark the sacrifices and honour the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary which served Northern Ireland for 80 years. It is hoped that the total project, when completed, will also include a museum.
There are two parts to the Garden. The “history trail” tells part of the story of policing, and throws up a number of very significant facts about the origin of policing in the British Isles and its beginnings in Ireland. It traces the colourful, and sometimes tragic, story of the role of the police during the various phases of Irish history in the last two centuries.
The moving and emotional part of the Garden is the “area of peace” in which officers who died directly as a result of terrorism, and those who died in service, are remembered. For anyone who wants to understand the most recent history of this part of the world, a visit to this location is a “must”. It is clear that much thought and work has gone into this project.
Part of the Garden wall includes a prayer for the RUC GC, taking its inspiration from the shamrock, harp and crown of the crest.
O Holy Trinity, as symbolised by the humble shamrock, we give thanks for the love of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As Christ Jesus has shown us that the reward of love may be a cross, so we praise you O God for your faithfulness through times of prosperity and of adversity.
Like a harp that sounds forth in glorious tunefulness, so we give honour and thanks to those in the policing family who served gallantly and sacrificed dutifully for the harmony of our communities. Steadfast to their legacy and mindful of continuing needs, may our eyes shine with the light of hope as we embrace the future.
Lord, grant us the perseverance to faithfully finish the race, that we may receive the crown of righteousness to which we have been called heavenward. Equip us with the spirit of peace, an abundance of your grace, and the wisdom and strength to meet the challenges that may lie before us.
All this we ask in the precious name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
For any church or community group interested in a profitable and interesting outing, this is an appropriate destination. The Garden is open to individuals and larger groups, by appointment, on a daily basis, and volunteer guides are on hand to conduct all visitors.
Postscript: The Prince of Wales paid a visit to the Garden recently.