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ISSUE 18 / APRIL - JUNE 2013 / €2


VOX special feature: ABORTION OVERWHELMED WITH JOY! Tiny baby Joy Ann weighed just 1lb 6.5 oz when she was born


Asking the tough questions about the church’s attitude to disability


N o b r o k e n reeds... n the film Blind Side a white America family takes in a homeless black teenager. Their support and love sets him on the path to success as an American football player, which also guarantees a college scholarship. So far, so stereotypical. But one interchange breaks the mould. “Honey, you are changing that boy’s life,” gushes a wealthy friend. “No,” replies the mum. “He’s changing mine.” Protecting the vulnerable is Jesus-following 101. Yet, this concern for those who are oppressed, broken or marginalised, is not about being patronising or magnanimous. There is outcry when oppressive regimes or greedy selfinterests de-humanise and exploit minorities. But wrongly motivated or uneducated efforts to help can also be damaging. “A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.” Isaiah 42:3


IN KINGDOM THINKING, THE WEAK IS STRONG, THE HUMBLE IS LIFTED UP, THE VICTIM IS VICTORIOUS AND THE HELPLESS IS EMPOWERED. When we truly defend the cause of the weak, we will recognise, value and release the potential that is ignored by the privileged and power-hungry. Here is a divine paradox. In Kingdom thinking, the weak is strong, the humble is lifted up, the victim is victorious and the helpless is empowered. In the process the one who defends, protects, supports, heals, cares and gives is enriched and transformed. Just like that mum in Blind Side. In this edition of VOX, let’s embrace humility as we explore the tough issue of how to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Let’s learn from those we seek to guard. Let’s be careful not to marginalise or damage others in our campaigns to defend some. Because, whether we are caring for the unborn, the young mother in crisis or the woman who has ended a pregnancy (Abortion, page 16), whether we are looking at the issue of disability in our churches (How accessible is your church? page 22) or learning how to respond to victims of abuse (More harm than good? page 29), we answer to the ultimate defender. We truly know Him when we take up His causes (Jeremiah 22: 16).

Ruth Garvey-Williams Editor (

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APRIL - JUNE 2013, ISSUE 18 ISSN: 2009-2253


PUBLISH E R Solas Publishing

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EDITOR Ruth Garvey-Williams ADVERTI S I N G Jonny Lindsay LAYOUT A N D O P E R AT I O N S Jonny Lindsay PROJECT D I R E C TO R Tom Slattery (Evangelical Alliance Ireland)

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COVER STORIES Overwhelmed with Joy! - tiny baby Joy Ann weighed just 1lb 6.5 oz when she was born. Read her remarkable story VOX special feature: Abortion How accessible is your church? - Asking the tough questions about the church’s attitude to disability FEATURES AND INTERVIEWS And the winners are - enjoy the results of the VOX Photography Competition Training Christian counsellors in Ireland and beyond More harm than good? How wrong responses can devastate victims of sexual abuse

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VOX Interview: The Sculptress and the Horse Whisperer

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Singing songs of Compassion - Ian White’s Irish tour

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Setting captives free - International Justice Mission battles injustice around the world

Searching for Identity - Paul Guildea talks about his new fantasy novel VOX VIEWS The earth is the Lord’s - why looking after the environment should be integral to our faith


The views expressed in letters and articles are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Solas Publishing or its partners. The acceptance of advertising does not indicate endorsement.

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20 VOX: World News 28 Your VOX: Letters to the editor 28 Facts from Acts 43 Confessions of a Feint Saint 46

My Story - Meet Maria Burke Web Watch Family Focus Reviews VOX: PS with Seán Mullan



Christian Motorcyclists Association

Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house maybe filled. Luke 14 v 23.

Our vision is to change the world, one heart at a time. We will accomplish our vision through: • Evangelistic outreach primarily, but not exclusively, to the motorcycling community. • Run for the Son, where we will partner with ministries with world–reaching potential. • Equipping our members in ministry training that aligns itself with biblical truths. • A servant’s attitude to the world and to our members (i.e. here if you need us). • Quality products that aid in evangelistic outreach.

Last Sunday of every Month Gort, Co.Galway

We’d also like to offer you a Biker’s Bible “Hope for the Highway”. | | Tel: 086 8057982


Coming home? In our November edition of VOX we asked for our readers' opinion on the issue of homelessness. Here’s what Susan and David Carson from Limerick had to say: Unless a homeless person re-settles quickly (within 12 months) they are in danger of joining the 75% who have entered into long-term homelessness. Those providing emergency accommodation confirm the government figures as the reality. For the rest of us, homelessness is often a hidden issue. In Limerick City, a “roof overhead” may be provided by one of the several hostels, a friend’s couch or an unheated empty house. Apart from witnessing the numbers awaiting the nightly soup-run, the general public might only be aware of the three or four people they see begging. It is not helpful to concentrate on statistics because it can cause us to forget that these people have names too. This week I asked a woman to tell me why she walked around the same streets day after day. She replied,

Murmod Hill

It’s St Patrick’s Day. Early-morning mist wreaths the hillside and pools in the valley below. Suddenly a crowd of people emerges. Young and old, bundled in coats and scarves against the dawn chill, they are walking determinedly toward the top of Murmod Hill in Virginia, Co Cavan. The story began in 2010 when Church of Ireland vicar Rev Craig McCauley was attending the Global Leadership Summit in Dublin. Inspired by the work of the St Patrick Foundation, he returned home determined to find a way of “reclaiming” St Patrick’s Day. “The first year we expected 75 people but we had 150!” Craig shared. “After a short service together at the top of the hill we went down for breakfast baps at the base of the hill. It was a bit like the feeding of the 5000 as we tried to split the rolls and share them between all those people.” In 2012, the numbers almost doubled! Capturing the imagination of the whole community, the event demonstrated people’s hunger to rediscover the message of St Patrick and to unite in prayer together. “To see people streaming up the hill to meet on a beautiful spring morning and to look out over Virginia and to see the cross on the top of the church spire, peeping through the mist, was a powerful symbol,” Craig added. Read more of this inspiring story online at



“It’s so that I see people; I need people.” Though she may not be able to express it, she is yearning for relationship. Does anyone else have it on their heart to befriend these people through church initiatives: giving them a half an hour in the warm, a listening ear and a sense of belonging? Will we look out for single people who are drifting into that downward spiral of emptiness: the young abused person using a substance to numb the pain, or an older person with a lost identity, using alcohol to numb the cold? We can only help outcasts feel “at home” in society and in time, find their true “home” in the Father’s love, if we are able to see through His eyes what each person can become with God’s help. The settling comfort of “home” is much more than a warm place to sleep.

United in law

A young barrister and a law student helped launch a new Dublin Lawyers' Christian Fellowship last month. Brendan Guildea and Roger Mulligan wanted to bring together Christians working in the legal professions. “It’s not about replacing our churches but dealing with the unique issues that lawyers face,” Brendan explained. “You are not going to find someone in church who will be willing to sit down and talk about difficult procedural issues or ethics. Our goal is to build up a community of lawyers who love God and to provide encouragement and support for their work.” The new fellowship meets at All Nations Church in Smithfield on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. Find out more on their blog at


Cork Bible

A pastor in Cork city has launched a weekly “tweet” sharing Bible verses in Cork slang. Pastor Tom Burke from Grace Fellowship launched the idea in December 2012 and has already translated a variety of verses from both Old and New Testaments. The verses are distributed via Twitter and Facebook. Here at VOX, we’re loving the tweets. We’ve brought you a few of our favourites from the last three months: “Don go nowhere near an eejit coz dey knows nathin and dey do be only coddin.” Proverbs 14:7 “Fellas da be schemin n sayin 'we got de perfect plan boy' jus shows ya de human heart is pure crabbit!” Psalm 64:6

Working with students

People involved in working with students will gather for a morning of interaction and encouragement on Saturday 6 April at Ulysses House in Dublin. Participants will include those working through various churches, organisations and institutions. They will have an opportunity to share news of their work in the student world. The speaker is Wallace Benn, himself a graduate of UCD who went on to be a Bishop in the Church of England and onced starred on "Top Gear"! Wallace is a champion of student work and loves his native Dublin. Contact for details.

“The skivvy beor saw Peter and took a grand gawk at him like.” Luke 22:56 “De Jews were mad jealous like so dey got a crowd a scuts and sham feens into a fierce gang ta start a scatter.” Acts 17:5

Exploring Genesis

What does the first book in the Bible have to say about how sin changed humanity? About God’s mission on earth? And about the great lessons of faith, grace and love? Dr. Richard Hess, Bible translator and Professor of Old Testament languages at Denver Seminary, will speak at the Irish Bible Institute’s Summer Institute (June 20 - 22). The course will also examine the place of Genesis in its ancient cultural and historical context. To find out more visit the IBI website

Examining the state of Europe

The third annual “State of Europe Forum” will take place in Dublin, 9- 10 May this year, during the Irish presidency of the European Union. The forum aims to promote dialogue among Christian leaders concerning the current state of Europe in the light of the vision of the “Father of Europe,” Robert Schuman, for a “community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian values”. A public gathering opens the forum on Europe Day (Thursday 9 May) in Christ Church Cathedral at 7.30pm. Former Taoiseach and EU ambassador to the US, John Bruton, will speak on 'Recovering vision and values in Europe' while international author, Dr Os Guinness, descendent of the famous Dublin brewer, will discuss 'Sustainable freedom and the European future'. The forum will continue the following day (Friday 10 May) exploring the theme, ‘Europe in crisis: what can we do?’, at the Croke Park Conference Centre. Around 100 participants are expected from Ireland, Britain and other European countries. More information about the programme, costs and registration is available on the Forum website:

Prayer for Ireland during the EU presidency

The State of Europe Forum will be followed by five days of prayer for Ireland by a group of 30 intercessors from EU nations. Miriam Beattie is part of this group, representing Lydia Fellowship Ireland and liaising with the main organisers, Ortwin Schweizer and Karl-Heinz Fischer of European Union of Prayer. “We will be based in the Emmaus Retreat Centre from May 13 to 18,” Miriam said. “The last day, Friday the 17th will be a day to prayer walk through the capital city, ending up in one of our main churches to meet some church leaders and fellow believers. As Irish people, we've had our share of troubles and war. In these days of secularisation and Godless laws we can't help wondering if Schuman's dream of 'peoples deeply rooted in Christian values' is still possible. We must never give up hope.”





No, not Hollywood – but Tropoje, the setting for the movies Taken and Taken 2! Set in the beautiful mountains of northeastern Albania, Tropoje is one of the poorest areas of Europe and reputedly the most lawless, with guns, unexploded ordnance and land mines. The Department of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel there. But when Team Hope saw the needs of the children (many of whom are orphans as a result of family feuds), they had to help. It’s not just a film set. For these children, it is a region of fear and tragic hardship – just under three hours away, in Europe! Working with local Christian partners, Team Hope immediately sent 300 shoeboxes for the children of the area. Feride, the local organiser, said, “It was the highlight of their year.” Now they are looking for ways to provide long-term help, in an area with 70% unemployment. To find out more, contact Team Hope on or on 01 294 0222.


Worldwide, more than 8 in 10 people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion. The demographic study finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, nearly 500 million Buddhists and 14 million Jews. In addition, more than 400 million people practice various folk or traditional religions. The new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one in six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) has no religious affiliation. This makes it the thirdlargest group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Learn more at




Iranian authorities have arrested over 300 Christians in the past two years in efforts to halt the growth of the church. Forty-one-year-old Pastor Behnam Irani from Karaj in northern Iran is serving a five-year prison sentence for holding house church services and sharing his faith. There are grave concerns for the Benham’s health. Behnam has suffered regular beatings from cellmates and prison authorities. They have told him that he will not leave the prison alive. Last August, he was denied surgery, recommended to stop internal abdominal bleeding. According to recent reports, Behnam has serious back problems and is now unable to walk. Visit www.churchinchains. ie for more information.


Jalil and Adila fled Syria with virtually nothing. “Terrible things happened in our streets,” Jalil told Tearfund. “With my own eyes, I saw people planting bombs in cars and women being raped in the street. I couldn’t let my wife and children live there any longer.” The Syrian civil war is an armed conflict between forces loyal to the Syrian government and those seeking to oust it. To escape the violence, an estimated 700,000 Syrian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. With an additional 3,000 escaping every day, the figure is expected to reach one million within the next few months. Tearfund is working with two partners in the region to provide food, cooking utensils, stoves, blankets, mattresses, hygiene materials and medical supplies as well as psychological support for those who have been scarred by their ordeal. Every day more and more families are crossing the border into Lebanon to escape the Syrian conflict but they are facing “extremely difficult conditions”, according to a Tearfund partner. The Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development (LSESD) says that refugees, mostly women and children, receive little help because the UN is underfunded and over-stretched. Ali, his wife Manal*, and their five children arrived two months ago. They took shelter in a farming area, renting a small one-room concrete shed that provides inadequate protection from wintry conditions and which has no electricity and only an outdoor tap. Like so many families in LSESD’s refugee relief projects, Ali and Manal do not know what the future holds. They plan to return to Syria when it is safe to do so, but have no idea when this will be. Donate to Tearfund Ireland’s Syrian appeal at or contact their office on 01 878 3200. * Names have been changed. Images: Team Hope, Tearfund


Letters to the editor Star Letter

of VOX we In each issue all of a €25 One4 ize pr a d ar aw r. tte le ite r favour voucher for ou u! It could be yo

Finding a new rhythm I was so thankful to read Ana Mullan’s thoughts on Finding a Rhythm for Life (VOX Dec 2012 - Mar 2013). We’ve recently moved to Ireland from the US where we enjoyed similar rhythms with our small church family, incorporating themes like listening, service, breaking bread and celebration. These times of community, relationship and worship seemed like such a sweet glimpse of our heavenly home, living in perfect peace with our Saviour and with one another. But Ana’s words remind me this is not just something we alone long for. God


May I congratulate you on a fabulous edition on leadership recently (VOX October - November 2012). To see so many hearts for coming ALONGSIDE the community and not trying to replicate what the community is already doing (and sometimes doing better and for longer) was very encouraging. I feel if we can integrate into our communities and display our worth to those around us that engagement and impact will quickly follow. We don't need training to reach our communities but just to open the door. Keep up the Trojan work. PAUL GUILDEA DROGHEDA, CO. LOUTH


is calling to us, urging us to (in the words of Ana’s husband) “count the steps… let me lead you.” As we find ourselves in the transitional time of learning a new way of life in Ireland, I am not only comforted by the rhythms we’ve already begun but excited to discover new rhythms, ones which will keep us in step with Jesus. Thank you, Ana, for reminding me to make time and space for Him to move. KAREN HUBER LUCAN, CO. DUBLIN

I’ve been asking the question, “Has the church failed in the whole area of discipleship? I think it has. Let’s face it. The decision to follow Jesus is easy in comparison to the cost of being a disciple. It takes time, energy and understanding. While we see many people come into a personal relationship with Jesus and attend church, at the same time many people leave the church. Why? The term disciple is derived from the New Testament Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman). The church is bad at discipleship because we don’t give Christians space to ask hard questions.

Asking questions and receiving answers is important for every disciple, especially today. Otherwise once life gets in the way, some choose to leave. Secondly, disciples need to “go”. My mum always said to me, that the best way to learn something is put it into practice. Christians get very comfortable. Churches should spend more time reaching out than acting like an A&E department. Tim Keller says, “Faith is as much about taking risks as it is understanding.” So, what do you think? Has the church failed in the area of discipleship? And if so, how can we improve? ANDREW PARLE NEWBRIDGE, CO. KILDARE



I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Photo by Stephen Lynas

Issa Birba is a vegetable farmer in Bingbo village, Burkina Faso. During the rainy season he grows millet, rice and onions, but it is the dry season market gardening which helps him grow food to eat when the rains fail, and also earn extra income to send his children to school.

â‚Ź20 could provide a dry season market garden for a village in Burkina Faso.

ting h g fi n i d e v l Get invo y this t r e v o p d n a hunger k. e e W d I a n ChrIstIa 12-18 MAY The world has enough food for everyone, yet one in eight people go without food each day. Christian Aid believes the world can and must be swiftly changed to one where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty. Christian Aid has a vision - an end to poverty - and we believe that vision can become a reality, with your help.

Find out how you can give, act and pray for some of the world’s poorest communities. Contact us for information and resources. Dublin Office: Tel. 01 611 0801 Email: Cork Office: Tel. 023 88 41468 Email. christianaidweek Charity No. CHY6998







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t 10.35 am on Thursday 18 October 2012, Joy Ann was born. Weighing a tiny 1lb 6.5oz she was whisked into intensive care. The weeks that followed proved an emotional roller coaster for Joy’s parents, Daithi and Maria Mac An Bhiocaire from Cork. Here they share their story with VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams.


Sixteen weeks into her pregnancy, Maria had two threatened miscarriages. En route to a holiday in County Derry, Maria and Daithi never made it past Dublin. Instead, Maria spent two weeks in hospital in the Rotunda. “The doctors and nurses were fantastic but a lot of them didn’t hold out much hope at all,” Maria says. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m glad my hope is not in them’. I knew God was the one who made my baby. He knew what she looked like and every little tiny bit of her.

God could take better care of her than we ever could. “People had been praying that God would continue to be the womb around her and that she would continue to grow in His hands. God was holding her even if I couldn’t.” Just before Joy Ann was two weeks old she contracted a serious infection. As their tiny baby struggled for every breath, I KNEW I HAD TO TRUST HIM NO MATTER WHAT THE OUTCOME. Daithi and Maria were faced with the difficult decision whether or not to allow steroid treatment. “I remember asking, ‘Lord, what are you doing?’ “Although there were risks involved, Then I thought, ‘Am I going to accept good things we felt there wasn’t really a choice but to from God and not bad?’ I knew I had to trust Him no go ahead,” Maria says. “Sure enough, she matter what the outcome.” was off the ventilator within a couple of Daithi recalls, “Maria was put into an isolation days.” room. They were preparing her for a miscarriage but I was convinced that she and the baby would be fine.” YOUR PRAYERS ARE WORKING Eventually Maria was released from hospital “It was a miracle that she pulled and the couple returned home to County Cork. through,” Daithi adds. “At one point, a All seemed well but then, just 21 weeks into the few nurses and parents came up to us pregnancy, Maria’s waters broke. and said, ‘We realise the prayers you are Most women go into labour within three days saying are working’.” of their waters breaking. There is also a real risk of Looking back over that 16-week infection. Maria was put on complete bed rest in journey in ICU, Maria says, “Despite hospital but her doctors feared the baby would not knowing that God had her in His hands, survive the birth. we still had all the up and down emotions “I remember having a conversation with God to deal with. They told us that having a lying in that hospital bed at about 6am one morning. I baby in the ICU was like being on a roller started giving thanks to Him. There was a lot I had to coaster - that’s a perfect description. I be thankful for, even at that point,” Maria smiles. remember one morning when she was “One day, a piece of paper fell out of my Bible. It fine. I left to go across to the hospital and had Jeremiah 29:11 written on it - ‘I know the plans I when I got there they were all around her have for you… Plans to prosper you and not to harm working on her because she had stopped you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ I felt that breathing. verse was for my baby. God had plans to give her hope “The staff members were just and a future.” amazing. They didn’t just take care of the babies - they loved them! And NO HOPE? they looked after us as well. We became As Maria rested, Daithi was faced with gloomy really close with the other parents and predictions from some hospital staff. “A few of the it was wonderful to watch their babies nurses and doctors were saying she was ‘not viable’ progressing and growing. even at 23 weeks but I was trusting all the time that “Daithi and I were like ships that Joy Ann was going to be fine.” passed in the night. I went into the Maria continues the story, “I hung in there for hospital during the day and he went in at three weeks then she just decided she was coming. night.” As soon as Joy Ann was born, a team of baby doctors November 21 was an emotional rushed her to the intensive care unit.” day. It was the very first time Maria was “It was that night before I got to see her. She was allowed to cuddle Joy Ann. so tiny, frail and fragile but so perfect. I knew that “Just to hold her in my arms for the

first time was incredible. I can’t even explain it. It was amazing to be able to hear her little baby noises.”


Over the next two months Joy Ann began to grow steadily. She was finally allowed home on February 6. “She is such a beautiful little baby and so happy and contented,” says Maria. Daithi agrees, “Even when she was so tiny, she started smiling when I spoke to her. I thought I was imagining it but one of the nurses said she was responding to the sound of my voice. She would get animated when I prayed with her. Even now when I pray with her or sing a hymn she smiles and opens her eyes wide. It is really beautiful.” “It is so wonderful to have her at home,” Maria continues. “Her older brother and sister, Shauna and James, had never been able to meet her properly. To have her here, to look after her and be her parents is wonderful.”


Throughout the long journey, Daithi and Maria and their family have been at the receiving end of an outpouring of love and care. Friends from LifeFM and the YMCA cooked meals and folks at church gathered around to help in practical ways. Their minister created a Facebook group to keep people updated with news about Joy Ann. This was a real help because it protected the couple from constant enquiries. And all over the world, people were praying for the tiny baby they had never even met. “Joy Ann is such an amazing gift from God,” Maria says. “This journey is not what I would have chosen but we have been very blessed and we are so thankful. We are going to have a thanksgiving service in Cork and also in England where Daithi’s family is living. It is pretty miraculous how God brought her through.” APRIL - JUNE 2013 VOX


SUMMER IN SLIGO Speakers from Uganda, Sweden, USA and the UK join Irish Christian leaders for the New Wine Sligo Summer conference this year. The week in Sligo combines a great holiday for all the family in the beautiful North West of Ireland with a chance to draw close to God and to be inspired for the year to come. Christians from all across Ireland – different denominations, different ages - come together for a week of worship, Bible teaching and fun at the Sligo Institute of Technology. Sligo13 runs from Sunday 7 July to Friday 12. Conference hosts David and Hilary McClay are looking forward to the morning Bible teaching from Uganda’s Archbishop Henry Orombi. “As the leader of one of the fastest-growing parts of the Christian church, he will inspire, encourage and challenge us to expect to see more of God’s transforming love and power at work in our lives and throughout Ireland,” Hilary said. Seminars, workshops and evening celebrations will take place throughout the week with contributions from Tom Burke, Ken and Helen Clarke, John Derneborg (Sweden), Sarah Rowlinson, Chuck Owens (USA) and Mike Pilavachi (Soul Survivor UK). For updates on the programme keep checking the New Wine website, Facebook and Twitter pages. Parents can be reassured that the youngest baby to the coolest teen will be looked after at Sligo13, having loads of fun and learning about Jesus. The all-age programmes run at the same time as the main morning sessions, so you don’t even need to worry about who stays back with the children! As well as the meetings and programmes, there is an emphasis on creating spaces and places for people to gather, share and relax together. To find out more visit


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Image: Chris Nelson


Dealing with Differences - a Template he old joke about getting ‘the split’ over at the first meeting of a new political party rings a bit hollow in Christian circles. Divisions, supposedly on matters of principle but often about personality, are all too frequent in churches and fellowships, large and small. Any body of Christians facing serious disagreement should make it their top priority to study, patiently and prayerfully, Chapter 15 of Acts, otherwise known as “The Council of Jerusalem”. All the ingredients for a major rift were present and the main issue - adding conditions to the Gospel - was of great importance. But careful reading shows how they: listened (not always the case today), debated at length, took the guidance of the Scriptures, sought the leading of the Spirit and were concerned not to create difficulties for tender consciences. And so they prevented a division that could have decimated the Early Church. It is all too easy to divide and separate, whether by




actually walking out, or worse, by remaining but mentally breaking the bonds of love in sullen silence. It is easier to lay down the law (my law!) than to discern God’s will. It is easier to be critical and “chew the fat” after a session than to be patiently honest during it. And it is easier to gather with the like-minded than to make efforts to understand those of a different point of view. Perhaps what is most striking about the Council of Jerusalem is that these church leaders were prepared to compromise - there, I’ve said it! Having asserted the principle of salvation by grace alone, they added some provisions to ease tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers. These provisions were not a new law - interpretations vary as to what they mean for us today - but they were obviously aimed at making fellowship easier. It is an old truism that an “imperfect” solution with love is better than a “perfect” one without it.


Losing my voice By Annmarie Miles ow I’m going to share something a bit personal with you. ‘Cos it’s just us and I know you won’t tell anyone. I’m struggling a bit in my Christian life. Thankfully, I’m ‘old’ enough to know that, not only is that all right, but it’s even alright to say it out loud. There was a time when I felt I had to pretend to fight the good fight, even though I’d already given up and the gloves were well and truly off. I recognise the telltale signs of my struggle. The giveaway at the moment…? I’ve lost my voice. No… not my vocal chords; my husband and neighbours will confirm that they are in perfect working order. I mean my inner voice. My confidence to say stuff. I’ve got five or six blog posts written that I’m too afraid to publish. So, it’s not that I don’t have anything to say… I just don’t have the confidence to say it. But why should I care what people think (though I do)? Why does it matter if they disagree with me (but it does)? What difference does it make it if I lose a load of followers and get a bit of a hard time (a big one, actually)? How on earth am I supposed to “make straight the path” when I’m not even sure I’m on it anymore? I look back to my days as a new believer, when I knew little of the Bible and I was just learning how to process the world around me with this new eternal perspective. I was so excited; I really believed I could change the world. I felt nothing could stop me. I didn’t need evidence that God was for me - I just KNEW He was. I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, “Where is she gone? Where is that enthusiastic, lively, determined (and no doubt often irritating) young woman?” Well, I think she got older and a little bit wiser. She got sick and then she got sad. She started to doubt herself and so she let herself doubt God. But I also think she got real. Though her mood, strength (and hair colour) are prone to change – she knows that God never, never, NEVER changes. As I’m writing this I’m listening to some old Gospel songs. The language is a little outdated, but the message of Jesus’ eternal power to save lifts my spirits and gives me the courage to raise my voice again.


It’s not that I don’t have anything to say... I just don’t have the confidence to say it.

Illustration: Olly Blake -

It reaches to the highest mountain And flows to the lowest valley The blood that gives me strength From day to day It will never lose its power Couldn’t have said it better myself . J

Annmarie Miles comes from Tallaght in Dublin and is married to Richard, from Wales. She works for Focus on the Family and loves to cook, sing, read, talk and eat! Follow Annmarie’s blog at APRIL - JUNE 13 VOX


Special Feature

ABORTION: SEARCHING THE ISSUES, SHAPING RESPONSES n the 21st century, the most dangerous place for a child to be is in the womb. With 40 million abortions per year, 1 in 5 babies do not make it to birth. In Ireland, abortion is illegal, but out of 70,000 pregnancies, 4,000 to 5,000 still end in abortion each year (most taking place in Britain). While Christians generally agree on the value of life and the importance of protecting the unborn child, the abortion debate in Ireland poses significant challenges as we seek to respond to the legal, political, medical, ethical, spiritual and pastoral implications. A recent Evangelical Alliance of Ireland event hosted experts to explore the issues in the light of proposed new legislation. Here VOX magazine brings together some of the presentations from that event as well as additional contributions considering practical and pastoral responses.


Groups with a higher risk of mental health problems post-abortion:

• • • • • • • • •


Women with a history of mental health problems Younger women Women who are ambivalent or coerced Women who have late-term abortions Women who have an abortion due to foetal anomaly Women with existing children Women with poor supports Women with moral objections Women who have multiple abortions



In the first year 60,000 abortions were performed under that new law - increasing from just 3,000 before it was introduced! In 1971, the Supreme Court overturned the law. It was being abused and manipulated. I believe this is a very misplaced law that should not be enacted. It could lead to widespread abortions.

Responding to proposed new legislation around abortion and mental health, Dr Patricia Casey, professor of Psychiatry at UCD and the Mater Hospital, questioned the government’s inclusion of suicide as a reason for abortion: Suicide is extremely rare in pregnancy. A QUESTION OF ETHICS Statistically it is the safest time in a Dr Donal Ó’Mathúna PhD, Senior women’s life. During the 60-year period Lecturer in Medical Ethics in Dublin City between 1950 and 2011, there were University, considered the influence of modern five suicides in Ireland out of 5 million ethical principles on the current abortion deliveries: four were were postnatal debate: (after birth) and one at the 24th week of Modern medical ethics is traced back pregnancy. In all cases, the women had presented with prior mental health issues. The I BELIEVE THIS IS A VERY MISPLACED LAW THAT SHOULD NOT legislation that BE ENACTED. IT COULD LEAD TO WIDESPREAD ABORTIONS. is proposed ostensibly has the purpose of preventing to Principles of Bio-medical ethics (7th suicide. Yet none of the textbooks on edition). The principle of “autonomy” has psychiatry say anything about abortion become the trump card of bioethics. It is as a treatment for suicide risk. Abortion no longer of greatest concern to identify does not benefit women’s mental health but studies show it can cause harm to those whether something is “right” but instead whether it is “freely chosen”. If you have who are already at a higher risk (15 - 30% informed consent, if the patient has been of those who have an abortion). told the various risks and benefits, then Psychiatrists recognise that it is freedom to choose determines what is important not to offer life-changing “ethical”. interventions when people are in crisis. However, Immanuel Kant, who first We usually advise people not to make any proposed the principle of autonomy, drastic decisions during this time (e.g. defined it as “self-rule that is free from both don’t put your house on the market, don’t controlling interference by others and from file for divorce, etc.). personal limitations, such as inadequate In 1966, California introduced a law to permit abortion on mental health grounds. understanding that prevent meaningful choice.” There were tight restrictions: the woman For Kant, being autonomous is not had to be so unwell that she was a danger to herself or others or had to be supervised solely concerned with acting on one's individual desires in an isolated vacuum (severe, certifiable mental illness). but demands an understanding of societal


connections - it is a balance between the point along the developmental line before personal desires and our obligations to which you could state categorically than others. an embryo is not a human being. There The dominance of “freedom to choose” remains the question of what value people ethics creates problems for medical attribute to that individual human being. practitioners. The predominant thinking, As a scientist, I’m convinced by lessons “if the patient wants it, they are entitled to of history that whenever people have get it” can go largely unchallenged except decided that a certain subset is less than in the case of financial considerations (we human, terrible things have happened. can’t afford that treatment). So there is an obligation to protect the There is a respect for freedom of vulnerable. choice in the Bible but the freedom to We need to insist on the recognition choose does not determine whether or not that the unborn child is a human being. that choice is ethical. Freedom of choice However, there is a need to look at a range without considering the inherent ethical of provisions in compassion for the difficult consequences has landed humanity into situations that people face (for example trouble again and again. The second I’M CONVINCED BY LESSONS OF HISTORY THAT WHENEVER consideration is the personhood of the PEOPLE HAVE DECIDED THAT A CERTAIN SUB-SET IS LESS unborn child. Too THAN HUMAN, TERRIBLE THINGS HAVE HAPPENED. often people seek to identify who is excluded from personhood. However, Stanley Hauerwas in the case of foetal abnormalities). We states that the idea of a human “non need to know how to be with people in a person” is always used as a permissive Christian way. notion that takes the moral heat off certain quandaries raised by modern medicine. UNDERSTANDING THE X CASE The Bible gives clear guidance. Psalm Senator Ronan Mullan is an independent 139:13 talks of a child being “knit” senator who is also a Barrister and a lecturer together in the womb (the Hebrew word in Law and Communications. He is a staunch implies covering and protection). Later pro-life campaigner. the term “secret place” indicates shelter Abortion is a question of particular and protection. God is protecting the concern to people of faith but it is unborn as he or she grows and develops certainly not of exclusive concern to in the womb. Our call is to be there to faith communities. Faith inspires me to protect everybody involved in these tragic love my neighbour and gives me a sense situations. of the justice but this is an issue that is fundamentally reasonable. Social policy PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE needs to be oriented to the common good. Dr Martin Clynes is a stem cell researcher Any reasonable consideration of justice who chooses not to destroy embryos in his and human rights should protect the weak work. and vulnerable, including the unborn. All the scientific evidence is in favour The Irish constitution allows for an of the early embryo being considered an abortion to save the life of a mother. In the individual member of the human race 1992 “X” case, the Supreme Court found at a difference stage of development. It is clear from the last 50 years of science How to take political action: that once conception happens, the entire • Educate yourself - find out about genetic programme for a unique human any proposed legislation being is present. Arguments that question • Write to TDs the value of an embryo because of its size • Speak to TDs in person or appearance ignore the science. Size or appearance should not be taken as an • Use pro-life campaign postcards indicator of value. • Raise awareness of the issues There is no scientific reason to pick a

HELPFUL RESOURCES: Treoir: Information for unmarried parents. Cura: Offering counselling care and support to women faced with crisis pregnancy and post-abortion counselling and aftercare. LIFE: Offering counselling, care and support to women and men faced with a crisis pregnancy. Crisis Pregnancy Ireland: HSE crisis pregnancy organisation. www.crisispregnancy Women Hurt: A project initiated by women who regret their abortions and wish to share their stories of hope and healing with women who find themselves in similar situations. Adoption Authority of Ireland:

that abortion was lawful when there was a real and substantial risk to the mother and included self-destruction in that definition. No medical evidence was presented at this trial. Since that ruling, we have grown in knowledge and awareness. It is clear from eminent psychiatrists (such as Dr Patricia Casey) that there is no credible medical evidence to indicate that an abortion is an appropriate medical treatment for a suicide risk. There is no obligation for legislation on this issue. Under European ruling on the “C” case, the necessary clarification is in regards to what medical treatment a mother is entitled to while pregnant. Psychiatrist Prof Kevin Malone has expressed concern at the “foregrounding” of suicide by making it an issue in the abortion debate and questions, “Is it good public policy to make suicide the means or the gateway to procuring another result?” I fear for a society where what starts out as a choice extended with a compassionate heart becomes an obligation, effectively euthanasia. What begins as an exception can become the norm. APRIL - JUNE 2013 VOX


Special Feature


hatever happens with legislation, churches will always need to deal with the reality of crisis pregnancy and abortion. According to one agency, in the last 28 years, approximately 140,000 women have travelled from Ireland to the UK to have an abortion. Our great dilemma as Christians is how we uphold the sanctity and value of human life in the womb and outside the womb while responding compassionately to those in crisis or who have already had an abortion for whatever reason. A woman facing an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy may feel terrified. “This will destroy my life, my future or my education. What will I tell my parents and friends? How can I cope? What will people think of me?” This overwhelming panic propels many women to choose abortion because it appears like a quick fix. Some Christian



girls have had abortions because they did not want their parents to know they were sleeping with their boyfriends. Research shows that the first person a woman goes to during a crisis pregnancy is the most important. That first reaction can hugely impact the outcome. She fears judgement, condemnation and rejection. Healing either begins at that moment or you become part of their problem. Is your church a place where secrets can be revealed and where there will be mercy, grace and hope to heal? 18



1. With compassion and calm. Panic and fear subside in an atmosphere of kindness. 2. Listen. Your greatest temptation in that moment is to start giving advice or telling them what you think they should do, especially if you are afraid they might opt for an abortion. 3. Help them consider the options: Know what services are available for unplanned pregnancy and for those who have gone through the trauma of abortion. Provide them with as much information as possible including the pros and consequences of each option. • Having the baby: How will the mother cope? What supports do they have? What supports can the church offer practically for the long term? There are babies who were not aborted but who were never wanted and they have lived all their lives with the devastating effects of deep rejection and dysfunction. Single mothers need a lot of support, practically and emotionally • Adoption can be a very positive option. Studies show that most adoptions work out very well and today, the mother can be involved in choosing the adoptive parents. She can also change her mind for up to six months after the baby is born. However, giving birth and giving up your child is a huge sacrifice but it can be the most loving thing to do. • Abortion: You must allow people to discuss this as an option. But you can help them see that it is not a quick fix and ensure they understand the long-term consequences. The psychological trauma of abortion can re-emerge many years after the

event and can also affect men as well as women. 4. Allow them to make their own choice. At the end of the day it has to be their choice, not yours, because they will be the ones who have to live with the consequences.


If women decide to have an abortion for whatever reason or confess that they have had an abortion in the past, will there still be a seat for them in your church? Will it be a seat of disappointment, disapproval or rejection? Or will it be a seat that will minister grace and mercy, forgiveness and restoration? Jesus allows us to make choices all the time, knowing we may make the wrong choices. The ‘experts in the law’ dragged a vulnerable woman to Jesus, publicly humiliating her for the sin of adultery. Notice the man wasn’t there - women often pay a very high price for the sexual sin of men. Jesus did not condone the woman’s behaviour but instead of judging, He rescued her, protected her and offered a second chance. The One who had the most right to throw the first stone, didn’t. Jesus does not throw in the towel in anger and disgust. He rebuked the selfrighteous, the stubborn, the unrepentant and the hard of heart but He never ever snuffed out a dimly burning wick or a crushed reed. Today, when women chose abortion as a way out, is the cross of Jesus big enough for that? Joanie Reilly is involved in pastoral leadership in Naas Community Church and also runs her own counselling practice:



bortion occurs in all societies. Before modern medicine, women could either self-treat or avail of the services of certain women in the community. Many deaths and permanent injuries occurred as a result and still do in developing countries (as estimated 21.6 million unsafe abortions in 2008 worldwide with 47,000 maternal deaths - WHO). Severely restricting safe abortion has not been shown to reduce abortions but instead drives them underground.



In my experience, most women have mixed feelings around having an abortion but mostly relief at the resolution of the dilemmas they face in the pregnancy. However, shame can be intense, as can the self-hatred at having been stupid, with women blaming themselves. Obviously, being pregnant without planning is the main underlying cause and reducing those numbers is the best way to prevent abortions. Once a woman is unhappily pregnant, there is no win/win solution. Unfortunately the energy put into CLARIFYING LEGISLATION FOR MEDICAL the anti-abortion campaign does not flow INTERVENTION over into the obvious preventative areas. There is a lack of clarity in current Relationship and sexuality education legislation relating to abortion. All doctors in Irish schools is vestigial and when it is I know try to do done, it is done their very best for reluctantly. In their patients in contrast, the difficult situations. ONCE A WOMEN IS UNHAPPILY PREGNANT media/internet They need to be is awash with THERE IS NO WIN/WIN SOLUTION. able to act without sexual advice and the threat of encouragement, sanctions if they and teenagers can make a mistake. easily access pornography on a smart A threat to the life of a woman is phone. a matter of judgment. I would fear the The prevailing culture and perceived intrusion of judges and panels of experts “norms” around sex could be challenged in a tense clinical situation. In the case of by Christian young people, as peer-to-peer an infected uterus, urgency is required information is known to be taken more because once the infection has spread seriously than information passed from it can be rapidly fatal and the definitive adults to young people. treatment is to empty the uterus. I feel the gospel approach must be to Dangerous delays can occur sincerely search our hearts and confess our determining the level of risk which could own sin before God, to refuse to condemn put a woman’s life at risk. A doctor’s or stigmatise and to make every effort to decision could be interpreted as criminal in raise young people who are empowered to either direction. I believe this is what has to avoid the heartbreak of a crisis pregnancy. be articulated in law. Doctors need to be specifically indemnified if they act in good Heather Mc Intyre is a GP based in Co. faith, whatever the outcome. Donegal.


Leanbh Mo Chroí (Irish phrase meaning “my heart’s child”) is a support group set up for parents who have made the heart-breaking choice to terminate muchwanted pregnancies after they discovered their baby would not survive outside the womb. Having to face the trauma, cost and stigma of travelling to the UK added to the pain for parents already grieving the inevitable death of their child. Many of these babies were diagnosed with a condition called anencephaly, which means the brain does not form properly. In such cases, there is no hope that the baby will survive. Under current Irish law, the mother must carry the baby to full term and give birth, knowing that her child will die at or very soon after birth. Some mothers choose to continue with the pregnancy and have found comfort in being able to hold their baby before he or she dies. Others make the heartbreaking decision to have an abortion. “I did not want to terminate this pregnancy,” one mother wrote. “I wanted this baby so much but she was going to die – no medical intervention could prevent this. It was the most difficult thing in my life. She was my much longed for and loved daughter. I had hopes and dreams for her and for our family life together and to cope with all that being snatched away was difficult enough without my own health system turning their back on me. My doctor told me I was a life support machine for this baby, without me, there was no way she could survive.”



MY STORY “My Story” is an opportunity for ordinary people living in Ireland to talk about their journey to faith or the impact God has in their daily lives.

SUMMER IN AMSTERDAM WITH THE LORD OF THE RINGS CHILDREN’S AUTHOR MARIA BURKE SHARES HER LOVE FOR FANTASY AND HER JOURNEY TO FAITH. When my son was born, I started to write. The idea for a story was 19, sleeping in a squat and working as a came from my paintings. My time was limited but I caught some chambermaid under a false name during my summer precious, quiet moments, while my baby napped, to lie on the break. This was my first time exploring the world as a couch and scribble a few words. They flooded onto the paper and new adult. I arrived in Amsterdam with nothing more took on a new life. Soon I realised a novel was taking shape. for company than a copy of The Lord of the Rings in my rucksack. For years, I had battled with chronic ulcerative colitis. I To my delight, I discovered that the world of dragons and elves desperately searched for answers in alternative medicine and hadn’t died when I stopped believing in the tooth fairy. I immersed eastern mysticism, but nothing helped. myself in Tolkien’s masterpiece, took a When a friend persuaded me to visit a job in the hotel and allowed the staff to I DREAMT OF USING MY OWN Christian church, I never thought I would call me Claire because the eccentric boss find my answers in Jesus. I had rejected couldn’t bear to have a second Maria CREATIVITY TO DO SOMETHING religious beliefs during my teens and I working there. WONDERFUL WITH MY LIFE. thought I’d never go back. But every The wizard, Gandalf the Grey, Sunday tears poured down my cheeks. leapt out of the pages and was a huge The healing had begun. I found something inspiration to me. I dreamt of using my new and it wasn’t religion. Light gradually penetrated my world. own creativity to do something wonderful with my life. The word Surrendering my life to Christ wasn’t easy and it is still a work “wizard” means “man of wisdom”. Little did I realise back then that I in progress. But the healing I found for my heart and body was needed a man of wisdom - it was years before I found my Saviour. evidence that I had discovered something real. Getting to know my Back in Ireland, I used my love for storytelling in the classroom Saviour has been a wonderful journey. where I worked as a primary school teacher in Dublin’s inner city. I found a publisher so easily. Launching The Ark of Dun Ruah After I married, my husband and I moved to Lahinch in County Clare. I threw myself into my painting, inspired by the landscape has been a dream come true. The second book in the series is ready around me but soon boats, islands, eagles and owls emerged from to be published and ideas for more books fill my mind. I now believe the canvas. that, with my Saviour, everything is possible.




PACK YOUR BAGS... for a United Beach Missions Summer Team!

Up for a new challenge? Every summer many families head to the beautiful beaches of Ireland to enjoy the sun, sea and sand. With time on their hands people are often willing to talk about the important issues of life. There are loads of opportunities for mission, outreach and evangelism – but we need YOU!

Call 048 9074 7677 (from ROI) or 028 9074 7677 (from NI)

Visit to find out more! SMALL PRINT: UBM is an inter-church movement that aims to reach out to individuals and families with the claims of Christ and to present the Gospel in a friendly way. We would love to have you join us on a team. The minimum age for volunteers is 15 (no upper age limit!). Previous experience is NOT necessary – all that is required is that you have trusted the Lord Jesus and have a desire to share the Gospel.






fter a devastating accident in 2004, Karen Farrar was confined to a wheelchair. She shares a few of the challenges that face disabled people in Irish churches: When I first arrived at the church there were lots of steps up to the front door and there was no disabled parking. They did have huge temporary ramps and then they would have to help me up and down. It was a bit of a spectacle and you felt like you were holding up the whole congregation. I never thought about people in wheelchairs before I had my accident. It doesn’t cross your mind until somebody arrives at your church. People are so busy and they are blissfully unaware. Sometimes it is a small thing like the placement of a mirror in the disabled toilet. It’s rather difficult to put on lipstick if you can only see your forehead! With a disability, you have to be the first person to make a joke about it because people are so unsure about what to do. Remind them, “I’m sitting down but I’m still human.” Being aware of other people’s discomfort and just cracking a joke can really help. I like it when people ask me what to do rather than just assume they know. One woman was talking about having teas and coffees after the service. I said, “That’s a fantastic idea; what can I do to help?” She answered, “Great, I’ll put you down on the rota.” That was wonderful. She did



When somebody with a physical disability comes to church, the challenges are more practical and environmental. Somebody with an intellectual disability is an unknown and that can be challenging and scary. Their behaviour may be extreme or a bit inappropriate. They don’t conform to our nice middleclass social norms and that can trigger stereotypes and prejudices. It is time for churches to ask: “Is there anything we could be doing?” But you should only ask that question if you are willing to listen to the answer. You have to consider, “Does the church really want to know and who is prepared to make an effort to address these issues?” It can be risky and dangerous. Raising awareness is a vital first step. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Get some reading material or host a training seminar in your church. Churches can also do so much within the community. For example, Sunbeam has a befriending scheme called “Friends In Deed”. After a period of training and assessment, volunteers are linked with one of the Sunbeam clients. The volunteer’s role is to take their new friend out for four hours, once a month. It is not a huge commitment and there is a lot of help and support. Care is taken in linking people who share common interests. You might arrange a trip to a local coffee shop, listen to traditional music or go for a swim. For clients at Sunbeam, this oncea-month outing is a major highlight. They talk about their “friend” because they know that this is someone who has chosen to spend time with them. So often, people with intellectual difficulties feel as if they are bystanders. They are on the fringes of life looking in but they long to feel part of something. The church cannot do everything and if other people are doing it well, then the church should be willing to support and get alongside what is already

not start by thinking of all the reasons why I couldn’t help. By being nice, a lot of people exclude you from things. Most would not have dreamt of inviting me onto the tea and coffee rota. But it is amazing what I can do! People do offer to help but often it can be easier to do things alone; for example, getting in and out of the car. If you look different people treat you differently. Yet my wheelchair is my normal. I’m not sick. I just have to do things differently. I never go a week without someone saying, “You are an inspiration”. That is one of the top ten things NOT to say to a disabled person. Please don’t call me an inspiration just because I got out of bed and out of the door this morning. I’d like people to just accept me the way I am. Society puts us all in a box. SO OFTEN PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DIFFICULTIES The key is to raise awareness. When you spot a problem, tell FEEL AS IF THEY ARE BYSTANDERS. someone so they can do something about it.


Delwen Giles has spent 35 years working with adults who have intellectual disabilities. She works at Sunbeam House Services in Wicklow - an organisation that seeks to empower people with intellectual disabilities to live full and satisfying lives as equal citizens of their local communities (check out

happening. With schemes like Friends In Deed, Christians should be the first to volunteer! To find out more about the Friends In Deed programme and other opportunities to volunteer, please visit

Reader survey - the findings We conducted a reader survey to find out about facilities and access in our churches. Here’s what we discovered. Ÿ Over 60% of churches surveyed have people with disabilities within their congregations. Ÿ 32% described their church as “easily accessible” with both great facilities and a great attitude towards people with disabilities. Ÿ 9% described access difficult or impossible. Ÿ 42% of churches surveyed do not have disabled toilet facilities. Ÿ Only 13% provide a hearing loop even though 30% have people with hearing difficulties within their congregations. Ÿ 43% of churches have adults with intellectual disabilities in their congregation but none of the churches surveyed make special provision for these church members. Ÿ Less than 20% of churches actively involve disabled people in the life of the church (for example in programmes or taking part in rotas). Ÿ Less than half of the churches surveyed have permanent ramp access. Ÿ Two churches provide deaf sign language interpretation as part of their services.


Rosalie works at a residential unit for adults with intellectual difficulties and regularly offers her clients the opportunity to attend church. “One person wants to come every Sunday, another likes to go from the residential house beside ours and I am happy to bring him too. A couple of others go from time to time - I had a car full for the carol service.” She describes the benefits of church attendance for her clients. “They love the welcome they receive, the social interaction, being part of a community and it meets a spiritual need too. It is a very positive experience and it is certainly something churches could foster more as it is a way of reaching out to everyone.” APRIL - JUNE 2013 VOX


MAGAZINE PHOTO COMPETITION 2013 Thank you to everyone who submitted entries to the VOX photo competition 2013! We are delighted to present the winners to you. Well done to everyone who participated! The prizes are on the way to the winners.



...By his light I walked through darkness, (Job 29:3) Photographer: Kyle Holland, Greystones, Co. Wicklow 24






Faith is the substance of things hoped for, The evidence of things not seen A photo can make you believe in what you did not witness; Be it truth or wonders and dreams unseen. Photographer: Caroline Connaughton, Bray, Co. Wicklow

House of Prayer, Empty Seats Photographer: Hosanna Lis, Dublin 2

TRAINING CHRISTIAN COUNSELLORS IN IRELAND AND BEYOND... epression, anxiety, stress, relationship Since that time, over 120 people have completed the difficulties, suicide, abuse.... the list goes on of two-year Christian Diploma course, and many others have problems that face our generation in Ireland. gone on to complete the Degree programme, becoming Most pastors, priests and ministers get worn professional counsellors with the Irish Association of out and overwhelmed by the issues facing people in their Counselling and Psychotherapy. churches. For this reason, it is great news that there are an Several have opened counselling centres around the increasing number of Christian counsellors working in our country, and hundreds of clients, both Christian and noncommunities. Christian, have received help and encouragement. Vicky McEvoy, who pioneered and manages Oasis Vital Connexions now offers a short course over three Counselling Service in Ballyfermot and Tallaght, explained weekends, called Listening with the Heart, which is an how as a young minister’s wife, she felt unable to introduction for those involved in pastoral care or who wish give people the help they needed in pastoral to learn more skills in helping people. The course covers situations. subjects like boundaries, values, communication skills, “I remember a young couple with challenge and change and is a great help to people who work four kids in our community who came in the caring professions. to me struggling in their marriage – I Bible teaching on these psychological subjects leaves hadn’t got a clue how to help them, students laughing and crying and better equipped for the apart from praying for them. I work of ministry. watched their marriage break apart This course has been run in South Africa, China, Egypt, and saw their kids' distress. Borneo, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, and Singapore. “And The next course is then there to be in Carrickfergus was a young in April 2013 and the I REMEMBER A YOUNG COUPLE WITH FOUR KIDS IN OUR next diploma course man, who was often in our home, COMMUNITY WHO CAME TO ME STRUGGLING IN THEIR begins in October who was diagnosed 2013. with cancer – to our shock, MARRIAGE – I HADN’T GO A CLUE HOW TO HELP THEM For current courses we were told one morning that he please check out the had taken his own life.” Vital Connexions These and other sad stories led website or write to us if Vicky to train as a counsellor when she and her husband you would like a course in your area: www.vitalconnexions. John moved to Dublin in 1992. Vicky helped set up the net. Irish Association of Christian Counsellors in 1996 and Oasis Counselling Service – Ballyfermot, Dublin 10 – 01 6268519 opened Oasis, which has now grown into two thriving Oasis Counselling Service – Tallaght, Dublin 24 – 01 4620012 community counselling centres with 36 counsellors and three part-time staff. “Christian counselling offers the same professional skills and psychological understanding as ordinary counselling services but has the unique added ingredient of a Christian worldview. “A Christian counsellor sees people as body, soul and spirit, believing that God created us with amazing potential but we have a brokenness inside,” Vicky explained. The national bodies that regulate counselling in Ireland insist on high standards and full training. Together with Andrea Wigglesworth from Scotland, Vicky launched Vital Connexions training consultancy in 1999 and offered their first diploma course in Dublin.




The Irish Association of Christian Counsellors OUR VISION IS TO PROVIDE TRAINING AND ACCREDITATION FOR CHRISTIAN COUNSELLING IN IRELAND SO THAT PEOPLE CAN RECEIVE CHRISTIAN COUNSELLING THAT IS PROFESSIONAL AND CARING. Upcoming events: “Meeting the Suicide Risk” - Heather Moore, Sat 23rd March from 10am - 2pm The Riasc Centre, Swords. Booking forms:

connecting for life....

“The Encouragement Course” - Linda Wagner and Mary Ann Steffy coming soon in Swords area Contact: Linda Wagner - 087 2976094 “Listening with the Heart” - Andrea Wigglesworth and Vicky McEvoy 6 days, 25th - 27th April and 23rd - 25th May, The Vineyard Church, Carrickfergus Booking forms: “Diploma in Christian Counselling” - Vital Connexions Professional 2 year part time course starts again in October 2013 (Dublin and Belfast) Booking forms: Christian Counselling Centres around Ireland: Bellweather Centre, Dublin - 01- 8749676 Oasis Counselling Service, Ballyfermot - 01 6268519 Oasis Counselling Service, Tallaght - 014620012 For other Christian Counsellors around Ireland look at



Bullying – a practical approach

As parents, we want to help our children learn to handle the tough situations of life with confidence. When sharing difficulties becomes a natural thing in our homes, it can lead to great character development. If your child comes to you and says that they are being bullied in school, your first reaction can be anger or fear. Take a moment, though, to be glad and relieved that your child has come to you and not tried to hide or suffer in silence. This is a good thing and already the issue on its way to being resolved. If your child is being bullied and you don’t know what to do, you’re not alone. You may think, “What if I deal with it the wrong way and make it worse?” On the other hand, you want to encourage and equip them to get through this frightening time. Here are a few strategies to help you and your child:

My top five... Web highlights from VOX readers Rachel Held Evans’ series “Ask a …” invites people from different spiritual and political backgrounds to respond to questions from her readers. It is enlightening and an amazing testament to grace in conversation. This Canadian mother of three is currently writing her first book, "Jesus Feminist". She blogs about spirituality, parenting and finding God’s presence in the mundane. She’s a great champion of women and until recently worked with Mercy International supporting young women in cycles of addiction. Kathy co-pastors The Refuge in Denver, Colorado, which opens its doors to those who are marginalised in society. She writes honestly about the dark side of life, spiritual transformation and Jesus’ heart for the poor and downtrodden. Her inspiring book "Down We Go – Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus" shares her passion for community and her dream of the Body of Christ at its most beautiful, vulnerable and loving. Christine Sine is an Australian doctor who has lived all over the world but who now lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband. Her blog explores her love for liturgy, Celtic spirituality and ecological sustainability. She publishes a prayer each day and her gentle poetry is a balm for the soul. Justin Lee is the executive director of the Gay Christian Network in the US. His first book book, "Torn - Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs. Christian Debate" is now available from Jericho Books. Justin writes with grace and humility on issues surrounding sexuality and Christianity and is an important, gentle voice of reason in an often fraught and difficult conversation. He highlights issues affecting LGBT people within the church while managing to avoid alienating those with opposing views. Melanie Clark Pullen is an actor, writer and mother of two, following the Spirit's lead and seeking the Kingdom in unlikely places.

Listen to the whole story: Let your child talk it out. Don’t be tempted to interrupt for more specific details or with other questions. Let them tell the story as you nod encouragement – even if you want to cry or rant. 
 Get the details:
This is the time for the when, where and how. Once your child has opened up, you can get the details. Be sure to make notes. 
Then discuss ways that they can take some preventative measures, such as using a different toilet at break time or taking a different route home.
 Make an action plan:
A list of 10 dos and don’ts may overwhelm your child, so decide on three steps. 
For instance, “If someone tries to bully you tomorrow: 1. Make eye contact briefly, rather than avoid eye contact. 
 2. Then walk away 3. Go straight to your chosen adult* – no taunting or “I’m telling on you.” *Let the child choose a designated member of the school staff that they are happy to talk to. 
 Role-Play With Your Child:
This won’t be easy but working through a couple of scenarios will help them find the words and actions to respond. It will also help them to feel that they have a voice.
 Get in touch with the school: Most schools now have antibullying initiatives. Make sure the school knows what is going on and discuss how the school will support your child. During April, Focus on the Family Ireland will be broadcasting a series of radio programmes on the subject of bullying. Details will be on at that time. 
Feel free to contact us at any time -




ary Ann Steffy is a Christian counsellor with 26 years' experience in helping people who have been sexually abused and is herself a survivor of sexual abuse. She is a founding member of the Irish Association of Christian Counsellors. Speaking at the Living Faith Conference in February, she warned of ways that Christians can do more harm than good in responding to those who have suffered abuse.



Forgive and forget: Too often Christians deny and minimise the longterm effects of abuse. In the worst cases, churches participate in cover-ups. We have substantial resources to help with the healing process but healing can never take place until we acknowledge the seriousness of the problem. If it shocks you to discuss sexual abuse then you “As a victim of injustice and oppression, shouldn’t seek to help an abused person. You need you lose your sense of worth as a person, to get over your own difficulties before you can help your dignity. But restoring that sense of self someone else. means restoring memory - a recognition Sexual abuse includes any contact or interaction that what happened to you happened. between a child and an adult (or older child) that is Something seriously evil happened to you. That acknowledgement is crucial if healing is to go on…” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, talking about the PEOPLE MEAN WELL BUT THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. abuses suffered under apartheid. Magical thinking - there is a CHRISTIANS NEED TO BE EDUCATED ABOUT ABUSE. myth that when you come to Jesus all your problems are gone. Not all of the damage that has been done will be healed this side of heaven. We for the gratification of the abuser. All inappropriate need to be careful about how we present contact causes damage, even in the least severe of the Christian life, especially if we talk cases. But it can be hard for people to acknowledge about dramatic spiritual interventions. that what happened was abuse, especially if they were Sometimes we promise more than we related to their abuser. can deliver. Where do they go when the Sexual abuse is not about sex; it is about power miracle cure doesn’t work? or the outworking of the “demons” in the life of the Misunderstandings about sin and abuser. The damage done is pervasive and extensive. shame: Appropriate shame helps us to It is not something you can just shrug off. acknowledge where things are not right When someone shares their story of abuse, a in our lives. We are all sinners but Jesus negative response will compound the damage. Too took care of our shame at the cross. often churches can do and say things that may be Illegitimate shame is the result of extremely destructive. abuse and it is destructive. It says, “The People mean well, but that is not good enough. person I am is bad, dirty, despicable Christians need to be educated about abuse. or flawed and no one would want to After many years, I may see the wisdom of God know me.” Illegitimate shame is the in allowing my experience - it has helped me to help most powerful and debilitating emotion others - but that does not mean it was a good thing. anyone can experience. The result is a Abuse is horrible. God can bring good out of evil, but haemorrhage of the soul. that takes time.

Quoting a bunch of verses from the Bible will not come close to addressing the consequences of illegitimate shame.


• Listen without distraction. Give them your undivided attention. • Don’t respond with shock, horror or outrage. Don’t go to bat in their defence. They simply want to be heard and believed. • Touch can trigger negative feelings or memories. Ask before you touch. Don’t just assume. • Tell them simply, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” • After someone confides in you, they may back off. Be available but don’t pursue them. • Respect confidentiality. • Know when to refer - don’t try to handle something beyond your training or experience. Always consult the individual about the need to refer.

Helpful websites: Association of Christian Counsellors HSE (National Counselling Service) One-in-Four support service for those who have suffered sexual abuse Towards Healing (a counselling service for survivors of clerical and religious abuse) Connect - free telephone counselling service for adults who experienced abuse as a child APRIL - JUNE 2013 VOX





eorge and Siobhán live in Shinrone, Co. Offaly. They are members of the Roscrea Oasis Christian Fellowship and host a home group at their farm near Birr, the delightfully named “Corolanty,” where George trains horses and Siobhán sculpts and paints them. That’s the short story. The longer story is even more intriguing. Both have gained international repute in their chosen field. Both have experienced God working in their lives through challenging circumstances.



Siobhán Bulfin was recently featured in an RTÉ Arts special with one of her pieces - a ten-metre, twotonne bronze sculpture of life-size horses. She sketches and paints from life, giving her work a spontaneous and confident feel. A regular exhibitor at the Dublin Horse Show, her paintings and sculptures are extremely popular. Siobhán is an

George uses encouragement and positive reinforcement in order to invite the horse to further training. He does not move a horse into a new stage until he can see that it is ready. “Generating trust is the key. By connecting with the animal, desensitizing and then continuous bonding throughout the breaking schedule you invite the horse to build trust and confidence in you,” George explains. “You need to put as much time as is needed into this part. When the horse trusts you, he is not afraid of you and will be less resistant to accept further steps. The timing of all other breaking steps does not matter as much as the timing and effort put into the initial bonding between horse and trainer.”

In 2007, an accident shook the equilibrium of George and Siobhán’s contented lives. George was mountaineering in the Himalayas when he received news that Siobhán was in a coma following a serious riding accident. He hurried home as best he could but the process took some time. Added to the pressure was the effect on their sons, Fred and Daniel, who has Down Syndrome. The wider church prayed for recovery. While she was in the coma, Siobhán shares how she experienced Jesus coming into the hospital and sitting on the bed with her. The peace and sense of rest that HE BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND THAT HE TOO WAS BEING emanated from Him has never “BROKEN” AND RE-TRAINED BY THE MASTER TRAINER. left her in the years since that event. The family gathered round: George nursed Siobhán back to health, through the coma, through her month or so in a wheelchair and a longer process of mental recovery. For a while, it seemed as if she would never work again. George asked the familiar questions: Why did God let this happen? Is it a punishment?

VITALITY BURSTS FROM DYNAMIC BRONZES, WHICH TWIST, BUCK AND REAR OUT OF ALL CONTROL. avid rider and her working day consists of breaking in horses, which she then uses as models for her sculpture and painting. Her expert knowledge of the animal shines from the work; every muscle and every sinew is recognised and documented. The sculptures convey energy and power. Vitality bursts from dynamic bronzes, which twist, buck and rear out of all control. “Horses in action are my favourite subject,” Siobhán says. “I let them out in the arena and they can revel in their freedom while I draw and sculpt to my heart’s content.”


George was born to a family with a horse riding tradition going back for generations. He began riding at the age of four. Surrounded by horses as a child, George started working at racing stables when he was 18. His experience includes working in the Curragh for Arthur Moore and for racing stables in Cumbria and Gloucestershire in England. George also spent a year in Australia, riding race horses in Melbourne for leading trainer Eric Musgrove. He returned to Ireland, having developed an interest in horse starting and breaking techniques. Eventually, about a decade ago he started breaking horses full time. George’s methods promote a nurturing and horsefriendly approach. Over the years he has learned to read and interpret the horse’s messages. Every horse is different. Some of them are quite keen to accept the breaking process, while others need a while to adjust.


Where is God when life falls apart? However, being George, he began to understand the whole difficult process as part of God’s training process. He began to understand that he too was being “broken” and re-trained by the master trainer. It was time to listen to God more closely. For Siobhán, God was resculpting her. Her impression is of a distinct before and after: before the accident she had (in her own words) a slightly legalistic approach to faith and truth and relationship. But now, she sees much more the essence of God who is love, who means love and who is engaged in love. The church continues to support and care for George and Siobhán as they support and care for Daniel. This year, the church is building portacabins in an area of the farm where it hopes to develop a centre for equine therapy and special needs education.

Ken and Val direct several missional communities across the midlands of Ireland. Ken’s books Evangelism in Acts and Evangelism as Encounter are available on Amazon Kindle.




THE EARTH IS THE LORD'S Looking after the environment should be an integral part of faith, writes Jonathan Hanson, for one simple reason: it's God's, not ours. BY JONATHAN HANSON

he earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. God's plan for His people is not divorced from the rest of life. The land, for The opening words of Psalm 24 remind us example, was central to the Israelite's that everything is God's. Black holes, blue story. whales, Bentleys, beetles, bacteria – all For our story, the first chapter of of them are His. If this is the case, then how we view Colossians provides a good overview of and treat creation should not be founded primarily how God views and treats all things. It on economic incentives, cultural attitudes or even plain old tradition but on a careful consideration of how God views and treats it. YOU MAY NEVER HAVE HEARD OF THE LESSER IRON GRAY DWARF The Bible gives us LEMUR, THE ANGWANTIBO OR THE KIPUNJI BUT GOD HAS. that knowledge. From Genesis to Revelation,


sets out the relationship Jesus Christ has with everything else and in doing so helps us to understand our role as His disciples.


(‘For in Him all things were created’ - Colossians 1:15): The dominion we have as God's children is not domination. Rather, with this great position of power comes great responsibility for what is His. What's more, our authority is modelled not on earthly power but on Jesus of Nazareth, the servant king.




(‘…all things have been created through Him and for Him’ Colossians 1:16): You may never have heard of the lesser iron gray dwarf lemur, the angwantibo or the kipunji, but God has. The value of creation is not based primarily on its usefulness to humans but on the fact that God values and delights in all of His works. Creation's main purpose - and ours too - is to glorify Him by fulfilling its potential.


('in him all things hold together' Colossians 1:17): The economic value of nature's services to humans, like pollination, is not just greater than that of the entire world economy; it is the foundation of the world economy. Creation is also an immeasurable source of inspiration and social benefit for us. God sustains all that He has made and has provided enough for everyone and everything, if it is shared fairly.


(‘…and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on


earth or things in heaven’ - Colossians 1: 20): Sin corrupts the relationship between people and the planet, just as it spoils all other relationships. Christ's mission of salvation will reconcile and renew all creation. And as part of this process, our Great Commission should involve creation care.


It's easy to think of creation care as something done somewhere else by someone else. In reality, it starts right here with you and me, in our everyday lives and everyday choices. It starts right here in our beloved island, an emerald jewel in God's golden crown. St Catherine of Sienna, a 14thcentury church reformer, put it like this: “The reason why God's servants love

His creatures so deeply is they realise how deeply Christ loves them. And it is the very character of love to love what is loved by those we love.” We need to engage with the fact that we are part of the 20% of the planet's population that consume 80% of its resources. From childhood we are steeped in a culture of over-consumption and accept it as the norm. This consumerism saps our focus, our finances and our faith. Over-consumption also negatively impacts the environment, using up more than our fair share of energy and resources and leaving little for the poor and the rest of creation. But it's not just about the quantity of our consumption; it's also about the quality. Cheapness often comes at a price. Generally speaking, when we buy cheap food, clothes and other goods, it's not really cheap. The cost has simply been offset onto other people and things in the supply chain, through, for example, poor working and environmental conditions. This can be difficult to hear when so many in Ireland are struggling to make ends meet. But the answer is relatively straightforward. If we reduce the quantity of our consumption we can afford to increase the quality: products and services that respect and care for people and planet, that are sustainable, humane and fair. Rather than have our values defined by our consumption, we must ensure that our consumption is defined by our values. And a good place to start is to remind ourselves every day that “the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and those who live in it.”


Jonathan Hanson is a Christian environmentalist who grew up in Monaghan and Malawi. He is currently doing research on the human dimensions of snow leopard conservation.
















enkatesh and Subbulu were trapped into slavery after taking out a small loan from the owner of a rice mill in India. They planned to pay back the loan by working in the mill but the owner was not interested in the loan; he wanted to run his business on cheap labour: slave labour. Venkatesh and Subbulu rose at 2 a.m. to begin work. Despite long hours day after day, the rice mill owner claimed they still owed him money. He would not allow them to leave and find other jobs that might have repaid the “loan” more quickly.




investigated the rice mill. They presented evidence of forced labour to the district authorities and supported local officials in an operation to free the families from slavery. On the day of their rescue, 14 people received legal documents from the government that cancelled the alleged “loan” and entitled each one to compensation for what they had endured. With release certificates in hand, they were ready to go home. Finally, Venkatesh and Subbulu were free!

Venkatesh and Subbulu had been held for four years at the rice mill in Chennai when human rights organisation, International Justice Mission (IJM) heard WE KNOW WE CAN’T SEEK JUSTICE ALONE: WE BELIEVE GOD of their HAS CALLED US ALL TO PLAY OUR PART IN THIS FIGHT. plight. IJM

Tom Slattery of Evangelical Alliance Ireland commented, “The work of International Justice Mission caught my attention last year. I believe their efforts to rescue people from situations of violent oppression and strengthen public justice systems is both unique and Jesus-like. We need to hear their stories in Ireland and consider how we might help. Tackling injustice around the world is part of our mission and IJM's interventions and actions are powerful.”



All over the world, people suffer from injustice. IJM hears stories of people abusing their power over others. Injustice denies people the good things that God intends for them – their life, liberty, safety, dignity and the fruits of their labour. These are people like Jayanthi* who spent most of her young life in the daily toil of breaking rocks, or Lien* who was sold into a brothel by a family member to be abused for money, or Stephen who was imprisoned and beaten for a crime he did not commit. “God is passionate about justice,” shared Ruth Cooke, who heads up IJM in Ireland and Northern Ireland. “We are commanded to ‘seek justice’ (Isaiah 1:17) and to ‘follow justice and justice alone’ (Deuteronomy 16:20). Sometimes we are reluctant to look deeper into the suffering and pain of others because when we do, we can no longer say we did not know the truth.” Today, IJM is working in 16 communities worldwide, employing lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals who partner with local officials to rescue victims

and provide them with aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote fair and effective public justice systems.


This approach is helping bring about long-term transformation to the lives of individuals and whole communities, not only rescuing thousands who need immediate help but working to protect millions more from such abuse in the future. There are many more people waiting to be rescued but IJM is committed to helping as many as possible. “We know we can’t seek justice alone: we believe God has called us all to play our part in this fight”, Ruth added. “But we need others to get involved, whether through prayer or finances, volunteering or raising awareness. Why not invite a speaker to your church, youth group or small group to find out more? Together, we can bring God’s freedom to those in chains.” (*Names changed) Contact IJM in Ireland on 0044 28 9508 8098, email Ireland@ijmuk. org or visit

Following her rescue from slave labour, Jayanthi* drew her first ever picture. Now free, she can replace a hammer with a pencil as she goes back to school. APRIL - JUNE 2013 VOX



“For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands”. - Isaiah 55:12


VOX DEC 12 - MAR 13

Keynote Speakers Pastor Carter Conlon

Summer Fire Conference is honoured to host a variety of ministers who have the “Word of the Lord” and are at the cutting edge of ministry

New York, USA

Pastor Carter Conlon is the Senior Pastor of Times Square Church. Pastor Carter has a shepherd’s heart and a great love for Ireland. He is a tender and compassionate man, who is loved and well respected for his strong leadership and passion for God. Pastor Carter ministers regularly to nearly 2000 Pastors and Leaders worldwide through a ministry that he started called ‘For Pastors Only’

Pastor Teresa Conlon New york, USA

Teresa Conlon is an Associate Pastor at Times Square Church. She delivers messages of truth and freedom that cut to the heart of even the deepest issues. Teresa is also president of Summit International School of Ministry (formerly Mt. Zion School of Ministry) located in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.

Pastor Lamar Vest South Carolina, USA

Dr Lamar Vest began his ministry as a Pastor in South Carolina. He has served the Lord in many different capacities; from General Overseer of the 'Church of God' to President of 'Lee University', as well as chairman of 'The American Bible Society'. His life is dedicated to the work of God and he ministers with a conviction forged over many years of serving the Lord.

Pastor Jay Fallon Wales, UK

Pastor Jay Fallon, is an anointed Evangelist and passionate Preacher. He is the Executive Director of Teen Challenge, UK and is reaching thousands of addicts with the power of the gospel.

There is a number of other National and International speakers ministering this year at Summer F ire Conference. for details.

This is a year of great challenge for every Christian, but despite the trying times we find ourselves in, God has tremendous things in store for His people! Summer Fire conference has been a wonderful opportunity for the body of Christ to come together, hear from the heart of God, enjoy great fellowship and experience a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hosted in beautiful East Cork, one of the most family friendly destinations in the country! As we gather again in faith and love, many lives will be forever touched, many ministries refreshed and re-focused on Christ. Christians from all over Ireland and as far as the United States, Canada, England, Scotland and Wales have been coming together since 1995 with one purpose to glorify the Lord. As we seek God for this year’s gathering, we understand the importance of having the indispensible anointing of His Holy Spirit for every aspect of this conference. You are invited to be part of this great time of spiritual renewal and join with the rest of the body of Christ, for a week that will inspire and challenge you to journey deeper into Christ. There is a great stirring in our hearts!

Prayer has already begun and preparations are underway.

Register today!


Here’s just some of the many programmes already on our website...

Did you know we’re now on 5 stations across Ireland?

Responsible Children From How? to WOW! The Five Love Languages of Children


Marriage… How to make it work Our radio programmes cover all areas of family life. With practical help, real life examples and plenty of laughs along the way – our honest, open discussions will encourage and equip you in your family life. After broadcast each programme is free to listen and download on our website.

Focus on Finances Holidays: more than a survival guide

Focus on the Family Ireland, Ulysses House, 22-24 Foley Street, Dublin 1 T: 01 806 6288 | E: |W: 38



SINGING SONGS OF COMPASSION eteran Scottish Christian musician Ian White “never made the big time” but he’s thrilled when his music changes lives. VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams met Ian during his two-week tour in February. He chatted about Christian music, theology and his commitment to child-sponsorship charity Compassion.



When Compassion Ireland was born last year, I was excited to be invited to help establish the work. I have a strong belief in the work of Compassion. Raising money for good causes is very hard work. Musicians can help to do that. I’ve become an ambassador for Compassion International. I think in the UK there must be something like 300 children sponsored because people have signed up at small concerts. That is 300 real lives changed through me singing a few songs.


powerfully during a retreat. A man prayed for me and said, “I believe you are going to write music.” I had not written before so I set myself an apprenticeship. As a daily devotion, I started to read through the book of Psalms. Within that year, I wrote enough paraphrases and tunes for six albums. I had them all written out in a manuscript book before a single album was released. A man sold his MGB (car) for £4,000 and gave it to me so I could record Psalms Volume One. Those albums sold like hotcakes. I paid him back his £4,000 and he bought another MGB!


I’ve had a strange career. I’ve always been under the radar but have managed to sell enough records to survive even though I never made the big time. The minority who do like my music are very loyal! People have told me that my albums have a long shelf life. Many are very Bible-based. I take a lot of care recording an album. It is easy to make a bad album and very difficult to make a good one. Even people who are not musical know

I never cease to be moved when I hear of the work that Compassion is doing around the world. Getting involved with Compassion changed my life. The story of Compassion is a story of people saying, “Is there anything we can do to help children with nothing?” That has grown until there are now over 1.3 million children supported by ordinary men and women like you and me. I can still remember an elderly lady coming up to me after a concert in Glasgow seven years ago. She had that sort of IN MY MIDDLE LIFE, I’VE BECOME MORE CONFUSED face that looked like she was THEOLOGICALLY AND MORE CONVINCED ABOUT THE going to get me into trouble PERSON AND THE INFLUENCE OF JESUS. and I was a bit scared. But she said, “I want to tell you that sponsoring that wee girl with Compassion is the best thing I’ve done in my older when they don’t want to listen to a CD. If life. It’s given me something new to live for!” you have a good CD, there is something that makes you want to put it on again and again. People tell me, “We’re having HOW DID YOU BECOME A CHRISTIAN SINGER / to buy replacements of your albums because we’ve played them so much.” SONGWRITER? From the age of 15, I was out with my guitar in folk clubs. I was ambitious - dreaming of being in SO WHAT COMES NEXT? bands. But then I had a strong Christian conversion The big new project is a worship at 21 while I was studying for my university degree album, which we will record with a in Aberdeen. One guy handed me a tract and I asked congregation in Scotland in April. I’m him, “Why does it have to be Jesus?” He answered, hoping it will be out in November. The “Because it was personal. Jesus came personally for working title is “Known by You”. They you.” are all new songs and I’ve written them I remember feeling the Holy Spirit touching me for congregational singing.

Many songs are worshipful and inspirational but you might not be able to sing along. I think Christian radio in America has caused a problem because soul singers tend to sing higher or lower than a congregation. If you record these songs in the range that the lead singer likes, you will find it is not suitable for a congregation to sing. In this album, every song has been written in a key so that every member of the congregation can sing along. I think the best, the most mature local worship leaders need to be selective. Don’t feel you have to sing the brand new songs just because they are new. Sing what your congregation can sing comfortably and easily.

DO YOU LEAD WORSHIP IN YOUR OWN CHURCH? I’m a member of a fairly traditional Church of Scotland and the main worship is with the organ. They call it the “Ian slot” when they ask me to bring a few more modern songs but I’m not the local worship leader.


In my middle life, I’ve become more confused theologically and more convinced about the person and the influence of Jesus. Theology is basically human beings trying to work out what God is like. It is almost impossible not to belittle God. I’ve just started a book on Dietrich Bonheoffer - his slant was you have to grapple with what you believe. Jesus’ influence in people’s lives is above theology and above argument. I hope I can continue being less of a bigot and more of a Jesus person. Find out more about Compassion Ireland and how to sponsor a child at Ian White returns on Saturday April 27 for a concert at New Hope Christian Centre in Kilkenny. For full details see advert on page 44. APRIL - JUNE 2013 VOX



Professional Certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Dublin course starts May Cork course starts April Belfast course starts April Book now to secure your place

Foundation Cert in Christian Counselling Dublin course starts September

Come and visit us at our new location: ZestLife Counselling Centre Unit 1a Earlscourt Industrial Estate Beaumont Avenue, Churchtown, Dublin 14 For more details visit E-mail: Or call: 01 296 6047





ebut Christian author Paul Guildea, from Drogheda, chatted with VOX magazine about his new fantasy novel called The Pebble.

What is the story behind The Pebble?

Set in modern-day Drogheda, the story pulls in a huge amount of historical and mythical Ireland. It begins on the eve of the Winter Solstice, December 21st, with a girl called Alex suddenly orphaned by the murder of her mother and the disappearance of her father. She grows into her teenage years surrounded by supernatural events she is sure only she can see. Her burning desire is to find her identity. One day she meets her father Kimick, a fallen angel. He gives her what she believes is identity and belonging in the form of The Pebble, taken from the tomb in Newgrange. However, it comes at a huge cost. Will Alex be prepared to pay the price for her newfound identity?

So where did your inspiration come from?

The idea came to me while working on a youth project in Balbriggan last year. I worked with teens deemed ‘high risk’. I saw them struggle with their identity and having no idea of their potential. The inspiration actually came from John 8:14, where Jesus says, “I know where I came from and I know where I am going.” I just started to write and write, and three months later The Pebble was complete.

The book has a Gospel message without being ‘in your face', was that deliberate?

Most definitely! I wanted the book to reach Christians but also the type of kids I was working with last summer. So I began weaving a fantasy. For example, Alex meets a stranger called “Gaoithe”, which in Irish means wind. One of the lands Alex travels to is called “Dia Rí” - “Dia” being God in Irish and “Rí” meaning king. I feel that my God is that big, He doesn’t need the hard sell!

The artwork on the cover is eye catching. Was the symbolism intentional?

Actually it was my wife’s idea, and then she worked with a designer to tweak it a bit. A lost angel with dirty wings is very much what the book is capturing. When people read the book, they will understand why.

You said you wanted to bridge from Christian to nonChristian and from young adult upwards. Has this been the case? Yes, it seems to have worked. For example, in the last few weeks, I have had reviews from an American army chaplain and a Romanian atheist!

So what did they say?

Interestingly, the chaplain really took the demonic activity around Alex’s life as the doctrinal basis of the book and wanted to know how I engaged teens with the story. The atheist really enjoyed the struggle within Alex and her journey for self-discovery.

So what’s next? You are currently touring churches, schools and youth groups with the message of Alex and The Pebble. Can we expect more from Alex?

Most definitely, Alex has only begun her journey and I do not want to give too much away, but yes, there will be a sequel. Just at the minute, I am really enjoying talking to people about the message in the first book!

How can we get hold of the book?

It is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble both as a paperback and Kindle, and in various bookstores.

How can people get in touch with you?

They can visit; just leave a message and I will get back you straight away.




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Organist / Musical Director required An exciting opportunity exists for an Organist / Musical Director at Holy Trinity Church, Crosshaven, Co. Cork. The person we are looking for should be enthusiastic and have the initiative to lead, develop and co-ordinate our congregational music and worship. The applicant needs to be a competent organist and pianist with the ability to train and direct our Children’s Choir. The church has a newly built and installed pipe organ and a grand piano. A commitment to one service per Sunday and then to other occasional services as agreed is required. A weekly commitment to teaching the Children’s Choir is also required. For further particulars or to apply for the post please contact: Rev’d. Isobel Jackson at: (021) 483 1236, by email: or by post: Templebreedy Rectory, Church Road, Crosshaven, Co. Cork.



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“Bonhoeffer-Pastor-Martyr-Prophet-Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs The Third Reich” by Eric Metaxas. Reviewed by Ken Baker ward-winning American writer Eric Metaxas is known for his public challenge of Obama at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast. His book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer is currently cresting on a new wave of interest. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the few Christian voices that spoke openly against Hitler from the earliest days of his leadership in Germany. A brilliant young theologian, Bonhoeffer correctly read the “signs of the times” and spoke against Hitler’s programme for dealing with “the Jewish problem” years before the first death camp was opened. He was also implacably opposed to Hitler’s euthanasia programme and encouraged church institutions to stand with him. When war seemed imminent in 1939, he chose to


leave a comfortable university position in America to return to Germany. That choice led inexorably to his association with the German resistance party that sought to remove Hitler - eventually by attempted assassination - and then to his own execution, just 23 days before Germany surrendered in 1945. Metaxas tells this story with characteristic verve and flair and, though his story is serious and tragic, it makes for a compelling read. Academics have rounded on Metaxas, calling his book “badly flawed” (Victoria Barnett) for failing to take a proper account of historical and cultural context. The criticism is not just against a few typos, date-mistakes or tiny factual errors. There is also an understanding, I think, that the role of the populariser is somewhat different from the role of the exact research scholar. The real charge is that Metaxas is rewriting Bonhoeffer as an evangelical when he was theologically liberal and as a combatant whereas (according to Barnett) he was a pacifist. Critics claim that Metaxas has “hijacked” Bonhoeffer for his own purposes, to bolster his own lecture tour. Hijacking dead writers for living projects is not new. However, writers must first be understood within the context of their own time. I cannot take Bonhoeffer’s words and paste them into my own context without thinking carefully about when and why they were written. There are, however, transferable principles, and this, to me, is Metaxas’ major point. You can speak of Bonhoeffer’s spirituality in a way that sounds eminently orthodox (commitment to prayer, Bible reading, preaching); or in terms of his ethics that sounds satisfactorily liberal (emphasis on peace and justice); or even his “secular” pronouncements that entirely suit a pluralistic, post-Christian culture (integrity between his convictions and

behavior, advocacy for human rights). Ultimately, however, I think that Metaxas has a far simpler agenda than attempting to pigeonhole Bonhoeffer. Metaxas himself provides the key in an email to the Catholic News agency. "Just as the Third Reich was bullying the German church, [so] the American government is today trying to bully the church on certain issues of sexuality" and on "abortion and euthanasia and stem-cell research... We would do well to take our lead from him in our own battle on that front." This is, quite clearly, Metaxas’ agenda. You can read it in his public and brilliant - challenge of President Obama’s stance on abortion in the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast, and in his previous book Amazing Grace, which portrayed the tireless stand of William Wilberforce against the British slave trade in the early 19th century. It is not enough for critics to cavil against minor points or to mock Metaxas as a “mere” populariser. Metaxas is saying that there is a time when you have to draw the line. You have to stand for what you believe. It may be costly and it may even take your life. It’s the message of Wilberforce, of Bonhoeffer and perhaps even of Metaxas himself. The question is: where and when do you draw the line? I believe that Bonhoeffer speaks loud and clear to this generation of believers and Metaxas underlines that relevance. APRIL - JUNE 2013 VOX




Events Calendar What’s happening where and when MAY The State of Europe Forum 9 - 10 May Dublin

APRIL Dream 1 - 4 April Enfield, Co. Meath

JUNE The European Christian Internet Conference 4 - 7 June Swords, Co. Dublin

Plumbline Regional Days – ‘Spirit and Mission’ Saturday 11 May, 10.30am Galway Christian Fellowship Contact 087 0568925

Plumbline Regional Days – ‘Spirit and Mission’ Saturday 27 April, 10.30am Kilkenny Community Church Contact 087 0568925

Life FM Dinner Dance Friday, 14 June 7:30pm Montenotte Hotel, Cork

Breakthrough Weekend 17 - 19 May, 10.30am Castledaly Manor, Athlone Contact 090 6489110

National Workshops of the Christian Dance Fellowship of Ireland Saturday, 20 April, 11am Lisburn, Co. Antrim

National Workshops of the Christian Dance Fellowship of Ireland Saturday, 18 May, 11am Lisburn, Co. Antrim

IBI Summer Institute 21 - 22 June Dublin 1 Summer Fire 21 - 28 June Trabolgan, Cork

NEW HOPE CHRISTIAN CENTRE 36 Hebron Business Park, Kilkenny presents

Ian White

Saturday 13 April

in concert in Kilkenny

To book tickets, call 0861644039

AROUND THE WORLD IN PRAYER 2pm – 5pm (inc. tea break) Crinken Church Hall, Shankill, Co. Dublin Visit the five colourful display tables Learn about the church in each country

Internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter and worship leader Ian White is best known for setting the Psalms to music. He ministered with Billy Graham at the Mission Scotland Crusade. Ian returns to Kilkenny to lead us in worship with music drawn from 25 years in ministry.

Saturday, April 27th, 8pm

**Tickets €10 (adults) / €5 (kids/teens)

**Limited Places ~ Advance Purchase Essential ~ Ticket Line:


Join others in prayer

All Welcome



Admission Free




01-282 5393



The Ark of Dun Ruah

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: A Path to Peaceful Fellowship


Reviewed by Edel Stout

Reviewed by Ken Baker

Reviewed by Amy O’Byrne

by Maria Burke

With a horde of giant eagles flying at 100 miles per hour after Pod the Blue Owl, the question is: how will he survive? As an adult, I found this children’s book very enjoyable. I was drawn firstly by the colourful picture on the cover, the author’s own depiction of the story, showing the adventure that lay ahead. The opening chapter lands you in Kilbeggin and a conversation between Kerry and Pod the Blue Owl, who believes he is being chased by eagles. Kerry is looking for her brother Simon, who is always up to something and can’t be found. The adventure begins with Kerry, Simon and Pod travelling to Fire City on the Ark of Dun Ruah. Maria’s imaginative writing moves you from a boat to a monastic island to meeting the king and queen of the eagles. Fast-paced writing takes you quickly through the book. I could not put it down. It is a world of battles and some risky, exciting opportunities for the children. Along the way a mystery man keeps showing up. This book explores the Christian themes of hope, the love between a brother and sister and a saviour to save the day. I won’t spoil the ending, but I would recommend this book to be read by all ages for energy, excitement and entertainment value.

By Samson Abiona

Sam Abiona has been a pastor in some of the tougher areas of London and speaks with empathy and insight on the areas of forgiveness and reconciliation in local, national and international contexts. The “and” is highly significant, since the two are separate concepts. Sam tackles the crucial question: Is it possible to forgive someone and to withhold reconciliation? Within a faith-community, forgiveness can occur in the context of someone's relationship with God apart from contact with the offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process - sometimes a lengthy one. Sam offers many instances, from personal anecdotes to the most serious international war crimes, which demonstrate the power of apology and the consequences of real forgiveness. Restoring a broken relationship is difficult when the offender is unclear about his repentance. Only God can read hearts; we must evaluate actions. We must not allow superficial appearances to control our responses. Displays of tears or appearing to be sorry must not become substitutes for clear changes in attitude and behaviour. I recall discussions with Jewish friends discussing Auschwitz concerning forgiveness. My friend asked, “How can I offer forgiveness to those who have not asked for it?” Sam’s answer follows Augsburger’s “steps of reconciliation”: Recognise value in the other, release the past, work through pain to risk trusting again, drop the demand for a perfect risk-free future and celebrate forgiveness with love and compassion.


Limitless is the new release from Planetshakers City Church, Australia, recorded at one of its conferences in 2012. This is one of the fastest growing churches in Australia with a global reach. The album is a melting pot of different styles. The first song, ‘Let Praise Awaken,’ reminds me of a NeYo track and is followed by a similar song, ‘Put Your Hands Up’. It is evident that Planetshakers is trying to tap into the recent electronic trend within the mainstream and this is laced throughout. If you’re after an album you can jump around to in your living room, there are some great tracks worthy of energetic dancing. Lyrically, ‘Your Name Brings Healing to Me’ is beautiful. There is something extremely prophetic and affirming as ‘Shame doesn’t live here no more, When Your name was spoken, Your love brought healing to me’ is declared. Its simplicity and accessibility, in melody and structure, allows for a heart connection. The next few songs are somewhat mediocre until the album gets to,“The Anthem,” which is a new version of a previous release. This powerful song is full of declaration and truth. You can hear Hillsongs United’s influence in this album. The vocals and the production hold huge similarities so, if you’re a fan of Hillsong, you’ll love this!





ow do you feel about rashers?” I know it’s rude to listen in to other people’s conversations - ruder still to write a column about them - but put “rashers” and “feel” in the same sentence and, in my book, you deserve to be written about. Who has feelings about rashers? Why have passions about pig meat? I think the conversation started around horse-burgers. They were tucking into their full Irish breakfast and the talk moved from burgers to


HOW MUCH WE HAVE REPLACED THOUGHTS WITH FEELINGS? sausages and on to rashers. A logical progression. But it was the “feel” bit that made me think something wasn’t right. Why introduce feelings? I’m sure he really meant: “What do you think about rashers?” Now that’s logic. But bringing in the “F” word got me thinking. How much we have replaced thoughts with feelings? A few years ago, we western adults stopped “thinking” and started “feeling.” I’m not sure who the “we” I’m referring to is but I’d have a stab at something like most people under 55. (Note how the author can set an age limit to include himself!) Now a “vox pop” for a news programme no longer asks the person on the street what they think but how they feel. I think this is unwise. It cuts out the important dimension of reason – the work of the mind. You can’t argue with my feelings. You have to accept them and respect them. They belong to me. If I tell you what I think, you can argue and question – show me flaws in my understanding or my 46


reasoning. But my feelings are a no-go area. I would have liked to remind the four strangers that there are an awful lot of facts about rashers they could investigate, ponder and consider apart from how they felt. But I didn’t. It didn’t feel right! But life’s bigger questions, like “How should we live?” and “Why should we live?” require more than feelings as a response. They require the hard work of thinking through and working out. The mind enables us to chew over what we know, what we don’t know, what we know we don’t know and what we don’t know that we don’t know – all of which are really very important.


As a backlash against cold rationalism, I can understand the emphasis on the emotions. But when we start looking for our feelings about rashers, maybe the pendulum has swung too far. Ignoring the mind when it comes to big questions means leaving aside one of the greatest gifts we have for knowing ourselves and, perhaps, knowing the maker of our selves. Jesus had a healthy balance when He talked about loving God with your mind. That’s not cold rational theology; that’s towering truth and profound passion linked together in the furnace of the human soul. It’s an invitation to reason set ablaze, a mind made alive. It’s ok to be coldly rational about rashers – it’s all they require, or deserve. But passionate rationalism, deep thinking with deep feeling, is required for the bigger questions that are before us. Seán Mullan has been working in church leadership for many years. He has developed a new project in Dublin City Centre called “Third Space”.



WORD FOR TODAY Kickstart your day by listening to the Word for Today on the hour, every hour on UCB Ireland To receive to the Word for Today booklet every quarter call us on 01 4299899 (office hours) or email

UCB Ireland is now broadcasting on DAB & DAB+ in Dublin City and County reaching as far west as Mullingar and as far north as Drogheda. Our DAB broadcast continues in Waterford, Wexford and South Leinster and the service is expected to be rolled out in Limerick, Cork and Galway in 2013

PRAYERLINE Do you need someone to pray with you and for you? Call the UCB Prayerline for the price of a local call. Republic of Ireland: 1890 940 300 (local rate) Northern Ireland: 0845 456 7729 COME ON BOARD WITH US We welcome your skills and talents. Talk to us about volunteering with UCB Ireland or about producing a programme for your church or group. Let us promote your church events. Email details to


SYRIA CRISIS APPEAL SYRIA APPEAL Yussef’s family family left left in Yussef’s in the the night night with with whatever whatever they they could could carry. carry. They have have no no idea idea when when they they will will return. return. Thousands They Thousands of of families families likeYussef’s Yussef’s are fleeing Syria like Syria every everyday. day. equip themwith with basic €46£40 willwill equip them basicessentials essentials meet their their needs. totomeet needs.

PLEASE HELP HELP THEM PLEASE THEM NOW NOW Visit Visit or 3553200 8355 orcall call0845 01 878

Tearfund Ireland, 2nd Floor, Ulysses House, 22–24 Foley St, Dublin 1 Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund Tearfund Ireland. Registered Charity No. CHY 8600

Registered Charity No. 265464 (England and Wales) Registered Charity No. SC037624 (Scotland) Photo: Reuters/Zain Karam, courtesy the Thomson Reuters Foundation – AlertNet 136482

April 2013  

VOX is a quarterly magazine, looking at what's happening in Ireland and the world today and wondering where God fits in. Follow us on Facebo...

April 2013  

VOX is a quarterly magazine, looking at what's happening in Ireland and the world today and wondering where God fits in. Follow us on Facebo...