ISSUE 39 / JULY - SEPTEMBER 2018
THE FINDING FAITH ISSUE Ordinary people share their stories of faith
I’M BLACK AND PROUD Reflections on race and white supremacy in an Irish context JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
WANT TO DANCE? Following the success of our event last year, we want to give everyone another chance to dance!
Date: Friday October 19th Venue: Red Cow Moran Hotel, Dublin Dance rehearsals start early September in Dublin city centre.
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Ordinary Miracles pening the curtains, my first glance caught the frowning skies. But as I moved closer a beautiful rainbow came into view. It was Day Two of the Finding Faith Tour and, already exhausted, I was questioning my sanity. Why would I choose to go on the road for another week? The rainbow was a little miracle, made perfect by its perfect timing - reminding me of God’s faithfulness and promising more to come. I wasn’t disappointed. The tour became a treasure hunt, an opportunity to see God’s fingerprints, even in the most unlikely of places. There have been times when I’ve encountered dramatic stories of God at work - explosions of light and power in a dark world. This was different. This time, there were whispers of grace. Treasure in jars of clay. The ordinary made extraordinary. This time, the stories seemed somehow gentler, and yet no less radiant! Journey’s end on Day Two and I turned to glance back over my shoulder as I entered my B&B. Over 12 hours had passed with more than 200km travelled through four counties and yet another rainbow stretched across the sky.
CHRIST BEFORE ME, CHRIST BEHIND ME... As you read through the stories, may you be inspired, encouraged and enriched in your own walk with God (Faith Journeys, page 11) and may your heart sing for joy that He is at work in individual lives, churches and communities across this land (Around Ireland, page 20). God of the everyday is still the God of the universe!
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www.vox.ie Ruth Garvey-Williams Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
JUL - SEP 2018 ISSUE 39 ISSN: 2009-2253
11 36 18 20 27 28 30 32 34 35 40 38
COVER STORIES Finding Faith Tour 2018 - from Donegal to Cork and from Westport to Greystones, ordinary people share their stories of faith
E DITOR Ruth Garvey-Williams email@example.com L AYOUT, ADVE RTISIN G & PROMOTION Jonny Lindsay firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Black and Proud - reflections on race and white supremacy in an Irish context
FEATURES AND INTERVIEWS RVIEWS Finding Faith in the Storm
SUBSCRIPTIONS Tara Byrne email@example.com
Finding Faith Around Ireland - discovering what God is doing in different churches, ministries and locations
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Finding Faith: God with us - experiencing God’s presence
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A Heart for Young People in Ireland - meet Simon Marriott from Youth for Christ Ireland 125 years On - the Girls’ Brigade light continues to shine A Healing Place - visiting YWCA’s Coolnagreina in Greystones
Finding Faith - there’s no strength without unity
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Becoming Missional - shifting our thinking to narrow the gap between church and culture Exciting Changes at Team Hope
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VOX VIEWS Non-Violent Christianity - “I believe we may have minimised one of the central teachings of Jesus and one of the chief attributes of His life.”
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IJM PRAYER DAY: Repairers of Broken Wall Nehemiah's response to injustice was to weep for days, fasting in prayer. Today, over 4 billion people across the world are living with the threat of everyday violence, oppression and abuse. Gary Haugen, CEO & Founder of International Justice Mission (IJM), believes that ending slavery begins with God’s people becoming broken, passionate and prayerful like Nehemiah. So, across the world, IJM prayer gatherings have focused on inspiring the body of Christ. On Saturday 26 March, IJM gathered with supporters at Drumbeg Parish Church in Belfast for the first “Pray for Justice” gathering in Northern Ireland. This was a powerful day of prayer, as individuals from different churches joined together to pray for an end to slavery.
Participants heard stories of God using His people in India, Uganda, Cambodia and the Philippines to bring freedom for those oppressed. One powerful moment came when IJM’s Director of Investigations and Law Enforcement Development in the Philippines, Derek* shared the reality of the challenges he faces as he combats the cybersex trafficking of children. He was deeply encouraged to see so many people passionate about supporting his team in prayer. To organise your own IJM prayer event or to find out more contact Ruth. Cooke@ijmuk.org, *A pseudonym has been used for security purposes.
Only 22% of “Christian” Europeans go to church...
According to a major new study by the US-based Pew Research Centre, over 70% of Europeans call themselves Christians but less than a quarter still attend church regularly. At 34%, Ireland has the third highest rate of church attendance in Europe (behind Italy and Portugal) with four out of five people in Ireland identifying themselves as “Christians”. The study involving 25,000 randomly selected adults in 15 European countries also revealed some other troubling findings. Overall, self-identified Christians (whether or not they attend church) were more likely than “nones” (those not affiliated to any religion) to express negative views about immigrants or people of other faiths. Church attending Christians were also more likely to express nationalist views with 54% considering their culture to be “superior” to others. See more at www.pewforum.org.
VOX JUL - SEP 2018
Ireland’s NUA Film Series – the impact so far
Since the launch of the NUA Film Series in March 2017, it is now being used in approximately 300 secondary schools and 200 churches across Ireland. NUA has also been launched in America, Canada and the UK with plans underway to distribute in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Finland. It is currently being translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Finnish. There has been some incredible feedback from teachers and youth leaders. One teacher has stated; “I think the series was presented in a very modern but thought-provoking way. It was engaging, using modern means to present a 2000-year-old message and it really challenged them to think more reflectively.” Another teacher stated; “The programme is very well organised and an easy resource for teachers to use.” One youth leader remarked; “NUA is really good, I did it in a church youth group. It was engaging and served as a good discussion starter for the young people.” Some of the student feedback has been encouraging. One student stated, “Rarely do we get to look at our faith in any meaningful way so I enjoyed having a reason to think about my faith.” Another student remarked, “It was a completely different way of looking at religion and it showed proof of the life of Jesus. It was very helpful to people who were unsure.” A third student said,“They really got my doubts spot on and helped me begin to understand faith more.” Find out more at www.nuafilmseries.org.
Four reasons to get stuck into Bible study
David Wilson from Agapé Ireland warns, “You don’t want to get spiritually skinny just because your diet is restricted to pre-digested food.” He shared four reasons for people to get serious about Bible study: 1. You need to feed your own soul. So do I. We can get some second-hand food from church and that’s no bad thing. But there are no execuses if you have a Bible on the shelf. 2. Your kids (if you’ve got any) deserve the best spiritual training you can give them. For their sake you need to get good at this. 3. Whether or not you have kids, Jesus told us to make disciples. Do they see you study the Word? Do you ever tell them what you are studying? 4. People who don’t know Jesus need you those you know and those you haven’t met yet, those who are seeking and those who aren’t. When someone asks a spiritual question and you haven’t a clue – remember, that if you don’t answer it, it often won’t get answered. But don’t turn around and look for a pastor to answer the question. Why not say “I don’t know – I’ll get back to you on that.” It’s Bible homework time. One way to brush up your Bible study skills is at the Agapé Biblical Studies conference in the Lucan Centre from 20-25 August. First begun in 1974 to equip Agapé staff, the week’s training is now available to anyone who would like to develop first-hand skills in how to study the Bible. This year’s speakers include Dr David Shepherd, David Wilson, Natalie Warren and Myles Wilson. Info from info@ agape.ie and www. agape.ie/events. Register by 27 July.
Leading for Life Dublin: Saturday 8 September
Imagine an organisation full of thriving teams that people love being part of; where they play to their strengths and grow in ways that make a significant impact among the people they serve. Imagine an organisation so dedicated to seeing long-term transformation in the people and places where it works, that it realises its own limitations and engages in partnerships with others. This is or should be our churches. The practice is much more difficult than the theory. At Leading for Life in Dublin, we will explore practically what it means to take what we believe about the church as a body seriously: How can we bring the best of ourselves to the teams, ministries and committees we are part of and bring out the best in others? How can we work together with other churches, parishes and organisations to more effectively serve our communities in mission? Leading for Life is a day of practical training, for all those involved in leading and serving others, that will inspire and equip you. Throughout the day, there will be time to apply what you are hearing and exploring to your situation, connect with others and learn through case studies and stories. Whether you are on the leadership team of a community project, a ministry, church or organisation, Leading for Life is designed to help you impact those you serve more effectively. The conference takes place at St. Catherine’s Church from 9.30am-4.30pm Tickets €35, €30 each if in a group of three, (€25 early bird). Visit www.innovista.ie/leadingforlife and to book.
30 years of New Horizon: 4 - 10 August 2018 The “big top” tent will go up in the grounds of Coleraine University in August for the 30th New Horizon conference. As one of the largest Christian gatherings on the island of Ireland, New Horizon has attracted thousands of people for a week of worship, Bible teaching and fellowship on the north coast since the first event in 1989. With thriving children’s and youth programmes, the conference has something for all the family. This year’s line-up of speakers includes author Philip Yancey, pastor and writer Sam Alberry, Bishop Ken Clarke and theologian Rikk Watts all exploring the theme - “To the praise of His glory.” One participant who has attended the conference for many years commented, “Every year, I came home inspired to walk more closely with God.” Find out more at www.newhorizon.org.uk.
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KIM DONG CHUL RELEASED FROM NORTH KOREAN LABOUR CAMP
On 9 May, US missionary Kim Dong Chul (64) was released from a North Korean labour camp along with two US academics. He had been arrested in October 2015 and was serving a tenyear sentence for alleged “unpardonable espionage”. The three men flew to the USA with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had been visiting Pyongyang to arrange a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. The White House said the prisoners were freed as a gesture of goodwill. As they emerged from the plane, Kim Dong Chul told reporters: “It’s like a dream and we are very happy.” In an earlier statement, the three men said: “We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return.” US citizen Kim Dong Chul was born in South Korea but lived with his wife and two daughters in Yanji, China, 10km from the North Korean border. He ran a business in Rason City on the North Korean side of the border and commuted daily. US academics Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk worked at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which was founded and funded by US and South Korean Christians. They were arrested a year ago. Kim Hak-song had previously described himself as a missionary and Kim Sang-duk was involved in aid work. Two South Korean Christians, missionary Kim Jong-uk and pastor Kim Kuk-gi, remain in labour camps in North Korea, both serving life sentences. Any North Korean suspected of being a Christian is executed, or imprisoned in brutal conditions. Rev Dr Eric Foley of Voice of the Martyrs Korea estimates that 30,000 of North Korea’s 100,000 Christians are in concentration camps. Find out more at www.churchinchains.ie 08
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New laws in Mauritania are designed to be “even closer to Sharia Law” according to a statement from Voice of the Martyrs. The Muslim nation now has a mandatory death sentence for “apostacy” (anyone who changes their religion) and more stringent penalties for blasphemy.
CONCERN OVER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NICARAGUA
Following a report by the Inter American Commission that confirmed 76 deaths, more than 800 injured and 538 arrests in human rights violations, a spokesperson for Christian Aid Ireland said, “The preliminary report is very worrying. Urgent measures must be taken to ensure that human rights in Nicaragua are protected.” Find out more at www.christianaid.ie.
UK think-tank “Theos” has released a report into how faith communities responded to last year’s tragic fire in a London tower block. Faith groups acted extremely quickly (within less than two hours) opening their doors and providing refuge for people who had been forced out of their homes. They became a rallying point for donations of food, water and clothing and developed longterm strategies to help those traumatised by the tragedy, with counselling and appropriate events to process grief. With help for the whole person, (physical, emotional, social and spiritual) the faith communities have made a huge contribution to helping and supporting those affected. Find out more at www.theosthinktank.co.uk.
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Letters to the editor
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Who will be there? In the aftermath of the 8th Amendment referendum, it is vital that pro-life work continues and develops through this challenging time, especially in the area of services for people in crisis pregnancy situations. We have been made acutely aware that we live in a culture where, too often, the unique value of each person made in God’s image is not appreciated and the life or death of a child in the womb is seen as a choice to be made, especially if the child’s or parents’ life might be expected to be challenging. There have been people at that crossroads last year, and this year, and there will be next year. Will there be someone to say to them, and mean it: “You can do it, and we’ll help”? Particularly for those whose family or friends can’t or won’t support them through pregnancy, will they think of somewhere to go other than the nearest abortion clinic? What are our churches doing in this area, and what can they do? The path ahead may not emerge overnight, but it’s vital that we seek God’s guidance and purposes for how we might help address the real needs of people facing crisis pregnancies, with real compassion and better alternatives than abortion. Those who have been working in life-affirming crisis pregnancy services are to be highly commended; but much more of this work is needed, and it needs to be much more visible. As Christians, we have
something extra to contribute: the wonder of the Gospel amidst the hurt of the crisis. I pray that God will raise up people with heart, energy, skills, vision, leadership, and wisdom so that this may happen. One thing that has struck me is the truly massive amount of drive and activity that people individually and collectively have summoned up ahead of the referendum, giving generously of their time, talents, energy, and money. The Facebook group Irish Prolife Christian, founded by my husband James and of which I am a co-administrator, has expanded to over 700 members from diverse Christian backgrounds across Ireland, who continue to “build each other up” to serve God and our neighbour in this area. If Christians can coordinate and work together, and learn from experienced people and organisations at home and abroad, we can help bring hope and life out of fear, despair and the shadow of death. RUTH FOLEY CO-ADMINISTRATOR, IRISH PROLIFE CHRISTIAN GROUP ON FACEBOOK
[Ed note: Several people have contacted us about the need for a network or directory of support services for people facing crisis pregnancy situations. If your church or ministry provides such services or is seeking to start something, please get in touch: email email@example.com.]
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Finding Faith Tour 2018
The Finding Faith Tour is an annual journey around Ireland hunting down stories of Faith, Life and Reality. Everywhere our editor goes, she asks people to share about their relationship with Jesus and their journey of faith. “Hearing people’s stories is so precious and humbling,” Ruth shares. “I know you will be as moved, inspired and encouraged as I have been, meeting with ordinary people who have encountered an extra-ordinary God.”
“EVERY MORNING AT 10AM, I GET A MESSAGE FROM GOD!” - CORK
“HE RESTORES MY SOUL” GREYSTONES, CO. WICKLOW
lare Murray is the Assistant to the Manager at Coolnagreina YWCA centre in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. She grew up in the town and remembers attending the CSSM camp (run by Scripture Union) every summer. “When I was 14, I encountered God and decided that was what I wanted for my life. Through college I questioned a lot and it was really good for my faith. I needed to test it and figure out what it meant to live it out.” Coming to Coolnagreina was enriching for Clare. “I found this incredible Christian community and support. What I’ve learnt is how God cares for us as a whole person. Being here has opened my eyes to the need for rest and spiritual wholeness.” Still mourning the recent death of her mum, Clare has found comfort in the loving care of the Coolnagreina team. “I really experienced the kindness of God through people here. He restores my soul!”
saac Ward is a first year university student in Cork city. He remembers hearing about Jesus from his mum. “She used to read Bible stories to me and one night she asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, and I did.” But it wasn’t until attending Summer Fire at the age of 11 that Isaac’s faith became more real to him. “I had an encounter with God and I realised that God is so amazing. He has always been there. It is His love that constantly draws me to Him. At school, I never got caught up in the crowd. God kept me and preserved me. “I’ve always had a passion and desire to share my faith,” Isaac shares. “Before I started college I was praying to God and asking, “Lord, I want to go to college but not just for academia but to be a light. Then I met the Agapé students. Currently five of us meet up to pray together and then we head out to share our faith. “My relationship with Christ is everything. He is an amazing friend and if I am going through the day and I haven’t read His Word or talked to Him, I crave that. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. This week I was doing exams and I was feeling anxious. Then I read Deuteronomy 31:8 ‘The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’ God was speaking to me!” Isaac has a Bible app that sends him a message every day with the verse of the day. “Every morning at 10am, I get a message from God!” he grins!
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“I WAS RELEASED FROM PRISON... BUT JESUS SET ME FREE!” - BELFAST
WALKING WITH JESUS DONEGAL TOWN
rchdeacon David Huss is a Church of Ireland minister in Donegal Town. Growing up in a loving family in Northern Ireland, David remembers being sent to Sunday School as a child but didn’t find it exciting. “When I was 11, I was given the Gideon New Testament in school. I took that home and I read it quite avidly at night up in my room. I began to meet Jesus, which was both exciting and terrifying.” A real turning point came when David began attending confirmation classes when he was 14. “The lady who led that group explained that there was a need for a personal response and commitment to Christ and challenged us as to whether we had done that. I knew that I hadn’t but I wanted to,” David said. Reading through the “Journey into Life” booklet, David made a commitment to follow Jesus but describes himself as an “undercover Christian” until a teacher invited him along to the Scripture Union group in school. Studying physics at Oxford University, David says, “I never listen to people who say that science and Christianity don’t mix.” He became a physics teacher for five years but had a growing sense that he was being called to a different kind of teaching. “I still love physics but I had to make a choice about what I was going to give my best time to. Eventually, I went forward for selection for ministry.” For David, the Christian life is about walking with Jesus, “Last Sunday, we were looking at Enoch. The Bible says he walked with God and that is how I think of it - walking with Jesus, side by side. I’m a morning person. For me, the day has to start with Him. I love to get up and get into the Bible and to pray. But my goal is not to leave Jesus in the study but to take Him with me.”
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ohn remembers the first time the cell door closed and he thought, “What have I done?” Growing up in Loyalist Belfast, he was sucked into the paramilitaries at the start of the Troubles and spent the early 70s in and out of prison. “I was in Long Kesh and Crumlin Road. Prison is a terrible place. It is your freedom - you can’t just get up and walk about.” Change in John’s life took time. “I thought I loved my wife and kids but I was selfish. I’d go out on a Thursday night and not come home until Tuesday. I remember once saying I was away for a game of snooker around the corner. I ended up travelling to Blackpool and playing snooker there!” John’s wife was a Christian and she began to introduce him to others, but he was still involved with the paramilitaries. “I know now that it was wrong, but at the time I believed it was right,” he explained. He vividly remembers one night during the Shankhill feud. He heard that the church was planning to go out in groups of two or three to pray for the estate but that same night at a UDA meeting the instruction came down, “If you see groups of people, jump out of the car and give them a beating.” John found the courage to speak up to explain that the church folk would be praying. “God had a plan for me that night. It shows the way He works,” John said. Gradually, his wife’s prayers and the influence of other Christians took effect. John remembers waking up suddenly one night and announcing, “I’ve got to go to church in the morning.” His sleepy wife was shocked, “What did you say?” John repeated, “I’ve got to go to church.” “When God touches you, He doesn’t just change you, He changes people all around you. Since God came into my life, I understand what love is. Now I love my wife and kids to bits! “I remember my wife once saying that she loved God more that me and the kids. I found that really difficult to deal with but now I understand it and I would say the same thing! “When I look back, I realise that I was released from jail but Jesus set me free!”
“I WAS BOWLED OVER!” - LIMERICK
evin Fitzgibbon is Limerick born and bred. Senior Pastor of the thriving Abundant Life Church in Limerick city centre and on the leadership team of CCI (Christian Churches Ireland - formerly Assemblies of God Ireland), Kevin says, “I was always God-conscious but I felt that if you wanted to get close to God you would have to become a priest and I liked girls too much!” During his Leaving Cert year, he began to read the Bible and was struck by how simple and straightforward it seemed “just ordinary guys hanging out with Jesus and seeing Him do miracles. There was no church-i-ness, no priests with collars. It was totally different to what I was seeing around me.” Helping out at the Simon Community, Kevin met another of the volunteers who was on fire for Jesus. “You could see it in his eyes. He had been totally transformed. He kept giving me Gospel tracts (leaflets). I must have asked Jesus into my life seven or eight times but nothing happened and after a year, he gave up on me.” One night, alone in his room, Kevin remembers getting down on his knees and once again praying to give his life to Jesus but still nothing seemed to happen. “I threw myself back on my bed and I said, ‘I give up.’ When I did that I suddenly realised that I had always trusted myself to make my own decisions and to run my life. I decided in that moment to trust God. Until that
Kevin, together with Associate Pastor Pawel Garbowski point I would have said God was up in the sky looking down on me but that night I felt a separation between me and God was gone. I felt the presence of Jesus come through the walls; it was that powerful! That night I knew Jesus was alive. I felt cleansed, forgiven, accepted! Wow, I was bowled over. “I was in love with Jesus. He was my best friend. I kept going to mass on Sunday morning to the Charismatic Renewal meetings in the afternoon and to the Baptist church in the evening. We did evangelism all over the place.” Since the 70s, there have been both highs and lows in Kevin’s faith journey. But he eventually joined the Pentecostal church in Limerick where today he is the senior pastor of a dynamic, multicultural, inner city congregation that has just opened up its new church building in the former Smyth’s Toy Store.
“THERE WAS AN EMPTINESS INSIDE.” SKIBBEREEN, CO. CORK
avid has lived all his life in the small West Cork town of Skibbereen. He remembers finding faith at a time when outwardly everything seemed perfect in his life. “I was working with the fire brigade. I had loads of friends and I was in the pub every night. Everything was perfect but I had this emptiness that couldn’t be filled. There was something lacking and I had no peace or joy.” Over the course of a few weeks, he was called to two different house fires in the homes of Christian families. In one home, he noticed a Scripture verse on the wall and in the second home, one of the other fire fighters told him, “Mind your language in this house. There is something about these people.” All this got David thinking and when a card arrived in his letterbox inviting him to a Gospel meeting, he decided to go along. His journey took him into many of the local churches before finally ending up as a member of the Methodist church in Skibbereen. “It’s hard to find the words but I know that the Lord’s presence is with me every day through all my struggles and difficulties. I came to know the Lord when everything was perfect but today, if you were an outsider looking at my life, you would say, ‘the poor fella, everything has gone wrong,’” David said. Being confined to a wheelchair may seem limiting but David radiates joy. “I have peace and the presence of the Lord that fills me, fascinates me and amazes me. And I want to share that with others. No matter what life may throw at you, He is able. I’m glad I came to the Lord when things were good because to me it proves the power of God in my life - when things are difficult His grace is sufficient!” JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
“I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT A CHRISTIAN WAS BUT I KNEW I WAS ONE!” NORTHERN IRELAND / SKIBBEREEN, CO. CORK
ev. Greg Alexander grew up in Northern Ireland. After a family break up, he spent time in various foster homes that sent him to Sunday School but didn’t live out their faith. By the time he was 19, Greg decided he would give up on going to church. “I had this thought in my mind, ‘I’ll pick up Christianity again when I retire.’” But Greg was still questioning, “Who is Jesus?” and so eventually he picked up a Good News Bible in a charity shop for just £2.75 (“The best money I ever spent!”) and began to read. “As I read, I met Jesus. I would read a little at a time because I was scared. I didn’t want to believe it but I remember being attracted to the person of Jesus. When I came to the cross I was sad, and the resurrection was joyful! One night as I finished reading Mark’s Gospel I prayed ‘Lord, I actually believe You’ and that was it. Many people commit their lives to Christ and don’t feel different but I felt like doing somersaults! I didn’t know what a Christian was but I knew I was one!” Now a Methodist minister, Greg is awestruck by the sense of privilege he feels. “The King of kings loves me! What could be better? God is the best recycler. He can take someone who looks like a bit of rubbish and make something amazing. Today I get to spend my working life among people who love Jesus. Even if someone said to me you will die tomorrow, I have no complaints! I’ve seen the Lord and I’ve seen what He can do!” 14
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MORE THAN A CHURCH DUBLIN
“MY IDENTITY IS FOUND IN HIM!” - CORK
atasha was nine month’s pregnant when her student visa expired and she found herself homeless on the streets of Dublin. Originally from Malawi, she was alone and devastated. “I had no idea what to do,” she said. “I had tried everything. I was praying but it felt like God wasn’t there.” Eventually, a friend put her in contact with Abbey Presbyterian Church in the centre of Dublin. Walking into the church, Natasha met Alan and Ruth Boal who listened as she shared her heart-breaking story. Within a short space of time, they had advocated with the social worker and found Natasha a safe place to stay. Standing by Natasha and caring for her, the Boals also helped her in her spiritual journey. “I had experienced miracles for the first time and I prayed, ‘God, I want to know You.’ Alan gave me a Bible reading plan and I took that seriously. Every day, no matter how tired I am, I want to read the Bible and build my relationship with Jesus Christ.” As one of a whole group of church members who had gathered to share their story, Natasha hugs her beautiful son and smiles, “God did this! To me, this is more than a church. This is my home, my family and my support. They are helping me to raise my son.”
letcher Flynn works as a college chaplain at CIT. His parents split up when he was young and he found himself questioning and searching. At school, he was desperate to fit in and began mocking others in order to make himself feel better. “What changed my outlook was falling in love with Jesus and realising that my identity is found in Him and not what others think of me,” Fletcher said. “Reading the Bible and hearing that God loves me and accepts me was the turning point. He knew me in the womb and He knows and loves me as an individual. That also allows me to accept others. This drives everything else that I do. It pushed me to study social care, to work with the youth in our church and now to work with the chaplaincy.” On his way to work each morning is an opportunity for Fletcher to listen to his Bible app. “If you are spending time with Him and feeding off the Word, you are refreshed. Finding that alone time for me personally is so important, even when everything is so busy. That 20-minute cycle each morning means that God’s Word is going through my head for the rest of the day!”
OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE KILKENNY
OUT IN THE BOG WESTPORT, CO. MAYO
rowing up in a Christian home, Naomi Baez made her own decision to follow Jesus at a young age. But a real turning point came in her life when, as a young mum, another Christian lady became her mentor. “She gave me a long questionnaire about my Christian faith and I decided to be really honest,” Naomi shared. “I was so busy with the children that I didn’t really have time to think about myself. “Sandy used to meet with me one-on-one. She helped me to concentrate on my daily time with God. So often we do our quiet time just for the sake of doing it but with her encouragement, I started really having a daily time with God. When the children had gone to school, I could sit down with a cup of tea and read my Bible. I found that time would run away with me! That really helped my relationship with God grow to a deeper level. “Jesus is my friend. He is there with me all the time. He is someone who I can turn to and speak to and walk daily with.” “God pushes you out of your comfort zone,” Naomi added. Invited to go to a leadership training conference in America, her first response was “Who, me?” “I’m a home mum and I’m used to being with my children. I struggled with God for a week and spent a lot of time in prayer. I was afraid of leaving my kids and my husband and going to another country but eventually I felt at peace and I said I was willing to do it. I don’t see myself as a leader. I’m a back seat person. But we learnt so much about women’s ministry and especially about older women mentoring younger women.” This mentoring model is something Naomi and others are hoping to implement in her church in Kilkenny.
ohn Judge from Westport vividly recalls the day his life changed forever in the early 70s. “One day I was out in the middle of nowhere, out in the bog, and I gave my life to Jesus. I had this tremendous buzz of joy,” he shared. Growing up, John wasn’t that interested in Christianity, but he used to enjoy reading the Old Testament. Visiting his sister in Belfast, John was invited along to a little Gospel Hall one night. “I had no interest in going but went along to be tactful. There was a young fella handing out hymnbooks and I thought, ‘You must be awfully dumb to be here.’ A man preached that if you want to get to heaven it is between you and Jesus; you need to repent. I knew what to do but I didn’t do it.” For two years, John wrestled with what he had heard. Nobody spoke to him about it but he felt that God was really convicting him until that pivotal day out in the bog. “I immediately had an assurance that I was saved and I knew Jesus. The funny thing about it is, most people would say, ‘There’s a young Christian and he won’t survive all on his own,’ but I did. Nothing happened for almost seven years until a fella called Cathal also found Jesus. “He was at a neighbour’s house and he rang me to say they were going to have a meeting. There were three women there and that night I don’t think I’ve ever felt the presence of God so near. All three of the women got saved. From there on we started having meetings and more and more people were giving their lives to Jesus. They would come in and we’d just expect them to get saved!” Those vibrant times in the 1970s led to the formation of two Elim churches in Castlebar and Westport. John is a member of the Amazing Grace Fellowship in Westport to this day, although he’s quick to point out that he was there before the church! “Jesus means the most to me,” John added. “In the Christian life, you go through ups and downs. Somebody once said that the hardest thing is to walk with God when nothing is happening. You just go on with the Lord. What I think is vital is to have your own time in the morning to read the Bible. That works for me.”
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“GOD IS THE FATHER I NEVER HAD” BELFAST
“GOD IS MY PROTECTOR” - KILKENNY
aroline’s journey with God began as a child growing up in the Catholic church. “I always had such a faith in Jesus and going to mass was so instrumental in shaping that. I saw God as all-powerful and to be respected.” Meeting her husband, who comes from an evangelical background, introduced Caroline to different ways to worship. “I definitely feel like I’m learning so much and I’m not there yet. I’m a lot more conscious of God and my prayers have become more personal. I’ve become more confident and secure in my relationship with Jesus.” Getting married and having her beautiful daughter Evelyn was a huge blessing for Gareth and Caroline but it was also a very painful time. “My father-in-law died a week before Evelyn was born. We struggled to understand why he didn’t get healed and we had hoped he would get to meet his granddaughter. We still have so many questions without easy answers. But then Evelyn came along just after he died and she is such a blessing, the perfect gift.” Having a new baby and with her husband working on a farm, Caroline has realised that there are so many things that are outside of her control. “I would be a natural worrier about everything but now I’m learning to hand it over to God. That is an amazing feeling. I really need to rely on Jesus for His protection. It is tough being a farmer but we have prayed so many specific prayers that we have seen answered! It is a good way of building your faith. Knowing God as my protector means I don’t have to stress. I can concentrate on living rather than worrying!”
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erry knows first hand the heartache of the division in Northern Ireland - he has seen it within his own family. Brought up by his grandmother in a strongly Loyalist family, his father was murdered while he was still quite young. He didn’t realise until later that his mother was in the IRA and that he had brothers and sisters he had never met! “I was a bitter Protestant boy and it was only through Jesus’ love and power that the barriers have been broken down in my life,” Gerry said. “We still have a massive divide, even within my own family. “At one time, I was in the Ulster Defence Regiment patrolling the very area where my mum’s family lived. I could have shot one of my own brothers. The bitterness that exists in the two communities is unreal. I’m here because of Jesus’ love!” Gerry’s life was transformed when one night he walked into a small Gospel hall and heard someone preaching on Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “God is the Father I never had. I can sit with Him and talk with Him. When my mother died, I sat on my own and mourned her death - I couldn’t go to either side of the family but God was with me. He took me in His arms and healed my heart.”
...after the Referendum With Patrick Mitchel
have been trying to think through what the abortion history. Christians in Ireland, rightly or wrongly, are perceived as referendum result means while also trying to sort carrying a truckload. The vote shows that a large segment of the out my emotional ‘gut reaction’ to the vote. What population see that baggage as bad news, not good. follows is unapologetically personal. You might agree Secondly, this means that the referendum is primarily a or disagree, but hopefully we can learn from each other in the challenge for the church to look at itself. Our job is not to ‘save’ process. Ireland – as if there is such a thing as a Christian country. The Let’s start with emotions: at a deep level, I’m dismayed and ‘world’ will do what the world will do and we cannot control saddened. Christians believe that God alone is the life-giver. To it, nor should we try. No, our primary job is to be the church of take life is to assume the ‘right’ to destroy a precious work of Jesus Christ in the world. God. But what does the result mean more widely? I’ve only space This means being authentic communities of love, grace and for two points on how I think the result poses good news. Communities of serving others, of profound challenges for Christians in Ireland. preaching the gospel, of forgiving each other, “Churches have The referendum was about much more than of welcoming the outsider whatever their abortion. A story is powerful. It is a narrative plenty of repenting history, sexuality or status. If we are against that carries moral, emotional and personal the taking of life in principle, it means being to do about division people of peace, not war, and protecting and power. The story of the YES campaign was vote for compassion, safety, liberty, inclusivity, care of the elderly. When it comes to and lack of love.” taking welcome and dignity for women faced with the abortion, it means not only talking about it, traumatic situation of an unwanted pregnancy. but being communities of such generous love It was a vote to cast off the shackles of our religious past: its that a woman faced with a crisis pregnancy will be supported harshness, judgementalism, cruelty, abuse, enforced adoption and cared for emotionally, financially and relationally so that the and systematic humiliation of vulnerable women by a patriarchal community can help her bring up her child. religious culture using power for its own ends. This is why, for But we can’t do that from a distance. We need to ask some Christians I talked to, the vote posed a real dilemma. I ourselves, are we in nice holy huddles, detached from the think, primarily, it was the leaving behind of the legacy of ‘old experience of many women (and men) faced with abortion as Ireland’ that thousands of people were on the streets to celebrate the only ‘solution’ to their situation? Or are we taking the time, on May 26. and bearing the cost, of loving people in need sacrificially? I’m In today’s Ireland, to use the language of John’s Gospel, it is troubled by my own answers to these questions. How about you? the ‘world’, not the church, that embodies progress, hope and, most of all, love. And here’s the thing that churches really need to face up to (my first point) - there is very good reason to think like this. You don’t need me to re-tell the story of religion in 20th century Ireland. And let’s be honest, it can’t all be pinned on the Catholic Church. Protestant, evangelical and Pentecostal churches have plenty of repenting to do about division and lack of love. I often hear it said that Christians in the West now find themselves in a context similar to that of the early Church – as marginalised small communities of believers living within a pagan empire. I think that’s partially true but it is too easy a comparison. The first Christians had no baggage of church
Dr. Patrick Mitchel is Senior Lecturer in Theology at the Irish Bible Institute. You can follow his blog at www.faithinireland.wordpress.com. JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
Finding Faith Tour 2018
FINDING FAITH: STORMS
On the Finding Faith Tour, our editor met many individuals and churches who had experienced major storms in their lives (both literally and metaphorically). In all of these stories, the common thread was God’s presence, His help and His strength even in the midst of struggles and suffering. Here are just a few...
THROUGH STORM OPHELIA
THROUGH GRIEF AND LOSS
n October 16, Storm Ophelia hit the south coast of Ireland and gradually moved north. Violent winds and lashing rain left a trail of destruction across the country. In Cobh, on the coast of Co. Cork, Good News Christian Church had been meeting in an old Methodist Meeting House overlooking the harbour. During the storm, winds ripped off a huge section of the roof and water poured into the building. Pastor Tom Hoban and his team quickly made arrangements for the congregation to meet in the Cobh Community Centre as they assessed the damage and negotiated with the insurance company, little knowing that this “temporary” arrangement would last for months! Eventually the insurance covered the cost of the roof but the company refused to pay for repairs to the rest of the building. “There is blessing in the middle of it,” Pastor Tom smiled. “It has brought people together. If your church is based on a building, then it is a weak church. When Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’, He didn’t have buildings in mind but people. So even though our building has been damaged, the storms can huff and puff all they want. The church is doing great.” Ed note: It was inspiring to encounter the faith and courage of the church in Cobh. They did not ask for help but instead continue to serve (not least through the Hope for the Homeless ministry recently featured in VOX). Yet the reality is that eight months after Storm Ophelia, they are still unable to use their building. If anyone would be interested in helping either financially or with building / restoration expertise, please do get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org).
lthough a mission trip to Uganda had a profound effect on her life, Ruth Matthews, from Mountmellick, Co. Laois admits that life got in the way. With a young family to care for, she sunk back into being a “pew Christian” until unexpected events brought about some deep changes. “Six years ago, when we moved back here, I felt like I was being drawn back more into the work of the church rather than sitting in a pew. After the birth of my daughter in 2013, I was preparing to get into things but I fell pregnant again. Sadly, at 20 weeks, my little boy was born asleep. I can actually say that God was with me in that hospital room. There was no other way that I would have gotten through it. But although it was heart breaking, a lot of good came out of it. Looking back, that was the kick I needed to get off the fence and start to do what I had been feeling that God was calling me to. God opened a new door for me.”
avid and Pat, Dublin. “A number of years ago, our teenage daughter was very ill. The doctor hadn’t been able to diagnose her and she was rushed into hospital. We were told she had two days to live. She had Addison’s Disease but, at that time, it wasn’t really well known. We were praying so hard. It was a very difficult time with our girl on the point of death but she did recover. She was in hospital for five weeks and during that time, she made a commitment to Christ. It was the turning point in her life. Today she is hale and hearty and now she is married with children of her own!”
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THROUGH THE MESSY-NESS OF LIFE
uth Boal, Dublin: “I’ve been seeing how God works through the messiness of life in ways we would not necessarily choose. Things are not always easy but God works through those difficult times. I remember one tough time in our lives. One morning, we sat at the computer and sang, “When peace like a river.” It was probably the worst rendition anyone has ever heard because we were so emotional. God brings us through difficult places so we can empathise with other people. We are broken people and so we understand brokenness.”
CONFESSIONS OF A FEINT SAINT
Picking up the Pieces By Annmarie Miles hope you don’t mind if I continue my thoughts from the last VOX magazine where I was talking about my journey to wholeness. I’m still working my way through it all; finding new insights that are blessing and challenging me. This time around I’m pondering the broken pieces. I have often felt like I’m falling apart. At times, emotionally. Often physically. Every day, sartorially. (Oh yeah! That’s right, I know big words!) If you’re unsure - falling apart sartorially basically means I’m a shabby dresser. I’m at the stage where I need to check the mirror before leaving the house. The ‘inside-out garment’ is a regular blunder. I have a canny knack of looking like I got dressed in the dark. A few weeks ago, as I was walking to work, I couldn’t understand why my uniform didn’t feel right. The back of the dress is straight and plain, the front has a neat little twist of material pulled to one side to give it some shape. It felt wrong because the knot was digging into my back. Thankfully I worked it out before getting to the office, and quickly ducked into the Ladies to swoosh the dress around before heading to my desk. My dignity preserved; this time anyway. In the book of Jeremiah, reading from The Message, the prophet cries out, “God, pick up the pieces. Put me back together again. You are my praise!” There’s so much I love about this short prayer. In his brokenness, Jeremiah relies on God for restoration. God made us in the first place, so he’s the expert craftsman. He’s the only one fully qualified to repair us. Yes! I take the help I can get – there are times I have been on medication, seasons where I’ve had the help of counselling, and these days I’m trying to look after myself better. But my reliance needs to be on God for the ultimate repair job. I’m struck by how Jeremiah finishes his prayer though. I’m great at starting those prayers. “God help me, I’m in bits!” I’m not so quick to finish my prayers with praise. I praise when the answer comes of course, but Jeremiah does not wait for the answer before the praise kicks in. Praise is part of his prayer. At the time, Jeremiah was undergoing a backlash from those who God had sent him to. He was serving God, speaking words that had been given to him but the people were not listening. The prophet knew that God was though, and he chose to continue in God’s service, and praise him anyway. I’m still very much ‘in bits’; learning to spend more time praising while the pieces are being put in place. If you’re like me, under construction, let’s keep our eyes on the Maker, our Fixer. And if you spot me on a bad hair day with buttons done up wrong and a different shoe on each foot, just imagine I’m wearing a big (and probably lopsided) “God at work” sign.
“In his brokenness Jeremiah relies on God for restoration.”
Annmarie Miles is originally from Tallaght and now lives in her husband Richard’s homeland, Wales. As well as VOX articles, she writes short stories, and is working on a book about her journey with food, weight gain, weight loss and God. Visit her blog at www.auntyamo.com. On Twitter she is @amowriting. JUL JUL-- SEP 2018 VOX
Finding Faith Tour 2018
FINDING FAITH AROUND IRELAND
One of the great thrills of the Finding Faith tour is discovering what God is doing all over this island. In cities, towns, villages and homes. Through churches of all different flavours, denominations, styles and sizes. Among men and women, rich and poor, Irish and new Irish. In all ages and stages of life. If you don’t see your church or locality reflected here then get in touch (email@example.com). We want to visit you too!
THE MUSTARD SEED, CHURCH OF IRELAND, DONEGAL TOWN
small bungalow in Donegal Town has become a place of welcome and solace for many in the town, thanks to the work of the local Church of Ireland parish. The idea for “The Mustard Seed” was born in 2016 and a chance meeting in a barber’s shop led church administrator Louise to the perfect location. With a lot of hard work and sacrifice, the bungalow was transformed into a tea room, a prayer room and a mini bookshop. “The people come in from all sections of the community. Some come because they are lonely. It is a place where they can chat. They don’t have to pay and they can stay for as long as they like,” explained Archdeacon David Huss. “People know that they can ask for prayer,” added Sandra Ross who, with her husband Brian, serves as a Community Outreach Worker in the parish. “There is a lot of brokenness here but it has been lovely to see God at work. On one occasion, these two women realised that they were both married to husbands with alcohol problems. They were able to encourage each other.” One local doctor has begun to “prescribe” visits to the Mustard Seed as a positive social interaction, and a young woman who began to volunteer at the Tea Room found that being there brought her peace. “I saw volunteers as one of the problems we would have to overcome,” David shared. “How would we get enough people to help? What I didn’t anticipate was how many people would be keen to help and how much they would gain in the process. One woman, who is in her 80s, says that serving at the Mustard Seed has transformed her life. It has given her a whole new sense of purpose.” “It is well named as the Mustard Seed,” Sandra smiled. “I see it growing and providing a place of shelter, feeding and healing.” 20
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AMAZING GRACE FELLOWSHIP, WESTPORT, CO. MAYO
unning a charity shop has created opportunities for the Elim Pentecostal Church in Westport, Co. Mayo to connect with people and to serve their community. Joanne Fitzsimmons who manages the shop, with the support of many volunteers from the church, explained, “It has been a real way of building community. Regulars come in and they are beginning to open up about different things. We are getting beyond talking about the weather. “People like coming in because there is a good atmosphere. You have the craic. We get really good stuff given to us and we try keep the prices really low. One big question is about where the money goes and we’ve been trying to give money to projects within the local community.” Pastor John Fitzsimmons ( Joanne’s husband) said, “There is an annual fuel appeal (in our town) for people who are struggling to make ends meet during the colder weather. One day, I met the man who runs the fuel appeal and he came up and asked if I was the pastor. He said, ‘I wanted to thank you personally for the gift. Yours was the single biggest donation.’ I had been thinking our donation to the appeal wasn’t much and was wishing we could give more. But he was so grateful.” The shop also supports St. Vincent de Paul and the local Women’s Refuge. “Sometimes Christians distance themselves from their community. When you get involved in community projects you don’t always see immediate effects but you are there for the good of the community,” John added. Recently the church also started a new initiative called ‘Living Room.’ “We are trying to create a space where people can think about the deep things of life, and wrestle through their questions and their doubts,” John said. “We need to point people to a personal relationship with God. Our focus [in church] needs to be on equipping Christians to reach out in everyday life.”
GALWAY CITY BAPTIST CHURCH
rom small beginnings in 2003 (just four people with a small Bible study), Galway City Baptist Church has grown to become a vibrant multi-national church in the heart of the city. “Life is ministry here so we started to build relationships,” said Pastor Jason Post. “We met for a couple of years in a sitting room and then moved into a hotel meeting room. In 2009, the national school that our kids attended was building a new school and we asked if we could rent the facility on a Sunday. We provided chairs, tables and a sound system that were available for the school to use as well. And we’ve been meeting there ever since. It is a great arrangement.” “It is chaotic and loud,” Jason smiled. “We have 150 people and about half of those are children and young people. There are over 30 teenagers in our youth group and many of them have grown up in the church.” Challenging church members to get involved in their local community is an important focus for the church. “Our evangelistic strategy has tended to be weighted towards establishing relationships of trust within our spheres of influence and equipping people to have conversations with the people that they know,” Jason said. “We have been praying that God will bring us evangelists and we now have two men who are involved on the streets of Galway. One stands on Shop Street handing out tracts. He is really good at it because he engages people in conversation and shares his testimony. Another man felt God was leading him to help with the homeless.” Jason is encouraged to see strengthening relationships between churches in Galway. Leaders gather every six weeks for fellowship, prayer and encouragement. “I would love to see a prayer meeting that is not just for us but also for our congregations,” he shared. Having seen what is happening in Sligo, with a weekly united prayer meeting and annual outreach, Jason would love to see that replicated in Galway. JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
FIRM FOUNDATIONS BIBLE STUDY, CASTLEISLAND, CO. KERRY
SHANNON CHRISTIAN CHURCH, CO. CLARE
fter an amazing year financially, which has enabled Shannon Christian Church to finish off their church building, Elton Good is looking forward to what the future holds. “We are looking to where this space can take us. We’ve set up the Hope Café and we are running Sunday Night Live events with opportunities to invite friends and people who don’t know Jesus,” Elton shared. One new idea is to offer the use of the premises to local community groups to help support their fundraising efforts. “We would invite them in to share with our Sunday service and then open the coffee shop in the afternoon so that they can run a fundraising event - any proceeds that they make from the sale of coffees would then go towards their work,” Elton explained. In this way, the church hopes to be a blessing to their community and build long-term relationships with the groups and charities within their area.
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riginally from the US, Joel and Cindy Reed came to Ireland in 2006 and now live in Co. Kerry with their four children. Joel is a music teacher in Tralee while Cindy is home schooling the children but they hold Bible studies in their home every week. “We are very sold on the New Testament model of church; getting back to roots with simple housebased meetings,” Joel explained. “We’ve been using a course called Firm Foundations that runs for 48 sessions and has been so helpful to people as they seek to understand Scriptures. We often find people will say things like, ‘Wow, I never understood it like that,’ or ‘Now it makes sense.’” Joel recalls one occasion when he felt God was prompting him to invite one of his music students to the Bible study. Eventually he plucked up the courage to ask, “This may sound completely crazy but would you have any interest in studying the Bible?” She looked at him and immediately answered, “Yes.” After this woman had been coming to the Bible study for some time, she opened up about why her response had been so swift. “I almost fell off my chair because for over a year I had been asking God, ‘Is there someone who can teach me the Bible?’” Through the Bible studies, she has come to know Jesus and is growing in her new-found faith. “Recently, we’ve been having fun discovering the Biblical feast days and just finding delight in the rich symbolism of these celebrations,” Joel said. “We are looking for ways to be more public in the town. We have some colleagues in Abbeyfeale starting a food bank ministry and that is going well.”
CORK CHURCH, CORK CITY
ast year, Cork Church launched Feed Cork as a response to food poverty in the city. Starting with just four families, the initiative now feeds up to 700 people a week with packages of basics such as rice, pasta and cereals. Every Wednesday, church members gather to parcel up food donated by supermarkets and local businesses. Word spread and many people wanted to get involved to help out. Hundreds come in on a Wednesday evening to collect their food parcel but also to spend time with church folks over a cup of tea or coffee. “There is a real sense of family for those coming in,” said Isaac, who has been volunteering with the project since the beginning. “The idea is also spreading to other cities. Feed Wexford has just opened up. One in ten people in Ireland are affected by food poverty, especially because of rising rents.”
ABUNDANT LIFE CHURCH, LIMERICK
n the very heart of Limerick City Centre, Abundant Life Church held the official opening of its new church building (The Life Centre) in the former Smyth’s Toy Store on Sunday, 19 May. It has been a five-year process but Senior Pastor Kevin Fitzgibbon and Pastor Pawel Garbowski have been overjoyed to see God’s faithfulness in their journey to their new home. As part of Christian Churches Ireland (CCI formerly Assemblies of God Ireland), Abundant Life was grateful for the support of the larger network both in Ireland and beyond. Teams from the US came and served tirelessly to complete the refurbishment, which includes space for the thriving children’s and youth ministries within the church. And when costs escalated, one generous church in Limerick provided Abundant Life Church with an interest free loan - a beautiful demonstration of Christian unity! The ethos and focus of the church has been changing gradually. “About six years ago, we realised that we were geared more towards feeding Christians than reaching the lost,” Pastor Kevin explained. “Now we try to focus on welcoming the new person walking through the doors. “We want people to feel at home here. We don’t want Christians coming from other churches but instead (we want) to be a place where people who are searching can find belonging and support on their spiritual journey. Once a month, we encourage our folks to invite people to experience lively music, inspirational talks and great food! And one advantage is that everybody knows this place!”
SKIBBEREEN METHODIST CHURCH, CO. CORK
t might seem “out-of-the-way” but the Methodist Church in Skibbereen, West Cork, is an exciting place to be. Rev. Greg Alexander is fairly new to the church and he’s been thrilled by what he has found. “As a minister coming in it has been wonderful to be among a group of people that love Jesus and want to see others coming to know Him. These are folks who are seeking to live out lives of integrity in their community. Sometimes, as a minister, you feel you have to push it but here people are having ideas of their own. They come to me saying, ‘This is what God is laying on my heart.’ I find that exciting. There is no pretence. We are a broken people and in the smaller setting with limited resources, we are learning to depend on God and discovering that He is our resource.” A number of church members set up the “Barn Meetings” - an annual women’s conference that attracts up to 70 people! Church member, Tim and his wife have converted their “barn” into a meeting room by putting up drapes on the walls. The event is now in its fourth year and it attracts women from many different churches around West Cork.
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INTERNATIONAL CAFÉ, BRAY
very year, Bray in Co. Wicklow becomes a temporary home for hundreds of international language students eager to improve their English. But being so far from home in a strange land can be a daunting and lonely experience. In response, local Christians Maureen and Mike set up the “International Café” several years ago - a chance for students to enjoy a warm welcome, a cup of tea and a bun, a chance to practice their English and a relaxed Irish trad session. Volunteers from a number of local churches are happy to help out and talented trad musicians come to play and enjoy the craic while the students chat. Currently based in the upstairs room of one of the language schools, the café has moved around a variety of venues but always attracts a number of regulars as well as newcomers from many different nationalities. Some of the students have questions about faith and there are opportunities for them to find out more or to connect with local churches.
CORK INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY CHAPLAINCY, CORK CITY
NEW LIFE CHURCH, BELFAST
et on the so-called “peace” wall between the infamous Shankhill and Falls communities of West Belfast, New Life Church is seeking to change the story for people who have experienced so much brokenness and division. “Safe Space” is a week-night café that provides a welcome, a listening ear and prayer for people who are battling a whole range of tough issues in their lives. In a place known for violence and conflict, many struggle with addiction or mental ill health. “Some nights people don’t come in but we sit and share our stories and it encourages us and brings us closer,” explained John, who regularly volunteers at Safe Space. On another occasion, a few men spontaneously began to sing worship songs and everyone joined in! “Jesus saw the person before the problem,” added Stuart. “When you read the gospels, it changes your whole mindset.” When the volunteers received training in suicide awareness (the ASIST course), they didn’t realise it would literally save lives. “One night my boss phoned me and said his son was thinking about suicide,” Stuart shared. “I knew it was from God so I went over there and sat with his son until 2.45am. That young man eventually gave his heart to the Lord!” 24
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letcher Flynn loves his work as a college chaplain for CIT, supporting students, especially in the challenging transition into college life. “It can be difficult because you are away from home and getting used to college life. My job is to hang out with people and give them words of encouragement,” he said. Having a close walk with God is vital, Fletch shared. “My youth leader used to say to me, ‘If you are living off scraps then what do you have left to feed others?’ I realised how it is important to spend time with God and read His Word so that I can know God’s heart for people.” One Friday afternoon, Fletch was preparing to go home when a young man arrived at his office and asked, “Do you ever wonder about the meaning of life...?” “I didn’t go home for a while,” Fletch grinned. “I was able to tell him that God is the reason why I have meaning in my life!”
IGNITE, URBAN JUNCTION, BLACKROCK, CO. DUBLIN
gnite is a relaxed, family-friendly Sunday gathering at Urban Junction in Blackrock, Dublin. This welcoming fellowship has an outward focus with a wide range of exciting projects and partnerships in the community through smaller interest groups. Alan helps to run Blackrock Community Men’s Shed, which currently meets in the Urban Junction building but is searching for a new plot of land that will also provide space for a community garden. Launched in 2016, the Blackrock Community Men’s Shed (part of the Irish Men’s Shed Association) is a supportive and healthy environment where men can meet to work on DIY, restoration and artwork projects together, as well as sharing a cuppa and a chat. Expectant Youth Club welcomes children with mild intellectual difficulties into a safe environment where they can hang out and feel included and accepted. Started by one of the students in the church, the club has grown and provides an essential service for young people and their families.
MOUNTMELLICK METHODIST CHURCH, CO. LAOIS
uth Matthew vividly remembers the first night of the CHAOS youth group at Mountmellick Methodist Church. “It was just myself, my two oldest girls, the minister and his daughter,” she shared. But just two week’s later she received a text saying that two carloads of young people were on the way! “At the moment we have around 20 young people aged between 10 and 16 years old,” Ruth said. “We have games and crafts and at the moment we are working through a programme called ‘All In’ about being everyday missionaries. Over the June bank holiday, the Laois Fleadh is in town and we are planning to set up a tea and coffee table outside the church.” The group has helped to pack care packages for the homeless in Dublin, in partnership with the Tiglin bus and have visited old people’s homes in the Mountmellick area. “At Christmas, we went into the hospital and sang carols. The older folks were up dancing and then our kids went to talk to them afterwards! “Each year, the CHAOS kids lead worship and plan everything for one service. We discuss a theme and pick different people to do difficult things. Last October, the adults were surprised to hear a 12-year-old speaking from the Bible! This year, we are hoping to make it more of a youth event and we plan to invite youth groups from other places.” JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
ABBEY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, DUBLIN CITY CENTRE
et in the very heart of Dublin city centre, Abbey Presbyterian Church is a place of welcome and warmth for its diverse, ever-changing, multi-cultural congregation. When minister Alan Boal and his wife Ruth arrived at the church 20 years ago, having previously spent time in Malawi, the congregation was mainly made up of Irish people. “Shortly after we arrived here, people started coming from all over the world but particularly from Malawi,” Ruth said. “We had intended to go back to Africa. We never did but they came to us!” “It is not always easy being part of a city centre congregation,” Ruth explained. “It is tough when there is a lot of coming and going but also wonderful when people come and stay. Each person is someone unique and special and each one enriches our lives, whether they are here for one day or 20 years! Gradually, we have all become part of an extended family. In recent years, we’ve done more and more as an all-age congregation rather than putting people in their own groups. We don’t even have Sunday school. That certainly keeps us on our toes. Every month, we have a meal together and people bring food from different countries. We love it!” Alan added, “This year, we’ve been doing 52 stories from Creation to New Creation. We take a story each week and tell it in a variety of ways throughout the service and try to pitch it at different age groups and backgrounds.” Olivia, who has been at the church for the whole of her life, began a small group knitting hats for cancer patients who have lost their hair and praying for those who receive the hats. The group soon expanded to include some of the international students who attend the church and Olivia found herself teaching them to knit. “We were having to use our phones to translate because of the language barrier but we had such good fellowship working together,” she said.
CROWN JESUS MINISTRIES, EAST BELFAST
ith a vision to see people coming into relationship with Jesus, Crown Jesus Ministries runs a weekly “School of Evangelism” - equipping Christians to share their faith in daily life - and partners with churches around Northern Ireland and Ireland to support outreach in their local communities. With a focus on kids and youth, the team runs a range of school programmes and an annual Christmas puppet show sharing the true meaning of Christmas. A gap year programme gives opportunities for young adults to serve on the team that goes into schools and to take part in a regular Monday afternoon outreach in Belfast city centre, praying for people and telling them about Jesus. Find out more at www.crownjesus.org.
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Finding Faith Tour 2018
FINDING FAITH: GOD WITH US!
God’s presence was a recurring theme during this year’s Finding Faith Tour. Many were discovering or re-discovering what it means to “be” with God, experiencing the intimacy of His love, enjoying Him and knowing Him, even in times of suffering or struggle.
JOEL AND CINDY, CASTLEISLAND, CO. KERRY
TIM AND SHIRLEY, SKIBBEREEN, CO. CORK
oel: “I’m in a process of a deepening understanding of how small I am; that He is everything. The more I am willing to depend on Him, the more I experience the reality of His presence. I think there has been an on-going readjustment as I’ve begun to understand that He wants a say in all the little details of my life. I’m realising that He deeply desires a deep connection and relationship with me. We are doing a study that is highlighting some of this. The author talks a lot about the fact that we are called firstly to a love relationship with God and because we love Him, we obey Him.” Cindy: “I am really learning that Jesus is with me, just feeling His presence and His love. He is so present all the time. He answers those little prayers. I see Him working with the kids. If we are in the car, we pray together and we are all learning to hear from Him and understanding that He actually wants to communicate with us. I’m learning a lot about Him and the way He wants to interact with us. So many people are carrying pain and trauma, those parts of their hearts haven’t been healed. I want to help them to give that pain to Jesus.”
im: “One thing I find unique is that in this little church the Holy Spirit is present, you can feel the presence of God every Sunday morning.” Shirley: “We are very small in number but God is blessing us. The folk here have a real heart to see people meet with Jesus and a real hunger for God and His presence.”
JASON POST, GALWAY
have been spending a lot of time reading the English puritans. I’m continually amazed at how much they loved Jesus because they realised how much Jesus loved them. They always talk about basking in the radiance of God’s love. For me, today and recently, those thoughts fill my head of being able to bask in the radiance of God’s love for me. In Christ, I get to share in the love the Father has for the Son, in the Spirit. It fills me with joy and gives me perspective.”
NIALL BARRY, DUBLIN
’m in a time of change because I’m retiring so it is a time to look back. Three of our children died in the first 24 hours of life but it was in those darkest times when I felt the presence of God the most. God has been a rock to me. I remember those Tom and Jerry cartoons…Tom runs out over the edge of the cliff and he falls but there is a branch halfway down the cliff. God was that branch to us. I remember thinking either this is all rubbish or God is my only hope. In good times and in bad, He got me through. I know that God is my friend. Just as I’m sitting here drinking coffee with you, He is sitting here with us and He will be with me tomorrow morning. You can take it for granted or go through moments of doubt but He is a constant presence. I think doubt is a good thing because when you ask the questions, you realise that God is real.” JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
A HEART FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN IRELAND
Meet Simon Marriott from Youth for Christ Ireland During this yearâ€™s Finding Faith Tour, VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams met up with Simon Marriott who heads up Youth for Christ Ireland. She found out what brought this graphic designer from Northern Ireland to Mullingar and the heart and ethos that shapes the work of the dynamic YFC team.
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ELL US WHAT CHANGED THE DIRECTION OF YOUR LIFE
I had a design and marketing agency and I was building my own empire. When my son was born, they told us he was going to die. The thing Joshua needed was breath. His lungs had shut down. God miraculously healed him. I understood that when God says children are a gift, they are on loan to us. I felt like He was saying, “I’ve given you these kids for this time to steward their lives well and point them to me.” This whole experience freed me up to champion other people to be the person they were created to be. Within a year or two, we walked away from my successful business and joined Youth for Christ in the Czech Republic, running camps for children and young people from orphanages. I had just been through an experience in which I had almost lost my son. I could not understand why any parent would choose to give their child away.
WHAT CHANGED WHILE YOU WERE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC?
It gave me a wider perspective. I learnt to stop deciding where God wasn’t working (because of my own pre-conceptions) and instead to be observant to see what He is doing. Living in the Czech Republic, it was easier to say that I’m from Ireland rather than I’m from Northern Ireland. People there couldn’t care less which part of Ireland we were from. It made me recognise that I was more Irish. We were trying to discern where we should live out the rest of our lives and after four years my wife felt that would be our final year. I began to transition and as I did that I had the opportunity to speak on the life of St. Patrick in a Czech secondary school. While I was preparing, I felt like God was saying, “I’m calling you back to Ireland.” I realised that in my time in the Czech Republic, God was preparing me for Ireland. If I had come direct from the north, I would have been a fish out of water. I would have reacted arrogantly without even knowing it. But to live in a different context, to have those edges knocked off and to be humbled, prepared me to come here with that posture of humility.
WHAT WERE THE FIRST STEPS?
We came to Ireland in May 2015 just to look around. Prior to that I had no Catholic friends; that is how insular my upbringing had been up. I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me of that. “You’ve been living life not as a neighbour but on the other side of the fence.”
For me, there was a lot of significance about going to Mullingar rather than being based in Dublin. [Ed note: Before Tara, Uisneach just outside Mullingar was the seat of the high kings of Ireland and the area is considered to be the political, mythological and geographical centre of the island.] There is a lot of imagery around igniting fires and passing on the torch until all of Ireland is illuminated. We believe that God is ushering in a new season. I suppose the vision that God has given me for Ireland is to see “fires” started, becoming beacons of hope across our land. Jonny Somerville from Scripture Union was very kind. His advice was, “If you are going to do something in Ireland then for one year do nothing... just observe, meet with people, hear their heart and build relationships.” That is exactly what we did. I volunteered with Youth Alpha, built a relationship with some of the local people. We saw that young people pre-confirmation and post confirmation have a need for Jesus and began to ask, “How do we facilitate them in encountering Jesus?” We need a posture of humility. God is at work and we are trying to observe what
He is doing. Over the last three years, He has opened doors for us.
SO WHAT DID YOU DO?
For me, coming to Mullingar was a strong sense of coming home. I don’t even see my role as a missionary but as a job I have in which I get to share the gospel with young people. We started working in one school and, as a result, we were invited into a local parish. From there we had an opportunity to be involved in mentoring and then got involved in community projects. Eventually, we got to the point where we wanted to have a place where young people could come and go and so we opened our drop -in centre - the Upper Room. This is a place to model what family life looks like - a place where we can talk to one another about issues like drugs or relationships that have gone sour. As well as the
GOD IS AT WORK and we are trying to observe what He is doing. games room, we have a quiet room where we pray and if the young person would like to, we can pray with them.
HOW ARE YOU SEEING AN IMPACT ON THE LIVES OF YOUNG PEOPLE?
We do mentoring in schools. We seek to stand in the gap for young people. Our heart is that they encounter Jesus, but we are not going to force that on them. One in four families in Ireland with children are single parent families, of which 86% of dads are absent in some way. When I get to speak to a group of young people, I feel the Father heart of God. I’m just trying to point them to Jesus to encounter the Father. These young people are heavy on my heart. They are searching for something. Many are looking for deeper conversation. That is what I enjoy about youth work. I don’t do superficial. So I can ask, “How are you really?” And that is when we need to listen well! We start to see young people flourish because they have had the ability to talk about the things that matter most and they are seeing how Jesus can help them. It is a privilege to journey with young people and it is certainly a two-way street. I was telling some young people, “Faith is like a gym membership. If you have the card in your wallet, it is not going to transform your abs! You need to train and be active to become fit. An active faith should transform your life, head and heart.” We are trying to model something real. I have experienced the love of God through Jesus and that is what I seek to share with the young people. To find out more about the work of Youth for Christ Ireland, visit www.yfc.ie.
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125 Years On
THE GIRLS’ BRIGADE LIGHT CONTINUES TO SHINE
t may come as a surprise that them warm. From then on The Girls’ Brithe small Co. Leitrim town of gade expanded to Scotland, England and Manorhamilton is home to around the World. The GB programme The Girls’ Brigade Ireland’s consists of activities under four headings: largest company - an award-winning group Spiritual, Physical, Educational and Serof 100 girls that meets every week under vice. Activities include Bible study, drama, the leadership of Shirley Hewston and dance, crafts, singing, baking, camps, her team of volunteers. Just days after the musical theatre, games and so much more. company hosted a special celebration for “40th Company Manorhamilton began th The Girls’ Brigade Ireland’s 125 anniver- in 1997 with 17 girls. After celebrating sary, VOX editor Ruth Gar20 years last year with 75 vey-Williams visited Shirley girls the company won the to find out more. community award for social The Girls’ Brigade is WE WANT TO EMPOWER inclusion and then the overan interdenominational all award for Co. Leitrim THE GIRLS TO BE THE for our contribution to our Christian youth organisation, which is led by teams community. Membership BEST THEY CAN BE. of volunteers throughout increased to 100,” Shirley the world. It was begun said. “We have had to put in 1893 in Sandymount, a cap on membership but Dublin by Margaret Lyttle. During Bible have 20 on the waiting list for next year.” Class, the girls became very cold so Ms. With many girls of different abilities Lyttle began exercises with music to keep as part of the company, one of the vital
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themes is “acceptance” and this is evident in the way that girls are included from different cultural backgrounds, abilities and church denominations. “We want to empower the girls to be the best they can be, no matter who they are. We sit with the girls and ask what they want to do at the beginning of each year within the wide and varied parameters of the GB Ireland Programme - so there is a real sense of ownership,” Shirley explained. “We tell them, we’ll do anything apart from bungee jumping! Looking back over the last few years of The Girls’ Brigade in Manorhamilton, we have grown not only in numbers but also in our faith in God. “The Girls’ Brigade motto is to Seek, Serve and Follow Christ. We are an inter-denominational Christian youth organisation. So much youth work is trying to water down the Christian message but I’m seeking to keep it at the forefront.
I don’t think we need to be ashamed of sharing about the love of God,” Shirley explained. Rev. Richard Beadle, who recently began working in Manorhamilton with the Church of Ireland, was amazed to discover the size of local 40th Co. Manorhamilton Girls’ Brigade. “Many Christian youth groups would be struggling or finding it difficult these days. To find that they are 100-strong and with a waiting list is amazing,” he said. The Christian ethos of The Girls’ Brigade was evident in planning for the 125th anniversary celebrations that brought together companies from Sligo, Leitrim, Monaghan and Donegal. At the end of April, 240 girls (aged between four and 18 years) and 60 adults gathered in Manorhamilton for a birthday party on the theme of “Fruitful and Overflowing” based on the Fruit of the Spirit. This is the theme for The Girls’ Brigade worldwide International Conference, which will be held in Zambia in July this year. Volunteer Maureen said, “So many people prayed for safety and smooth running and that God’s hand would be upon it all. When all the buses started arriving, it could have been pandemonium. There was excitement and fun but there was also peace - we were blown away by the calmness of the children. God did exceedingly, abundantly more than we could have asked or even imagined!”
Each company wore different coloured in the district. To conclude the party we T-shirts reflecting diversity but with a had a net filled with 400 balloons and after logo marking the 125th anniversary of The the countdown it was balloon madness as Girls’ Brigade. In preparation for the event they were all released in the hall! That was the girls had all shared what GB means to so exciting. The calmness was gone at that them and their feedback was reflected point,” Shirley said. in the words printed on the customised “I feel like God has a sense of humour. T-shirts. We had been praying for good weather for Bishop Ferran Glenfield and the the day and when the very last child got local clergy from all the on the bus, it lashed with churches in the commurain,” Shirley grinned. nity officially opened the During the weekevent. Local leaders were I DON’T THINK WE NEED TO end, 40th Manorhamilton joined by the Vice Patron, Company also organised a President, Commissioner, BE ASHAMED OF SHARING pop-up museum in a local National Chairperson and ABOUT THE LOVE OF GOD. shop unit to display memNational Director from orabilia of The Girls’ BriThe Girls’ Brigade Ireland gade over the years and to Throughout the day, highlight the organisation the girls took part in a whole range of fun to the community. and educational workshops including “All I can think of is the hymn How crafts, photography, baking, messy church, Great Thou Art. He blessed us in every part a prayer space, fitness, magic, drumming of the planning and the weekend itself. We and the multi-cultural world. At the end of pray now for the legacy of the celebrations the afternoon, they were divided up into - that all who came will have been touched different age groups for a time of praise in some way to know God’s love and to and worship with input from OM Ireland, overflow with the Fruit of the Spirit, wherCEF, yKEA, Drumcliffe Centre of Mission ever they live. and local Christian youth workers. “The Girl’s Brigade would love to “After all the worship times, we sang welcome more members into every comhappy birthday to The Girls’ Brigade. pany around the country to empower It was an honour to welcome our Vice and enrich the future generation to Seek, Patron of GB Ireland Joan Darling who Serve and Follow Christ.” brought in the cake with six of the youngFor more details contact www.girlsbriest members representing each company gadeirl.ie. JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
AHEALINGPLACE Visiting YWCAâ€™s Coolnagreina in Greystones
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ucked away behind the bustling streets and just minutes from the harbour, the YWCA’s Coolnagreina centre in Greystones has provided a haven of rest and restoration for over 100 years. Built in 1850 as a private residence, the main house was turned into safe and affordable holiday accommodation for young women in 1894. Since then, the vision and the facilities have grown, and today Coolngreina provides a retreat centre that serves church groups, students and young people throughout the year. Now the Assistant to the Manager, Clare Murray, remembers visiting the centre as a child during the annual CSSM beach missions in Greystones. She describes how people arriving at Coolnagreina experience a sense of peace. “Even the delivery guys notice it as soon as they drive through the gates,” she smiles. With accommodation for 74 people in comfortable en suite rooms as well as large meeting rooms, comfortable lounges and a catering kitchen, the centre has become popular with many different church groups. But Coolnagreina is also connecting and engaging with the local community. “The vision of YWCA is to empower women to lead and effect change through Christ,” Clare explained. “We hold regular coffee mornings and wherever possible we seek to provide employment for local young people. “We also had a vision for a Youth Café. We have planning permission to turn the building at the gate into a youth centre, which we hope to open this autumn.” The café will provide a hub for young people to relax and hang out under the supervision of YWCA volunteers. “Everything we do has a Christian ethos,” Clare said. A Christian university in America sends students to stay in Coolnagreina for two semesters a year and Clare hopes that some of the students will volunteer in the new Youth Café. There is also support from many of the local churches in Greystones. “That Christian ethos impacts the way that Coolnagreina is managed,” Clare explains. “Guests feel welcome and loved and there is such a generous spirit. We’ve also worked hard to make the centre fully accessible for wheelchairs - people can roll right from their room to the sea without any hindrance. “There is a real family atmosphere among the staff and volunteers with long coffee breaks at which everyone is welcome. People are happy to work hard but for some people it is a real healing experience. It feels like so much more than doing a ‘job’.” To find out more about what Coolnagreina offers for your church or group, visit www.coolnagreina.ie.
“Guests feel welcome and loved.”
“There is a real family atmosphere.”
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Finding Faith Tour 2018
NÍ NEART GO CUR LE CHÉILE (THERE’S NO STRENGTH WITHOUT UNITY)
One of the recurring themes of this year’s Finding Faith Tour was the need for Christians to work together. Around the country, there are inspiring examples of how this is worked out in practice. Here are two:
SPRING TO LIFE OUTREACH AND UNITED PRAYER - SLIGO
pring to Life” is a joint Holy Week outreach that grew out of an initiative of the three Church of Ireland parishes in Sligo. Six years ago the churches began working with Sligo Methodist and the following year also partnered with the local Elim congregation. Since then “Spring to Life” has grown to encompass other denominations including the Presbyterian Church and Redeemed Christian Church of God. Archdeacon Isaac Hanna from Drumcliffe parish explained, “The key thing is that we have united around the Gospel - that was a deliberate choice. It has enabled us to build quality relationships between the different churches. While there are differences, what we have in common far outweighs that. “At a lot of the events, we share people and resources. There is something powerful about meeting together, and praying and hearing one another’s hearts. Although it was birthed out of the Church of Ireland, Spring to Life comes from a conviction that we are not in business of building individual kingdoms but we want to build the Lord’s Kingdom. “It can only work if people are prepared to trust one another,” Isaac added. “It is more than being polite. It means we do not feel threatened by each other’s strengths but realise that we all belong to one another. We are contributing to what you are doing and don’t expect anything in return - that is really special.” Canon Patrick Bamber from 34
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Calry parish described a community project run during Spring to Life this year, “One of the key things in approaching the county council was that this was not just a single church but a whole group of churches. It was genuinely a community event organised by a community of churches. We held a free BBQ and in fact everything was free. Working together, all of our churches made this possible.” Patrick explained how prayer has gradually become central to the relationship between churches in Sligo. “A few years ago we began to pray each morning during the mission. It started with just three or four people each day. That was a bit discouraging but a few years later we tried it again and to our amazement 12 or 13 people were turning up. We decided to have a prayer meeting once a month on a Saturday morning and after a year, we started doing that every week with up to 20 people from many different churches gathering to pray for Sligo and for one another.” Isaac added, “In John 17, Jesus prayed that they would be one. I remember reading a commentator saying that this was the one prayer of Jesus that hadn’t been answered. Part of that prayer is that God will be glorified. When we talk about the Gospel, we are on the same page and God is still in the business of transforming lives!”
CATCHING A KINGDOM VISION - CORK
hurch leaders from across Ireland came together for the Fireland conference in Cork over St. Patrick’s weekend. Pastor Tom Hoban from Good News Christian Church with congregations in Cobh and Cork city hosted the conference. He reported, “More and more leaders are catching ahold of a Kingdom vision. There is a greater sense of maturity in the church, as if the Irish church is coming out of its teenage years. It is not just a unity of respect but, increasingly, it is about working together. I’m excited about that. God’s Spirit is moving.”
BECOMING MISSIONAL SHIFTING OUR THINKING TO NARROW THE GAP BETWEEN CHURCH AND CULTURE BY SIMON KILPATRICK
he Praxis Conference in Dublin in May explored mission for ordinary people with some exciting examples from around Ireland. Simon Kilpatrick from Ignite Network in Blackrock challenged how we think about mission. Here is a summary of what he had to say. For too long we have presented the same model of church and mission to a culture that has changed. The church no longer has the same impact. The gap has become wider between church and culture. I don’t think God has turned a blind eye on Ireland but we have not done the hard work. The way we do mission should shape the church, not the other way around. Our Christology must shape our missiology, which in turns should shape our ecclesiology. If we are to be more missional, four shifts have to take place.
A SHIFT FROM GROWING BIGGER TO THINKING SMALLER
For the sake of mission, growing bigger is not the answer. We need to think smaller and more creatively. How do we create small communities in lots of different locations in order to reach into every crack and crevice of society as we seek to engage and bring the message of Jesus? Our current structures can make it difficult. I think the church needs to become more like an international terrorist network without the violent ideology. We need to create small reproducible units that do not require massive, heavy structures.
A SHIFT FROM MY THING TO HIS THING
We need to be connected, providing a network of support that is flexible in operation but Christ-focused in theology and Spirit-led in mission. In John 17, Jesus prays for those who will believe that all of them may be one and may be brought to complete unity! He is praying for us. He prays that we may be united... so that the world might believe. Our lack of unity dishonours God and has an impact on our missional potential.
We have to understand that our competition is not with other churches but with the things of this world. How do we make sure that a homeless guy is not fed three times on a Wednesday and not at all on a Friday because we can’t work together? We need to focus on the things that unite us and not those that divide us. When we do His thing together, then Jesus’ prayer is answered. The outcome is that the world will know Jesus through our unity.
A SHIFT FROM THINKING ABOUT SPECIAL PEOPLE TO EMPOWERING ORDINARY PEOPLE
We need to put mission into the hands of the ordinary person. The disciples were unschooled men who had been with Jesus. God has given each of us a unique calling. We are called into relationship with Jesus and called to a cause. Too often, the church has been led by people who have been trained as “professionals.” But we cannot impact Ireland if we rely only on these “special people.”
A SHIFT FROM GOING TO CHURCH TO GOING FROM CHURCH AND AS CHURCH
Too often our language is about inviting someone to church. We fail to see ourselves as the body of Christ in the places where we are. Our presence should serve as a catalyst within our spheres of influence. This means moving the emphasis away from Sunday morning; no longer seeing church as a destination but church as mobilisation. It means asking questions like: How do we teach? How do we spend our money? How do we use our buildings? Our church gatherings need to be a signpost to something greater. We gather together but we are also sent out. We need to explore and examine the songs we sing and the prayers we pray. How do we re-focus mission as the thing that drives us, not the Sunday gathering? I pray we can shift our thinking and see the prayers of Jesus answered. God is at work.
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" I ’ M BLACK AND I ’ M PROUD ”
REFLECTIONS ON RACE AND WHITE SUPREMACY IN AN IRISH CONTEXT
Gerard Chimbganda is a Zimbabwean Irishman who leads Praise Tabernacle Church, a multicultural church in Dublin’s North East Inner City. Richard Carson is the CEO of ACET Ireland who has researched, supported and partnered with a range of migrant-led and white-led faith communities in Ireland. After reading two new books exploring issues of racism and white supremacy - I’m Still Here: black dignity in a world of whiteness by Austin Channing Brown and Wide Awake: an honest look at what it means to be white by Daniel Hill - these leaders discussed their reactions and the relevance of these issue for today’s Ireland. Here Gerard and Richard share their discussion for the benefit of VOX readers. Tell us your thoughts by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ichard: Austin Channing Brown’s book is a memoir, a reflection on her experience of race. It opens with the story of when she realised, at the age of seven, why her name was Austin (not a name generally associated with a black woman in America). Her parents had called her Austin because they wanted her name to sound like a white man so it would be easier for her to get a job. She brings us on a journey of what it means to love blackness and, as a Christian, what it meant to love blackness in the American church. She challenges the reader to think about how whiteness is at work in the world and introduces us to concepts like white fragility, “nice white people”, and the role of anger and hope. 36
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Gerard: Daniel Hill’s book also starts off with a story. He is a pastor who wanted to create a multi-cultural, multi-racial church. Observing an Indian-American wedding at which he was officiating he says to the groom, “I’m so proud that you’ve got a culture. I wish I had one.” The groom replies, “Daniel, you may be white but don’t let that lull you into thinking that you have no culture. White culture is very real. In fact, when white culture comes into contact with other cultures, it almost always wins. So it would be a good idea for you to learn about your culture.” That confuses the author and gets him to reflect about so called “whiteness” and “white supremacy”. He walks through real issues, a process of awakening white peo-
ple and enabling them deal with racism, so that true diversity can take place. He looks at cultural identity, encounter, denial, disorientation, shame and self-righteousness. It is a real introspective allowing you to go deep into yourself, laying bare the truth and, with the love of Christ, being awakened to reality. Richard: These are not books to help your community or congregation become more diverse or about how different races can be nicer to each other. They go much deeper. Daniel Hill talks about his goal to dismantle white supremacy rather than just seeking diversity. I found a real challenge in reading Austin Channing Brown’s book. In one chapter, I was dismissive of the story she tells of a white person and thought, “I would not be like that.” In the next chapter, I discovered that I’m the “nice white person.” Then in the next chapter, she took apart the very way that I thought things should be done and brought it to a deeper level. It challenges white people’s understandings and assumptions of race. Gerard: Daniel Hill says you have to go deeper. The feedback cannot come from whiteness. It can only come from really engaging with others. The real enemy is when people of colour believe the lie [of white supremacy]. You then have an inferiority complex that can be a barrier for
people to be one in Christ. We need to dismantle the lie and allow God to move. Richard: Both authors encourage white people to place themselves under the leadership of people of colour. Austin talks about letting people of colour set the agenda for conversations and issues that need to be addressed. There is a call to turn things upside down. That is a challenge for churches in Ireland. So often the framework for diversity is white. Gerard: Diversity must not be white-controlled, otherwise it becomes purely a PR exercise for white people to say, “We’ve done this for black people.” Inclusion means you are breaking the barriers; allowing people of colour to contribute and to rise. There has to be real reconciliation. Austin Channing Brown points out how easy it is for white people to become offended. Daniel Hill’s book is key in helping people to see clearly. It is about a deep transformation of how we think, how we relate and how we talk.
side, and then throw different people from everywhere into the mix, integration becomes a hard challenge. For the people coming in, you are all white (privileged or not). As a church, there is a need to understand the key themes emerging from these books and respond by humbling ourselves.
Brown’s book really spoke to me about the need for white people to submit to the leadership, authority and the theology that has been developed by people of colour, “Without people of colour in key positions influencing topics of conversation, content, direction and vision, whatever diversity is included is still essentially white. It just adds people of colour like sprinkles on top. The cake is still vanilla.”
Richard: These are American books and as I read, I was thinking about what it means for Ireland. Here, we tend to use the term “mixed marriage” to describe Catho- Richard: Both books finish on what inilic Protestant division. We consider these tially seems a negative note. Daniel talks things through the lens of our sectarian about “hopeful lament” as the appropriate Gerard: Daniel Hill emphasises a simipast and present. But another important posture rather than saying “What do we lar point but looks at the bigger picture, factor is economics. Daniel Hill explained need to do?” (a white response). Austin “If Christ is only “in you” then how big how the “economic machine” of slavis Christ? Not very big! You can ery was linked to the development tuck Him away when you don’t need of whiteness. I really wished he had People love the status Him. But when you and other human developed that theme into the 20th beings are “in Christ” as well as all of quo as long as it is and 21st centuries to make us think creation, then how big is Christ! If about our economic systems. There our view of Christianity is limited to benefitting them. is a real danger that our urgency to get Christ being “in me” or “in us,” we will race right paints over the fundamental never have the theological resources cracks in wealth inequities at the heart of talks, with disappointment, about how to join Him in works of reconciliation our society. the great grandchildren of slaves are still and justice. But if our view is expanded We are in a unique position in Ireland being beaten and killed in America and to see faith as fundamentally about being that we were both complicit in colonisa- expresses the need to embrace the death “in Christ” our framework changes.” I love tion through the British Empire and we of hope. From that place, they finish on that because it becomes the bigger picture are also the only western European coun- a positive note that these concepts find a of the kingdom. It is more about what He try that was a colony. We have a lot of home in the resurrection. There is a pow- wants rather than about what I want. work to do as a country to think through erful letting go and letting God be God. In those things. Here in North East inner the midst of injustice and pain, our hope is Richard: To address race well, we have to city Dublin, a community that has experi- found in Christ. challenge some of our theological frameenced profound neglect, resilience, hope, works, like reducing conversion to the brokenness and abuse over centuries, con- Gerard: One of the key points from a idea that we “invite Jesus into our heart.” cepts like white privilege mean something church perspective, is allowing the new Rather it is a conversion of ourselves “to completely different. We have to be care- communities to become teachers while Christ” who is in the margins of society ful that as we talk about race, it goes along- knowing that we are all submitted to the and is calling us, as we are reconciled to side deep discussions about class, wealth, love of Christ. We are united under God. God, to be reconciled to one another. economic systems and sectarianism. We become more and more like Him by breaking more barriers. “By this shall all Gerard: The apostle Paul says, “It is no Gerard: People love the status quo as men know that you are my disciples...” Lov- longer I that lives but Christ living in me.” long as it is benefitting them. When you ing one another as He has loved us! In other words, He becomes the “all” in consider that the north side [of Dublin] me. I am changing and patterning my life is seen as not as privileged as the south Richard: A quote from Austin Channing to Him.
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T N E L O I V N O N ISTIANITY R CH
A CHOP BY GLEND
USE WE A C E B T O OLENT, N I V N Y TO RID O G N E E T A R R A T S S N “CHRISTIA NONVIOLENCE IS A NONVIOLENCE SE HAT BELIEVE T F WAR, BUT BECAU TO BE A S O N D A L E R M O THE W WHAT IT F O RWAS E E V I U T A U H T I Y T E S IS CON - STANL ” . S U S E J TO DISCIPLE
have been a Christian for over 30 years and, in that time, I’ve never heard a sermon on non-violence. People who come quickly to mind are Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi and perhaps Nelson Mandela. I believe we may have minimised one of the central teachings of Jesus and one of the chief attributes of His life. Jesus taught us: Turn the other cheek: this is passive non-violence (not retaliating or striking back), described in 1 Peter 3:9-11: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult…” Love your enemies: this is active non-violence (the pursuit of peace, justice reconciliation and wholeness) described in 1 Peter 3:9-11 (second part) “He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” Jesus spoke of and did both.
WHAT IS VIOLENCE?
Violence can be corporate, communal and/or personal. It is not just about crime and war. It is far-reaching. Based on Jesus’ life and teaching, violence can be defined as any action, speech or ideology that threatens life, human well-being or environmental destruction. Even a threat is a form of violence. We must define violence in very personal and sometimes uncomfortable terms. It is not just being anti-war or anticrime or anti-abortion. It is being ‘pro’ everything that advances peace and justice, relieves suffering and its causes and stands up to hatred and inequality. Fr. Richard Rohr expresses it this way: “If we are to be truly pro-life, we must defend life from ‘womb to tomb’ and stand against all violence including war, racism, hunger, lack of health care, the destruction of the earth and all that impoverishes people.” Loving your enemies is much more than being nice to people who aren’t nice to you. It is actively trying to end systemic injustice, to bring peace and restoration to relationships in work, at home or in church, to end self-interest and division, to work for freedom from conflict on a personal, national and/or global scale. It is big! And it requires prayer, wisdom from God and, crucially, action! 38
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“LOVING YOUR ENEMIES IS MUCH MORE THAN BEING NICE TO PEOPLE WHO AREN’T NICE TO YOU.” Political and institutional systems are imbued with violence. They work at getting power and control over ‘the other’ for gain. It always does harm. But violence can also be seen in the small things of life. My words can be violent, throwing barbs of sarcasm or hurt. I can cut with complaints. I have the power to slice or break the spirit of another person. Or simply deny them something they need. Violence divides, creating judgments of right (me) and wrong (them). It enables us to scapegoat our pet hates. We need to look at the violence within. Paul exhorted us to get rid of anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language, quarrelling, factions, gossip, arrogance and more (see 2 Corinthians 12:20, Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8 to name a few). He knew and understood the capacity we have to do harm to one another. Similarly, creation is suffering under the weight of human abuse. It groans! Scripture describes the earth as the Lord’s and a reflection of His glory. Creation has great value to God and should not be viewed as a commodity. We do violence to the beauty and complexity of what He has made when our own convenience trumps responsibility. Christians should be on the cutting edge of recycling, reducing waste, living simpler lifestyles and promoting efforts to stop climate change. People throughout the world are suffering because of environmental damage that causes flooding, drought, deforestation and more. Even small steps like emailing supermarkets about reducing plastic packaging can have an impact if we take it seriously.
JESUS WAS A RADICAL ACTIVIST
Violence is the antithesis of love. Jesus was radically nonviolent. He uniquely took the path of restoration, healing and forgiveness instead of vengeance or aggression. He restored the ear Peter cut off. He did not call down the angels to His rescue. He did not ‘name and shame’ those who abused or misrepresented Him. He actively pursued those who needed healing, help and hope. He didn’t just preach it; He lived it. Jesus had the discernment and sensitivity to distinguish between ‘standing against’ something and becoming threatening or
aggressive. This is what was happening when He cleared the temple. He ‘stood against’, not just the commercialisation of religion, but also a corrupted system that misrepresented God. No to violent sacrifices! No to inequality! No to religious hierarchies! No to poverty in the House of God! A new way was coming and He cleared the way for it. I don’t think the buyers and sellers ran out of fear of Jesus but because they knew they were caught doing wrong.
WHO ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD?
Christians are usually seen to be active in one of two areas: either trying to convert people or involved in ‘anti’-campaigns of various types. We are rarely identified as peacemakers. To be a peacemaker is to be what we are intended to be - the children of God. We mustn't live as just observers in a world gone wrong. Peacemaking is an art form. It holds no personal agenda except peace. It brings together opposing sides in dialogue, understanding and compromise. At its finest, it makes enemies into friends. No wonder peacemakers are called the sons of God - like Jesus, our mediator, peacemaker and remover of enmity.
A WAY FORWARD
The capacity for self-awareness and self-criticism is invaluable. We need to be able to see our own ‘violence within’ with our own prejudices, judgments, biases, and opinions. The college where I studied theology supported the concept of a “Just War” (that war and killing can be justified by a “just” cause). Yet, the same college taught against the concept of ‘situation ethics’ (that your moral values can change with the situation). This serves to illustrate the difficulty and complexity of fully embracing true Christian non-violence. Reconciling the issues that are thrown up is challenging and relevant in today’s world. Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker. But now He works through active human consent and participation. Using three active verbs, let us ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God’. (Micah 6:8)
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
• Should violence ever be used to defend yourself or your loved ones? • Is the threat of violence justified to deter violence? What if it doesn’t work? • Should violent sports be acceptable to Christians? • Should Christians participate in military service? • Should Christians own private weaponry? • How radical should we be in opposition to war, injustice, corruption, etc.? • What are the theological implications of a non-violent God?
WHAT CAN WE DO?
• Find the violence within and cooperate with the gentle Spirit for change • Reflect deeply and openly on the character and nature of God • Study and meditate on the gospels, especially Matthew 5-7 • Make your voice heard in the pursuit of peace, justice and reconciliation, perhaps looking at your own family, workplace or community first. • Consider how to take responsibility for a simpler lifestyle • Reflect on what it means to be truly pro-life ‘from womb to tomb’.
Glenda Chop is a follower of Jesus who is still learning how to live the gospel and think critically.
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EXCITING CHANGES AT TEAM HOPE uring the Finding Faith Tour, Ruth Garvey-Williams caught up with Niall Barry in Dublin just a few weeks before his retirement as Executive Director of Irish charity Team Hope. Niall chatted about his love for the Christmas Shoebox Appeal, the importance of “team” and his joy in seeing the vision move forward under the leadership of Peter Heaney. “I’ve really enjoyed my (almost 20) years here and seeing how it has grown from nothing, to a project where almost four million children in 27 countries have received a shoebox gift from Ireland,” Niall smiled. “Of course I could keep doing this but things have to move on and it is important to see younger people come in.” Peter Heaney took over the leadership of Team Hope at the end of May in good time for the launch of this year’s shoebox appeal. Peter, who has volunteered with Team Hope for a number of years and previously served on the Team Hope board, holds a Master’s Degree from UCD in International Development. He has lived in Africa where he worked both for Irish Aid and a major Irish development agency. Looking back, Niall can see how the word “team” has been so important for Team Hope. “From the child who makes a shoebox with the help of their parents to their teacher and their school. From the local volunteers collecting and packing the shoeboxes to our transport coordinators. And at the far end, to the people in
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each country - our local partners who make sure the shoeboxes get into the hands of the children who need them most. The shoebox appeal is all about teamwork! We don’t know where the poorest children are in Burundi but our local partners do. We estimate that 2,000 volunteers are involved in the appeal in Ireland every year with the same number of people in each of the 13 countries where we distribute the boxes.” “I BELIEVE THAT ANYWHERE THAT “I’m looking CHRISTIANITY MEETS PEOPLE, IT forward to seeing Team Hope grow SHOULD BE GOOD NEWS.” under Peter’s leadership,” Niall said. “I hope we can support more partners in more countries to provide not just shoeboxes but clean water, education and health care all year round.” “I believe that anywhere that Christianity meets people, it should be good news,” Niall added. “The ordinary people heard Jesus gladly but that is not always the way it is today. Unfortunately, Christianity is not always good news. There is a lovely passage in Romans 15: 18-19 where Paul talks about having ‘fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ’ by what he has said and done, through miracles and the power of the Spirit of God. Being the love of God tangibly to people who don’t know God is part of the Gospel. Too often we have divided the Gospel into word or works but to me it is not one or the other: the words, the works and the wonders are all part of the good news.”
OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE By Max Lucado
Our world is in serious difficulty at the moment. More than 1.75 billion people worldwide are living below the breadline. There is huge uncertainty politically and economically, both at home and abroad. The things we once regarded as certainties and basic necessities, such as a roof over our heads, are no longer guaranteed. Fear and anxiety is now prevalent. It would be very easy to try and turn a blind eye to what is going on, and do nothing about it but what if you had an opportunity to make a difference? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God's love and life? In his book, Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado shows ordinary people how to change the world. He writes “There’s a lot of wisdom in the phrase: ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’ It’s when we try to do everything, that’s when we get overwhelmed. When we do nothing, that’s when we get bitter. But if we can find that one thing we do – that one unique assignment in our hometown or around the world – that’s the way we keep sanity in a difficult culture.” Outlive Your Life takes the reader on a tour of the first 12 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles in a way that perhaps only Max Lucado can. Drawing on the history of the early days of the church, he shows us how the experiences of those early dynamic, Spirit-powered Christians can be applied to our present-day situations and the 21st century Church, and make a real impact. In chapters with titles such as "See the Need; Touch the Hurt," and "Pray First; Pray Most," Max Lucado sets out in simple terms how we can start out to change our society. Each chapter ends with a prayer, which helps turn the reading into a spiritual experience. Outlive Your Life is an entertaining book, but it is much more than that. As the author makes clear from the very first chapter, it is a call to action for individuals and for churches: One hundred percent of the author's royalties from Outlive Your Life products will benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith-based compassion.
EMBRACED: 100 DEVOTIONS Lysa Terkeurst
Embraced: 100 Devotions to Know that God is Holding You Close, is the beautiful new devotional from New York Times bestselling author, Lysa TerKeurst, the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Embraced features 100 devotions that will resonate with women in all stages of life by giving them a godly perspective on the issues they face each day. A real embrace indicates an intimate level of closeness. It’s not a high five or a casual handshake. The best kind of embrace is when someone who deeply loves us flings their arms wide open and pulls us in close. Our hearts were made for this kind of love and security, but for many of us, we know more about the pain of heartbreak and fear than the unconditional love for which we were created. In Embraced, Lysa shares her own struggles, doubts, and heartbreaks while pointing to the Ultimate Embrace: God opening His arms wide on Calvary through Jesus so that He could pull us close for all of eternity, welcoming us into the safety and hope of His grace and His love. And because we have been fully embraced by Him, we can spend our lives held securely by Him and trust all of His ways. With an exquisite cloth cover, highly designed interior, ribbon marker, and stained page edges, Embraced will be a treasured keepsake for you as well as a meaningful gift for those you love. Book reviews written by Vincent Hughes and presented on his weekday 12 noon ‘til 3pm programme on UCB Ireland.
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Kilkenny Christian Centre New Ministry Opportunity We are seeking to appoint a permanent full time Centre Co-ordinator with Youth Work Experience for October 2018, based in Kilkenny, to develop the work of our drop in centre and to initiate and deliver such programmes as enable young people to experience the love of Jesus, reaching their full potential personally, emotionally and spiritually. Are you a committed believer in Jesus Christ who is passionate about sharing the Good News of Jesus with young people? Then this opportunity is for you!! To find out more visit www.therockk.ie or contact Colleen at email@example.com Kilkenny Christian Centre is a register charity CHY 17117 and a register company limited by guarantee.
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Reckless Love Brian Houston
With 25 albums under his belt, Brian Houston has been very hard to pigeonhole into any one musical genre. A Christian who is a musician, rather than simply a Christian musician, Brian has played his songs in venues as diverse as churches, large stadiums and small concert venues and even a Native American village in the wilds of Canada. He has travelled extensively and has garnered the respect and admiration of some of the biggest names in the music world. He has been back in his native Belfast for the past few months and has been busy recording a collection of songs for his latest album. Taking its title from the song written by Cory Asbury, Reckless Love is a beautiful collection. Unlike the other albums I have reviewed in this edition, this is an acoustic worship album of new songs with a chilled out atmosphere. This is like sitting beside Brian as he plays.
Miracle or Not Alisa Turner
Miracle or Not is Alisa Turner's debut Integrity Music album, and it is stunning. I got to know Alisa personally, last year, after the release of her EP, and saw at first hand the challenges, heartache, grief, and chronic ill health that have paved her life's journey. I also saw the immense God-given talent she possesses which, coupled with an incredible faith, has enabled her to write songs that will resonate with so many people who are facing challenges similar to her own. Her songs are an oasis of hope. They don't offer simplistic answers, but rather deal with tough subjects thoughtfully through the lens of Scripture and with an attitude of worship. Psalm 121 is the inspiration for Lift My Eyes, a song that places us at the lookout point of God's greatness. What a Day is a superb congregational hymn that will no doubt be in churches before too long. It is the piano ballads, however, that really get inside Alisa's heart. Loved and Forever Holy are two of the most beautiful expressions of worship I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Alisa continues to battle with Lyme disease, suffering pain and fatigue daily, and yet she still hands it all over to God. Miracle or Not is one of the finest albums I have ever reviewed. It is an outstanding and accomplished piece of work. Go listen to it.
Here and Now Suzanne Hanna
Listening to this album is like having your own personal praise and worship session. It starts with the beautiful reflective Here and Now, which draws you quietly into
God's presence, and when you want to throw your hands up and pour out your praise, the second track Come and Worship will give you the freedom to do so. Suzanne's deep devotion really shines in the quieter ballads, and tracks like All Glory and Have Mercy will soak into your soul like water on parched ground. It is the restraint and reverence on this album that sets it apart. This reverence carries through the final two tracks Jesus Only and No Greater Love, and will leave you wanting to close your eyes and breathe in the fragrance of pure worship. Here and Now by Irish Christian singer/songwriter and worship leader Suzanne Hanna is a must-have.
Your Church Green Pastures Worship, Ballymena
I awaited the first studioproduced music from Green Pastures Church in Ballymena with great anticipation. When it came (a five track EP) I was not disappointed. This is a work of real quality that would put in the shade many mega-budget recordings from the USA. Under the direction of Pastor Jonny Mullen, Green Pastures are setting the standard for the growing home-based Christian recording industry. Life to The Lifeless, featuring Jonathon Clements, is one of the stand-out tracks. When it gets to the chorus it will have you punching the air. Your Church, the title track, takes the pace down slightly, but once again,
the musicianship and vocals from Jemma Gracey and Mark Torrington are absolutely stunning, and the lyrics crystal clear. Green Pastures recently led the worship at St. Marks Church in Dublin. I hope that they will be making the trip south many more times in the future. In the meantime, have a listen to the EP on Spotify and other streaming services. It is class.
Faith to Favour
CFC Worship, Belfast I have long been asking for more Irish Christian music; music that comes from our churches, and reflects our unique culture and heritage. Now it seems like my prayers are being answered. Faith to Favour is the debut album from CFC Belfast, and it is spectacularly good. This is a big-sounding album with a live feel to it - ten congregational tracks that will put you right in the heart of their Sunday worship services. Heaven's King opens the set, and with hardly a pause for breath we are taken through a further nine of the very best praise and worship songs. This anthemic music is of the style that we are accustomed to hearing from groups such as Hillsong Worship with one major difference. This is music produced by an Irish church, intended for churches and worship groups on the island of Ireland. I believe it marks the start of an exciting new direction in Christian music in Ireland.
Albums reviewed by UCB Ireland Radio producer/presenter Vincent Hughes. Listen to UCB Ireland Radio on Virgin Media Channel 918, on Sky Channel 0214 or on your smartphone with our Android or iPhone app or online at www.ucbireland.com.
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Events Calendar What’s happening where and when
July Sligo Summer Conference 8 - 13 July Sligo I.T. www.newwineireland.org
Agapé Biblical Studies Conference 20 - 25 August Lucan Centre, Co. Dublin www.agape.ie/events
August New Horizon Conference 4 - 10 August Ulster University, Coleraine www.newhorizon.org.uk
Order a pack of 10 postcards (free of charge) and encourage others to join in the campaign Read the full story in the Summer issue of Church in Chains magazine. Order postcards and a magazine email: firstname.lastname@example.org or PO BOX 10447, Glenageary, Co. Dublin
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What is LOVE Actually? (Part 2) Friday, 21 September RDS, Dublin 4 www.agape.ie/events
September Leading for Life Dublin Saturday, 8 September St. Catherine’s Church, Dublin 8 www.innovista.ie
Send a postcard to the Indian Ambassador
Church in Chains Conference Saturday, 15 September Clayton Hotel, Liffey Valley, Dublin 22 www.churchinchains.ie
Visit www.vox.ie/events for a more up-to-date event listing. (You can also inform us about your upcoming event there.)
>ŽŽŬŝŶŐĨŽƌĂĐŚĂůůĞŶŐĞ͍ Enjoy working with children? Then read on…
ŝƐĂŐƌŽǁŝŶŐŝŶĚĞƉĞŶĚĞŶƚĐŚƵƌĐŚŝŶƚŚĞǀŝďƌĂŶƚĂƌĞĂŽĨƵŶ >ĂŽŐŚĂŝƌĞŝŶ^ŽƵƚŚƵďůŝŶ͘ tĞĂƌĞůŽŽŬŝŶŐĨŽƌƚŚĞƌŝŐŚƚƉĞƌƐŽŶƚŽďĞŽƵƌĐŚŝldren’s pastorĂŶĚ ŚĞůƉŐƌŽǁŽƵƌĞǆŝƐƚŝŶŐchildren’sŵŝŶŝƐƚƌǇĂŶĚĚĞǀĞůŽƉŶĞǁŝŶŝƚŝĂƚŝǀĞƐ ŝŶƚŚĞĐŽŵŵƵŶŝƚǇ͘ &ŽƌĂũŽďĚĞƐĐƌŝƉƚŝŽŶĂŶĚĂƉƉůŝĐĂƚŝŽŶƉĂĐŬƉůĞĂƐĞĐŽŶƚĂĐƚŽƵƌĐŚƵƌĐŚ ĂĚŵŝŶŝƐƚƌĂƚŽƌWĞƚĞƌŽĂƚĞĂƚƉĞƚĞƌΛĚĞĐ͘ŝĞ͘ ƉƉůŝĐĂƚŝŽŶƐƐŚŽƵůĚďĞƐƵďŵŝƚƚĞĚďǇϱƉŵ&ƌŝĚĂǇϮϬƚŚ:ƵůǇ͘ ƵŶ>ĂŽŐŚĂŝƌĞǀĂŶŐĞůŝĐĂůŚƵƌĐŚ >ŽǁĞƌ'ůĞŶĂŐĞĂƌǇZŽĂĚ ƵŶ>ĂŽŐŚĂŝƌĞ Ž͘ƵďůŝŶ ϵϲ&ϲdϬ dĞů–ϬϭϮϴϰϭϬϭϲ ĚĞĐ͘ŝĞ
ROUGHSHOD: DELIVER P REVIEWED BY ANNA STAINSBY
art of Riding Lights Theatre Company, Roughshod is a touring company that brings high-energy live performances into churches, schools and local communities around the UK. During their recent “Deliver” Tour, the company performed in Northern Ireland and also spent two days in Co. Donegal. I had the privilege of seeing the first ever ‘Roughshod’ performance in the Republic of Ireland during their 2018 Tour. Having been invited along, I had no expectation other than that it was faith related theatre performed by young people. Seeing the bare, simple stage, that later proved immensely affective, I felt a thrill of anticipation before the live performance. From the moment they hummed their way onto the stage until their final bow, the cast of four talented individuals delivered a riveting production exploring what traps us and what sets us free. In a twoand-a-half-hour show, they took the audience through a series of life and faith questions, personal issues and Bible stories with dynamic, fast paced and inventive sketches. I found these to be moving, inspiring and deeply personal. It is impossible not to be touched. Roughshod’s use of comedy and humour makes deeply serious matters accessible, encouraging reflection while lifting the general mood in the audience. An impressive feature of the show was the skillful use of rhythm, movement, rhyme and sound seamlessly blending each piece into the next without giving the audience even a chance of boredom. It is no wonder that Roughshod gets a warm and enthusiastic welcome in the schools, prisons and communities where they perform. This drama quartet monopolised my attention and drew me into their spiritual quest. One of my favourite scenes followed a funny and unquestionably realistic ‘problems of the first world helpline’ where clients ring to rend their heart about the stress caused by a fault in the tap function of debit cards or the absence of crunch in homemade organic cheese. After having a healthy laugh at our cultural characteristics, the cast moved to the shocking scene at an Amish school. The horrific shooting of ten young girls was symbolically depicted followed by a poignant narration of how the bereft community offers God-given forgiveness to the family of the perpetrator. Roughshod makes the character of Jesus come alive in short dramas about the prodigal son and the good Samaritan as well as exploring isssues like slavery and buying ethically. Each of the four actors brought their unique voice to the stage - sharing their struggles and their faith in a performance that became a powerful witness. After the show, I spoke to Andrew McCracken - actor, script writer and one of the directors of ‘Roughshod’. He told me of his passion for theatre with a spiritual heart. He is thrilled to see God reaching into people’s lives as the company performs in communities, schools and even in prisons. To find out more about future “Roughshod” tours in Ireland or Northern Ireland or to ask them to visit your church or school, visit www.ridinglights.org. JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
WRITING IN THE DIRT BY SEÁN MULLAN
nother national conversation ends. One side wins and celebrates. One side loses and mourns. Beyond the outcome what else has been achieved? Good conversation helps each side understand the other’s point of view. The best also yields the gift of appreciation of the other perspective. That kind of conversation is shaped by the conviction that the process matters as much as the outcome. In our recent conversations only the outcome has mattered. In the most recent debate, the weeks produced less, not more, understanding and no appreciation of the other. By the end, the sides were further apart than when the process began. In polarised conversations, those who don’t sit easily with either the “yes” or “no” option are classified as “don’t knows.”
The assumption is that these people are deficient until they choose their camp. The name indicates deficiency – they are the ones without knowledge. Could our next national conversation be transformed by renaming the “don’t knows” as the “not that simples.” They become the people with a third point of view, a third story to be considered. Imagine a debate where the “Yes” side, the “No” side and the “Not that simple” are all represented. Poor Claire Byrne would have some fun! 46
VOX JUL - SEP 2018
The notion of a third story has a long changes the conversation: “The one who and noble tradition. Lovers of German has no sin, let that person throw the first philosophy might claim it but Jesus of stone.” Nazareth thought and taught in these terms By changing the question, Jesus long before the Germans. The same Jesus changes the picture. The focus shifts from is a much-neglected the sin of one character source of wisdom in the scene to the sin for the debates we of every character. It are having. This THE QUESTION MOVES FROM “WHAT dismantles the power neglect may stem of the religious elite from thinking that we WILL WE DO WITH THE SINNER?” by focussing on their already understand TO “WHAT WILL WE SINNERS DO?” behaviour rather than what He has to say and the woman’s. The a resultant failure to question moves from consider carefully what “What will we do with He actually says. the sinner?” to “What will we sinners do?” Jesus was a master of the “not that Perhaps in Ireland we are not ready for simple” argument. As a public figure, He dirt writers. The current reaction to our was often challenged to declare himself on history may shape public conversation for a issues as diverse as paying Roman taxes while yet. But eventually, we may discover and heeding religious traditions. What that tolerance has its own intolerance stands out in those interactions is His and in a society where individual rights consistent refusal to simply identify trump all, we still need community. And with the “yes” or the “no” crowd. community always involves a willingness to In one memorable example, sacrifice our own entitlements for the sake religious leaders bring Him a woman of the others. they claim has been caught in adultery. My friend had campaigned for a no Though adultery is not usually a vote. We met up the week after the vote. I solitary pastime, she alone is brought expected to find him discouraged. Instead, to Jesus. And the challenge is a “yes” or he was heading to see all the GPs he knew “no” one: do we punish her? Yes or no? to let them know that he and his wife had The proposed punishment is death by plenty of space in their home and hearts stoning. for anyone in need of help because of a Even a casual reading shows that the crisis pregnancy. I’m sure my friend could woman is not the real target – Jesus is. Will find some like-minded colleagues amongst He toe the line? There’s a crowd watching, voters from both sides. Together we could probably a mix of yes and no voters, begin writing a new question in the dirt supporters of the religious tradition and together. Something like: “How can we those who hold it in contempt believing make every child a wanted child?” life would be a lot better if the piety police would leave the woman, and the rest of them, alone. Seán Mullan has been working in Jesus refuses to be drawn. He starts church leadership for many years. He writing in the dirt. The powerful people has developed a project in Dublin City won’t accept a “don’t know” position and Centre called “Third Space”. push Him. Then with one sentence, He
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JUL- SEP 2018 VOX
VOX JUL - SEP 2018
Find Faith Tour 2018, reflections on race and white supremacy in an Irish context, non-violent Christianity