ISSUE 46 / APRIL - JUNE 2020
Wrestling with my Thoughts
A doctor with severe mental illness finds strength
Called to Be
Responding to the coronavirus outbreak in Ireland
‘YOU WILL BE CALLED REPAIRER OF BROKEN WALLS, RESTORER OF STREETS WITH DWELLINGS.’ ISAIAH 58:12 God is in the business of restoring, rebuilding and transforming lives. It can take time. But we’re in this for the long haul. This Easter please consider making a regular gift so we can see communities’ stories of transformation right through to the end. €45 could give two refugee families hygiene kits, providing essentials such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sanitary towels and nappies. €112 could pay for a water tank, giving a whole community ongoing access to safe water. Whatever you can give, we will make every cent count where the need is greatest. Thank you!
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Seeking Sanctuary recurring theme throughout the Psalms is that God is our refuge. In a world of storms and pandemics, disasters and crises, we can run into His presence and find peace and comfort, even in the most challenging of circumstances. We planned this theme for VOX magazine issue 46 long before we were plunged into our present reality! With church buildings closed and services cancelled, it is a great comfort to remember that finding refuge in God and seeking the sanctuary of His presence is not dependent on any building or set time of the week. We can experience that security anywhere, anytime! And as we read responses to the Coronavirus from leaders across Ireland, it is a timely reminder that as Christians we are called to be the church, not just go to church (Called to be... page 12)! Down through the ages, people have sought sanctuary in places of worship but it is also true that some have been abused and mistreated where they should have been safe from harm. As we live out of our new reality, how can we protect the most vulnerable within our communities? How will
Finding refuge in God is not dependent on any building or set time of the week. our faith inspire us to love our neighbours including those who are elderly, sick, homeless or mentally ill as well as immigrants or refugees? In this issue, we look at a range of issues including racism (A Place of Welcome and Acceptance page 12) and mental illness (Wrestling With My Thoughts page 24). And we consider how we can be those who value each individual who is made in the image of God (Imago Dei page 36). May you find comfort and shelter in Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s presence in the coming days and may we as Jesus followers extend that same love and blessing to those around us.
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www.vox.ie Ruth Garvey-Williams Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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CONTENTS 12 24 15 16 18 20 22 26 28 29 32 34 36 38 40 06 08 10 17 19
April - June 2020 Issue 46
Called to Be... responding to the coronavirus outbreak in Ireland Wrestling With My Thoughts - a doctor with severe mental illness finds strength
Features and Interviews
Our Hope - What Easter means to VOX readers and your favourite Easter hymns Finding Faith Tour 2020 - VOX will continue to share encouragement and inspiration “I was a stranger...” - Concern for refugees and migrants during COVID-19 A Disturbed Life - a timely message from Ana Mullan’s series of life lessons A Place of Welcome and Acceptance - How should the church respond to racism? Bible 2020 - New resources for getting to grips with Scripture Nourishing Faith at Home - creative ideas for seeking God Look Again Minister Alan Boal reflects on the relationship between the church and the arts No Such Thing as a Hopeless Case How God is transforming lives through the Joshua Project
Still Hopeful on Logos Hope - Ship visit to Ireland is postponed Rooted in Faith and Culture Victoria Johnston’s music is set to hit all the high notes
VOX: World News Your VOX: Inbox Musings with Patrick Mitchell
43 44 45 46
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NEW CAMPAIGN CHALLENGES HIV STIGMA
In early 2020, the HSE launched a new campaign to challenge HIV stigma with posters featured on public transport, in social venues and in colleges. For people living with HIV the campaign highlights the importance and benefits of treatment – to stay healthy and not have to worry about passing on HIV to partners. For the general population, the campaign highlights the progress in HIV treatment, helping people understand that those on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV to partners, and to promote early testing. ACET Ireland was delighted to contribute to the consultation on the campaign. CEO, Richard Carson said, “We are in a new stage in the story of HIV with incredible advancements in treatment, yet stigma is deep and profound. HIV is too often associated with shame but our churches and faith communities should be places where those of us living with HIV can lead, worship, bless and be blessed by all. Testing so that all are aware of their status is just one way to combat the stigma.” ACET’s own testing project is a pop-up model, which can engage with any church or community group. For details of how to avail of a free, confidential and rapid HIV tests with immediately results contact Luky or Richard at 01 8787700 or text “HTS” to 086 837 4350 for a call back.
TRIBUTES FOR FRANK HOGAN
The GAA supporter famous for holding up his bright yellow “John 3:7” sign at matches has died aged 81. In tribute, Christians around the country have thanked God for Frank Hogan’s unique and faithful witness over so many years. The Tipperary native, who was a staunch Limerick supporter, was featured in a TG4 documentary. David Ross from west Cork wrote, “I had the privilege of meeting Frank Hogan a number of times. His two great preoccupations were GAA and Jesus, but it was Jesus who gave him a sure hope for the next life. So he made it his ambition to tell as many as he could, in his own unique way ‘You must be born again’ - John 3:7.” Elton Good from Shannon commented, “Frank was a legend. He was a feisty ‘n fierce GAA man who used to give me a tough time as a Bannerman but as Christians we always forgave each other. He was very passionate about getting Jesus’ message out there.” Kirk Joyce from OM Ireland described him as, “One of the most passionate and skilful evangelists I have been privileged to learn from.”
1 KING MUSIC TOUR 2020
13 – 26 July After its successful launch last year, the 1King Music summer tour returns this year with even more artists, dates and venues. The tour brings great Christian music to Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo as well as Belfast and Dublin. Organiser Richie Gardiner said, “I realised that a lot of music events happen in the UK and might reach as far as Dublin but not much happens in the rest of Ireland. My heart was to take great Christian music out to other cities and towns in Ireland. I’ve always had a passion to bring artists together in the context of mission. This is something that God has put on my heart to do. I am still part of YWAM and I wanted to have a mission team working alongside the artists, supporting them and doing mission on the streets in the various locations we visit.” This year’s lineup combines visiting singer songwriter Hannah Schaefer from the US with talented Irish performers including Rebekah Fitch, Victoria Johnston (featured in this issue of VOX) and Casey Leigh, as well as emerging bands such as Treasure Unravelled and Bright Raay. 1King Music is looking to work alongside local churches in each location by engaging in mission both on the streets and through the concerts. “We also need host families to provide accommodation for our mission team,” Richie said. Tickets will be available on the 1 King Music website (www.1kingmusic.com) and through Ticketmaster with a percentage of ticket sales supporting charity partners in Ireland. Contact Richie@1kingmusic.com for more information. 06
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“I AM PATRICK - PATRON SAINT OF IRELAND”
“Snakes, shamrocks and a bishop’s mitre - Most of the pre-conception about St. Patrick is completely wrong.” That’s how Netflix’s new docudrama is introduced. Instead this film, produced by CBN Films, seeks to undercover more of the “real” person behind our patron saint. It is indeed a fascinating and refreshing look at the life and ministry of Patrick. Combining dramatisation, expert witnesses and heartfelt narration by Lord of the Rings actor John Rhys-Davies with evocative music and stunning scenery filmed in Ireland, this adheres faithfully to Patrick’s own writings (The Confessio and Letter to Coroticus). In an authentic, chronological authentic account, there is barely a nod to the mythology surrounding Patrick. One scholar concluded, “He wore out many more pairs of sandals in death than he did in life. People are still reading his “Confession” and still being interested in Christianity because of him.” Most definitely worth a watch!
RESOURCES DURING COVID-19
MORE DELAYS FOR MOTHER AND BABY HOME INQUIRY
The completion of the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes has been delayed, once again, until 26 June. Many former residents, and their families, of 18 homes, which were based around the country, will be anxiously awaiting the publication of the Commission’s work, which began in 2015. The homes include county homes and mother and baby homes run by a range of Roman Catholic orders and Protestant Evangelical groups from the 1920s up to the 1990s.
Churches, denominations and Christian organisations across Ireland are working to develop great resources to support Christians throughout the Coronavirus outbreak. Here are a few we have gathered - visit www.vox. ie to find more links! • Online and Broadcast worship from the Church of Ireland: www.ireland.anglican.org/news • A wide range of resources from the Methodist Church including worship opportunities, health advice and ideas for staying connected www.irishmethodist.org/covid-19 • Podcasts, blogs and news from Evangelical Alliance Ireland: www.evangelical.ie • Download prayer guides and creative prayer ideas from 24-7 Prayer: www.24-7prayer.com/coronavirusprayer. • A number of churches and groups now have podcasts. Check out “A Christian Response to the Coronavirus” on The Graveyard Shift (www.scottevans.ie/podcast). • If you are on Facebook, many churches across Ireland are now posting videos of Sunday services, Live-streaming services and creating daily devotionals. See page 40 for Helplines and Support in Tough Times.
A congregation in Carlow is engaging with the younger generation to care for God’s creation. St. Mary’s church is on a journey to become an “Eco Congregation” (see www.ecocongregationireland.com) with a wide range of projects promoting bio-diversity, encouraging pollination and protecting the environment. A prayer trail around the church grounds helps people to take time out in prayer and reflection. And the regular Sunday Club attracts children with activities linking worship and spiritual lessons with practical applications as they head out to plant seeds and tend the garden. Wearing wellington boots to church might seem unusual but it has attracted new people and brought a number of fathers back into church as they work alongside their children!
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PAKISTAN: Christian tortured to death for “polluting” a well In late February, a group of seven Muslim men tortured a Christian farm labourer Saleem Masih age 22, for “polluting” a tube-well by bathing at it. Muslim landowner Sher Dogar, on whose land the well was situated, incited six other men to chain and savagely beat Saleem. He lost consciousness and spent the last three days of his life in a coma before dying of severe internal injuries. A tube-well uses a long pipe to bore into an underground aquifer to provide water for irrigating crops and watering livestock. People often use tube-wells for bathing or cooling off but some Muslims consider that Christians pollute the water. Pakistan’s Christians frequently face abuse and discrimination in daily life, where many are treated as second-class citizens and commonly described by the abusive term “choora”. Saleem’s father Ghafoor Masih – a father of eight and a member of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church – said that the attackers cursed and abused Saleem for ‘polluting’ the water, calling him a ‘filthy Christian.’ They then dragged him to their cattle farm, where they chained his hands and feet and tortured him with sticks and rods until he fell unconscious. Ghafoor said police officials informed the family about the incident four hours after his son had been taken away. “We found Saleem lying unconscious on the ground, his face and body bloodied due to the torture”, he said. “Dogar had apparently summoned the cops himself, and it was evident that he had also bribed them, because they tried to coerce us into ‘settling the matter’ amicably.” Saleem’s family took him to a district hospital where he received initial treatment but doctors told them to take him to Lahore’s General Hospital due to the severity of his internal injuries. “After seeing the police’s indifference to our ordeal, I do not have much hope that my son’s attackers will be brought to justice,” Ghafoor said. In the aftermath of the attack, David Turner, Director of Church in Chains, wrote to the Pakistani Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Sardar Shuja Alam, to express deep shock at the savage murder and to appeal for urgent action by the government of Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to justice. He also urged the government of Pakistan to fully commit to the long-term work of overcoming prejudice towards religious minorities in society. 08
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Swarms of locusts put millions at risk of starvation With COVID-19 dominating the news, locust swarms described by the UN as an “unprecedented” threat in East Africa, parts of the Middle East and South Asia, have gone largely unreported. Travelling swarms of locusts can devour thousands of tons of vegetation every day in areas of the world that are already faced with food poverty and instability. This present outbreak, the worst in over a quarter of a century, threatens to wipe out crops in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and southern Sudan. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says it’s now tracking 15 countries in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia affected by the locusts. Authorities in East Africa are already undertaking a coordinated campaign of aerial pesticide spraying, but experts say the scale of the infestation is beyond local capacity as desert locusts can travel up to 150 km (95 miles) in a day. This threatens to increase food shortages in a region where up to 25 million people are reeling from three consecutive years of droughts and floods.
United States: Dramatic drop in number of practising Christians A Barna study conducted over the last 20 years has revealed that the share of practising Christians has dropped from 45% to 25% since 2000. The study identified as “practising Christians” those who agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month. Over the same period, the proportion of non-practising Christians has risen from 35% to 43%, while the percentage of those identifying as atheist, agnostic or religious “nones” has nearly doubled between 2003 (11%) and 2018 (21%).
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Faith-Living in a Global Crisis Amid the mountaintops and valleys of my walk with Jesus, I often come back to that well-known, well-loved, verse, “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” Jeremiah 29:11. How often I have needed to be reminded of that. Right now I sit by my back door with a global crisis just beyond the threshold. School bells no longer ring. My children are at home to be suddenly educated by yours truly. Parties and parades cancelled, pubs, churches and restaurants closed. My family of origin feels far away— even my neighbours feel far away! I am prone to running “faith scared”, not always “faith
Unprecedented (adj never having happened before, unparalleled.) is a word that we are hearing a lot at the moment. It is a very worrying time for people across the globe. Most people are very concerned for the life, health, mental well-being and financial security of themselves and their loved ones and whole communities, and rightly so. We all need to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. But the truth is, the entire human race has been suffering from a serious disease almost since its inception… the disease of sin. That’s a word we don’t hear much anymore. But it just means ‘self-centredness’. We all suffer from it; no one is immune. We have always needed the forgiveness and the hope that only Christ Jesus can give. He has died so that we – all of humanity – need not fear death. The Bible has a lot to say about what is going on in our world right now. Jesus Himself said, … “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) And He said,
lived”, and right now I feel that temptation keenly. I’m tempted to skip over the unknowns straight into God’s promise to prosper me. But what comes before that promise pulls me forward to faith living, whether I like it or not (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Before the promise, before “a hope and a future,” He tells me to garden, marry and raise my children. He calls me to pray for the peace and prosperity of my town, my neighbours and my country. Perhaps even to social distancing by faith, a new way to love my neighbour!
Karen Huber Lucan, Co. Dublin
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) That was not a suggestion, that was a command – DO NOT be afraid. Do you know what else is unprecedented? The opportunity we have to share this hope, this Good News, with everyone around us. Speak the words of hope out loud, into a frightened, confused world. This will bring peace to others and it will bring peace to your own heart. Shalom
Karen Shaw Blackrock, Co. Dublin
BE STRONG IN THE LORD
As a believer in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah, the key to standing strong, despite all the chaos and fear in the world, is crucially to trust in Him. Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God so that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The word translated “strong” in
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English, is the Greek word enduo, which is a picture of taking a dynamic, explosive power and placing it into a vessel, or being clothed with a garment. This word, carries something that is bigger, broader and more powerful than the English word. This power can only be found in one place, in Yeshua (Jesus). The words “in the Lord” refers to the secret place of the Most High. He is our refuge and our fortress. (Psalm 91) Only in Him do we have this enduo power. I want to encourage the people of God, especially in this time of fear and uncertainty not to allow the enemy to bring fear and anxiety. Your victory depends on your ability to stand strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God. Allow the mighty arm of God to uphold, strengthen and empower you to overcome all fear and anxiety, to keep your focus on the Lord and to draw your strength from the power of His might.
Shelly Suppiah is pastor of El Shaddai Ministry in Co. Dubin, and author of the book Personal Encounter with the Great I Am.
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few weeks ago, none of us could have imagined celebrating Easter Sunday in Ireland without physically gathering together for worship! Rapid developments with the outbreak of coronavirus have transformed our reality. But Christians on this island don’t stop being the Church just because our church buildings are closed. The New Testament word ekklēsia, translated church, means the “called-out-ones” - we are those who have responded to Jesus’ call to follow Him, a people who have been “called according to His purpose”. Here we’ve brought together messages from key Christian leaders to encourage us, inspire us and point us to God at this time:
BE SAFE, POSITIVE AND PRAYERFUL
Rev Samuel McGuffin, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, says, “In the face of uncertainty we wanted to remind you that we are still the church. How we connect, serve and worship might look different in the coming months but we are still the family of God. Stay connected to one another, be outward looking and stay close to God. There is a lot changing around us but our God doesn’t change. We trust Him, we seek His blessing and we seek to be a blessing. Let us be safe, be positive and be prayerful.” Together with Rev Heather Morris, he added, “When Paul writes to Christians in Philippi he encourages them “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1: 2). He goes on to point them to the nature, character and beauty of Jesus. Paul is making 12
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Called it clear that we will face challenging situations. In those contexts, when it is understandable to be afraid the invitation which comes to everyone is to make a conscious decision to trust God. At this time, a primary response is to pray for all affected by Coronavirus, and for the whole community.”
BE PEOPLE OF FAITH
Nick Park (Executive Director, Evangelical Alliance of Ireland) said, “In these days, God wants us to walk as people of faith, avoiding the extremes of fear or foolishness. Christians believe in science, in obedience to the governing authorities, and in the power of God the Holy Spirit. These beliefs are not contradictory. Francis Bacon, a committed Christian believer, is remembered as the father of the modern scientific method. Sensible Christians will pay heed to the opinion of medical experts when it comes to understanding how coronavirus is transmitted, and what precautions will inhibit its spread. “Romans 13:1-7 tells us to obey the lawful commands of governments and civil authority. Prior to the Government’s announcement, I had already received similar advice in the strongest terms from medical doctors in the frontline of the battle against this pandemic. Of course, we also believe in God’s Word, in the power of His Holy Spirit, and in the power of prayer. Therefore, while taking all medical precautions and observing government guidelines, we should be fervently praying for protection, for healing for those already
infected and for the current crisis to be rapidly resolved. As people of faith, we should also be alive to the opportunities that the current crisis gives us. We should explore innovative ways to reach and care for people. I believe that our churches can develop practices that will continue to bear fruit long after the coronavirus has become a distant memory.” See www.evangelical.ie or social media channels.
BE PEOPLE OF HOPE
The 2020 AGM of the Irish Council of Churches is one of many events postponed because of COVID-19. Outgoing President Rev Brian Anderson reflected, “A byproduct of this pandemic has been the growing sense of fear. The uncertainty magnifies mental health issues that are already present in society. Shared pastoral responses from churches are a powerful reminder that Christians are called to respond with love as the antidote to fear, as John reminds us ‘perfect love drives out fear’ (1 John 4). During this time of challenge, let us remain people of hope.” Incoming President Very Rev Ivan Patterson added, “The COVID-19 virus had turned our world upside down. For Christians our hope must rest in God, our refuge and strength, a hope in our time of trouble. It is encouraging to see how many have responded with great community spirit and we pray that when this crisis is over our societies will be more caring, thoughtful and considerate.”
THERE IS A LOT CHANGING AROUND US BUT OUR GOD DOESN’T CHANGE.
RESPONDING TO THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN IRELAND
BE HUMBLE, OBEDIENT AND EXPECTANT
Louise Reid is an Irish church leader with a prophetic ministry together with others across the UK and Ireland. She says,“We are in extraordinary days, unprecedented times. Life feels somewhat surreal, as COVID-19 has emerged and spread across the face of the earth. Life is on hold. What is happening and what is God saying? Many believe this year will be a hinge or a pivot - when history changes direction. God is urging us not to fear, or be alarmed but rather to fix our eyes on Him. He is entirely good and trustworthy. He asks us to trust Him – completely. “As goes the church, so goes the nation. God is working out His own good purposes. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He calls us to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from wicked ways (2 Chronicles 7:14). He promises that if we obey, His healing will come to the land. This severe interruption can be the means by which our island’s history and direction turns, to bring about “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20). “These days of COVID-19 require biblical responses. God reminds us that we are greatly loved. He remind us not to fear but to humble ourselves and pray, to seek His face and turn to Him. It’s then we will see the fullness of His lifechanging purposes for Ireland - and the nations.”
BE A COMFORT TO ALL IN NEED
In a joint statement Archbishop Dr Michael Jackson and Archbishop-elect, John McDowell said, “The people of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are passing through a period of considerable distress. Above all, as people of faith, we should both pray and maintain a sense of proportion. There is
every reason to believe that, by acting together in solidarity, this challenging period can be humanely and effectively negotiated. We are confident that God will be present through his Church and in the gentleness of the Spirit, to be a comfort to all who are in need.”
BE CREATIVE AND COMPASSIONATE
General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Rev Trevor Gribben said, “Without doubt we live in deeply uncertain times. While it is only natural that we feel a sense of unease and anxiety, we put our trust in God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. We encourage congregations to find creative and virtual ways to worship. I know that where they can, our congregations will continue to support those in need, going that extra mile, quietly and compassionately in the name of Jesus, during this time of difficulty.”
BE REFRESHED AND STRENGTHENED Sean Mullarkey, National Leader of Christian Churches of Ireland reminds us from Psalm 23 that God is with us. “In these days when we could be going around like headless chickens, we need to remember that we are sheep with a shepherd - the Good Shepherd. He cares for us and loves us. What an opportunity we have to be led by the Lord beside quiet waters, to allow Him to strengthen our souls and to be refreshed in the Lord. The Scripture never runs from the harsh realities of life but even in the midst of that He is with us. During this time, we might fight the enemies of fear, loneliness and depression but the Lord prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Our Good Shepherd is with us through this dark valley. His goodness, mercy and love will follow us all the days of our lives.”
I BELIEVE THAT OUR CHURCHES CAN DEVELOP PRACTICES THAT WILL CONTINUE TO BEAR FRUIT LONG AFTER THE CORONAVIRUS HAS BECOME A DISTANT MEMORY.
A PRAYER FOR PEACE OF MIND
You will keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. Heavenly Father, in your love and wisdom you know the fears and anxieties of all your children. Your Son, Jesus Christ, said to His disciples: “Do not be afraid, It is I,” and to the tempest: “Peace be still”. We ask, not only for ourselves but for all others, especially our healthcare workers, that we may cast all our cares on you, for we know you care for us. Give us peace of mind and unshaken trust in you and guide us into perfect peace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
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OUR HOPE! “CHRIST IS RISEN!”
CHRISTIANS ACROSS IRELAND WILL BE CELEBRATING EASTER IN A VERY DIFFERENT WAY THIS YEAR BUT THE HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION CAN BRING COMFORT WHATEVER WE ARE FACING. HERE’S WHAT YOU HAD TO SAY IN RESPONSE TO THE QUESTION:
WHAT DOES EASTER MEAN TO YOU? The King of Kings died so that we could have life and have it to the full. A contemplative reminder of Christ’s worldchanging sacrifice, time with family, spring. It’s a time to reflect on the sacrifice the Lord has made for me and everyone else. Joy! The foundation of my faith that Jesus came back from death so everything He said and did is true - that gives freedom and forgiveness and hope for now and for after death. For me Easter is the pinnacle of our faith. It is the time when we particularly focus our attention on the resurrection of our Saviour and celebrate all that He did for us! Of course this is something we should do all year round, but the Easter Weekend is just a time for extra reflection on His death and resurrection. It often pains me that my own church puts so much emphasis on Christmas, and yet Easter seems to slip past with barely a mention. “He is Risen” is surely a much more significant statement than “He has been born” We serve a Risen Saviour! Let’s shout that from the rooftops! Easter is a time to celebrate resurrection, renewal, redemption and hope in Jesus. It’s a time to think of spring, new life and how we are renewed in Jesus. It means that the great enemies, death and sin, are defeated and we will live forever in Christ. It means liberty, joy and grace.
As my Coptic Orthodox friends say, it’s the foundation of my faith [they puzzle as to why our society makes such a fuss of Christmas]. I especially love our Churches Together Dawn Service on a headland and watching the sun come up over the horizon. Reminding myself afresh of the heart of the faith and the fact that we serve a living Christ. The pivot of history and foundation of life itself. A special time to remember the central part of the Gospel story, Jesus death and resurrection. Tangible proof that we can rely on everything Jesus taught and did. That death no longer has the final say. And that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead lives within me. The joy and liberation of Jesus’ resurrection. Because He died I am forgiven and can know God. I absolutely love the bit about the temple curtain being ripped by God. He did it all. He made the way and I get to live in resurrection power! It is the central event of all history: the triumph of Jesus and hope of eternal life for all of us. An annual reminder that new beginnings are part of God’s plan. Easter means hope in life’s dark corners freedom from sin and death.
Your favourite Easter Worship Songs and Hymns According to our recent survey most VOX readers enjoy celebrating with both traditional hymns and modern worship songs. Thankfully we have access to wonderful sing-a-long versions of these worship songs and more online. And all of us can lift our voice in praise at home (especially when no one is listening!) even if we don’t have musical accompaniment.
Your top three Easter Hymns are: Thine be the Glory (24%) Great is Thy Faithfulness (16%) Crown Him with Many Crowns (14%)
And your favourite modern worships songs/hymns for Easter are: In Christ Alone (38%) Because He Lives (11%) Before the Throne of God Above (9%) O Praise the Name and See What a Morning were both close runners up!
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FindingFaithTour2020 VOX will continue to share encouragement and inspiration from around Ireland
the last eight years, VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams has visited individuals, congregations and parishes, retreat centres and ministries in 32 counties, in all major cities and in diverse towns and villages the length and breadth of the island of Ireland. The annual VOX magazine Finding Faith Tour is an opportunity to hear what God is doing in Ireland and to be encouraged and inspired by stories of faith, life and reality. This epic road trip has been a journey of discovery to uncover moving, exciting and beautiful examples of God at work, to celebrate the diversity of the body of Christ and to learn from one another. With such uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, it is impossible to make plans for a 2020 tour at present but we are determined to continue sharing
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stories from around Ireland whether or not we can plan a roadtrip. Editor Ruth Garvey-Williams says, “More than ever before, this is a time when we need to share the encouragement of good news stories and inspire one another on to love and good deeds. We need to recognise, honour and pray for one another. We need to come together even though we are apart so that by our love for one another people will know that we are His disciples. So we’ll be going on tour again at the beginning of May, even if it is only ‘virtually’!” If you would like us to feature your faith story, your church, ministry or project in 2020, please get in contact with our editor Ruth Garvey-Williams - Email ruth@vox. ie or phone 087 795 5401 and together we can decide how best to share about what God is doing where you are.
on Facebook, Judgment and Easter With Patrick Mitchel
his is what my job has taught me. People are largely awful and I’m there behind my desk doing my best to save the world.’ These are the words of an Irish ex-Facebook moderator who is taking legal action against the company for psychological trauma experienced as a result of his work. Reading about his job makes you think! Every day, moderators like him review a never-ending stream of images reported by users from all over the world. These range from the foolish (petty arguments) to indecent (nudity) to potential hate speech, to illegal trade in animals, all the way to child abuse and videos of groups of terrified people being executed somewhere in the Middle East (and this is only reported content remember). Apparently Facebook provides detailed lists of rules to moderators for making judgments. These document are tens of thousands of words long and keep expanding in length and complexity. The moderator is faced with between 100 and 250 possible decisions on any given piece of content. Such is the volume there is limited time for evaluation and the moderators are expected to meet a target of 98% accuracy in their decision making. No wonder they are stressed; I don’t envy them their (unfortunately necessary) job. There was a popular illustration used in evangelistic talks when I was younger. The speaker invited you to imagine a video of your life – all your secret thoughts and sins – being shown to everyone you knew. The point was how none of us live up to our own standards, let alone God’s. We would be ashamed if others knew what we were really like. The idea was to make listeners aware of their need for God’s grace and forgiveness. I haven’t heard that illustration in a long time (and I’m not saying it’s necessarily a good one). But my impression is that Christians don’t talk too much about shame, sin and guilt these days. Maybe it’s because they seem to be outdated and repressive ideas, especially given recent Irish history. So we rightly emphasise the limitless nature of God’s love but quietly downplay how much the Bible talks of His wrath and judgment. Today, to be ‘judgmental’ is socially unacceptable and smacks of intolerance – and who wants to be thought of as intolerant?
But the story of the Facebook moderator shows us that judgment is actually both necessary and good. It’s necessary because while the moderator wasn’t a pastor or theologian, he looked into the ‘heart of darkness’ and concluded that ‘people are largely awful’. This echoes Paul in Ephesians saying that we are ‘by nature deserving of wrath’ (2:3). The moderator was doing his ‘best to save the world’. Out of compassion and a sense of justice he tried to put things right. But of course he couldn’t – none of us can. The depth of sin and the power of evil are too strong and the moderator, a mere man, was nearly destroyed in the process. Judgment is good because of, as the moderator’s experience shows, the importance of naming and resisting evil. This brings us to Easter and to another Saviour and Judge. The wonder of the cross is that ‘because of his great love for us’ (Eph 2:4) God freely chose to take His own judgment upon Himself in Jesus Christ so that all in Him share in Jesus’ resurrection victory over the power of death and sin. While those destructive forces still stalk our world and God’s people are to battle against them, we can look forward to the goodness of God’s final judgment. We can thank God that there is no impunity for all the innumerable horrors humans perpetrate on each other and over our despoliation of God’s creation. On that day, justice will be done and this broken world will be put right. That’s why Christians today can say with the first believers, “Maranatha. Come, O Lord!” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
Today, to be ‘judgmental’ is socially unacceptable and smacks of intolerance.
Dr. Patrick Mitchel is Senior Lecturer in Theology at the Irish Bible Institute. You can follow his blog at www.faithinireland.wordpress.com.
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“I WAS A STRANGER...” Concern for refugees and migrants during COVID-19 BY DAMIAN JACKSON
O WELCOME TOWARDS FRIEND AND STRANGER IS AT THE HEART OF OUR CHRISTIAN FAITH.
ughterard, Rooskey, Moville, Ballinamore, Carrickmacross, Moville, Tullamore, Rosslare... In recent years, the sudden arrival of refugees and asylum seekers into communities across Ireland has prompted a range of responses from welcome and hospitality to demonstrations and even arson attacks! After protests in Leitrim, a powerful statement by Monsignor Liam Kelly, the Administrator of the Diocese of Kilmore, brought a timely reminder into the heated local debate, “Welcome towards friend and stranger is at the heart of our Christian faith. Central to our faith is the belief that God lives in all human beings, no matter who they are or where they come from... Hospitality has been part of our Christian tradition and it has been the practice of generations of Irish people to welcome everyone who came to their door and to share whatever they had with them.” While there are many issues and questions around government policy, Christians in Ireland have often been at the forefront of positive initiatives to welcome asylum seekers and to provide support and care to those in direct provision, emergency accommodation or resettlement programmes for the last 20 years, as well as friendship and accompaniment to migrant workers and others who live here but are far from family and friends. In his 2015 book, “Ministry to Migrants and Asylum Seekers” written from years of experience of supporting people in the Mosney centre, Nick Park, Executive Director of the Evangelical Alliance Ireland writes, “In order to survive, the children of the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (céad míle fáilte) have for genera-
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tions had to learn to live as strangers in foreign lands and to rely on the welcome of others.” Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, that question is reversed in a way, as we are not welcoming others into our homes; nor are we gathering together weekly every Sunday, welcoming people through the church door. Instead of asking how can we make our homes and churches place of welcome and belonging, we are called to be church – a people of hope – reaching out to those who are vulnerable in our communities. We have rightfully been encouraged to connect with those who are elderly or in poor physical health and support them as they may need to isolate themselves. However, as followers of Christ, we are always called to look to those who are excluded. Refugees and asylum seekers, as well as other immigrants often don’t have the same societal and family connections as most, they can be forgotten in public advice and excluded because of language or cultural barriers. The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland points out that many migrant workers in sectors like care, fishing, retail, hospitality, construction, and agriculture are worried about losing their jobs and income due to COVID-19. Some with irregular migration status will be particularly afraid, even about going to the doctor but MRCI offer reassurance that it is safe to call a GP or any health service about COVID-19 even for those who are undocumented. Immigration status does not matter. Connecting with one of the many “welcome groups” that have been established is one way in which Christians can seek to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees’ needs are addressed. Most of these are organised on social media and are best contacted that way. Bishop Patrick Rooke suggests churches seek to identify those in their congregation and wider networks who are likely to be less connected and consider establishing a ‘Love thy Neighbour’ scheme. This begins with prayer both for those who are vulnerable but also for ourselves as followers of Christ, that we would see with His eyes and love with His love for all of those who are created in His image. Let us expand our imagination to include those who are not mentioned in government statements and especially those who haven’t got recourse to the normal supports provided by the state and by family connections.
CONFESSIONS OF A FEINT SAINT
A Stranger in a Strange Land By Annmarie Miles
love Ireland! I love being Irish. I love the culture I come from. I grew up surrounded by a mix of generations. Life was loud and busy with music, stories and a houseful of relatives. Every time I fly home from the UK, I look out the window for the coastline of Ireland and a huge beaming smile fills my face when home comes into view. So why don’t I live there? I love Ireland with all my heart, but I’ve made somewhere else my home for now. There’s a song I love to sing from Susan Ashton’s album, A Distant Call. The chorus goes, You move me, You give me courage I didn’t know I had You move me I can’t go with You and stay where I am so You move me * The beloved and I worked out that we have moved 11 times in the 20 years we’ve been together. We have packed and unpacked a hundred kitchen utensils, a thousand books and a million fridge magnets each time, sometimes for only a few months. The above song became a bit of an anthem. We’ve had our current address just over four years. Only one other of the many addresses lasted that long. The church still seem very happy to have us, which is great, not least because packing is not something I want to do again any time soon. I remember being very homesick when I first moved to Wales. It was 20 years ago, way before we were all on Facebook. No WhatsApp for group messages and no Instagram to share our photos. I did have a mobile but it cost me £2.50 to text anyone at home. I’d ring my mother once a week and she’d spend most of the call telling me how expensive it must be and trying to get me to hang up. After a year or so of living in Wales, a friend left and went to the Middle East as a missionary. We spoke on Skype and she shared how she was homesick for Wales, and there was I in Wales, homesick for Ireland. I wondered why God moved us, when our hearts seemed always to pine for home. If I’m honest, even when I lived in Ireland, I was never 100% comfortable in my own skin. I’ve always been big and a bit awkward, often masking insecurities with humour. Since I started to follow Jesus, 25 years ago, it’s been more acute. There’s a constant ache for something and somewhere else. There are days when it’s hardly noticeable and days when it’s unbearable. Over the years I’ve imagined it was missing Ireland, grieving for children I never had, frustration with the career that didn’t take off. I’ve had a lot of time to think recently and it occurs to me that it is none of those things. I don’t feel at home because I am not at home. This earth is not my home. This crumbling body is not the final me. I am on my way and until I get there, until I get to heaven, I will never really be home. There’s work to do in the meantime, and I want to do it. But I do it with a work permit, a temporary visa, which will one day expire. What a blessed relief that we take nothing with us. I couldn’t bear the thought of packing – again! * lyrics by Gordon Kennedy, Pierce Pettis
Illustration: Donal Casey 2020
“I am on my way and until I get there, until I get to heaven, I will never really be home.”
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.
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A DISTURBED LIFE BY ANA MULLAN
flowers and their colours. They bring joy and they can make a dinner table look really special. We live in an apartment in the centre of Dublin. We have a balcony and my husband is the one who looks after the plants because, sadly, I tend to practice euthanasia on them. In our own gardens or balconies, we can decide which ones to plant where, we can combine the colours that we want. However, there are flowers that grow and give beauty with very little human intervention. One of my favourite flowers is the poppy - not the ones that you can plant but the ones that we just happen to find here or there. One thing I learned about wild poppies is that they grow where the ground has been disturbed. When you pass road works, you may see a few poppies sticking out among the soil and gravel that lies all over the place, challenging the ugliness of the surroundings. They make you forget about the messiness of the place, at least they do for me! I have been thinking about disturbances in life - the times when the soil has been disturbed because of different circumstances - and what that has produced in me. Our western society does not like disturbances. We are constantly pushed to think that we “deserve” a life without them. Disturbances come in different forms. Our apartment faces Smithfield Square so we get a bit of disturbance as people come and go, but nothing dramatic. When my granddaughters come, there is a disturbance that is enjoyable: toys everywhere, food that falls on the floor, etc. But there are other disturbances that have taken me to deeper places within myself and my relationship with God. Our move from Cork to Dublin was not as easy as we thought. I can honestly say that the first eight years were very difficult because we were not moving on our own but with three children, two of them teenagers and one of them was extremely unhappy. Then my adoptive mother died and hidden secrets surfaced. This affected me as well as our marriage and family life. The soil was being turned over and over again. Out of this period I learned and experienced the profound love that God has for me. But the two events that made me realise that I am just a
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finite human being and that God is still a mystery, were two unexpected deaths. Six years ago my son rang to say that his best friend had been killed in a road accident. A woman suffering from Alzheimer’s hit him while driving the wrong direction on the motorway. He died instantly. He was a beautiful 28-year-old young man and the only child of his parents. Prayers and words would not come out from my mouth. I decided to read parts of the book of Job in a loud voice, as a play. I came to the same conclusion as Job, I only know in part. Nine months later we received another phone call from the daughter of our friends and neighbours, asking us to go to the hospital because her dad had had a heart attack. We arrived thinking that we were going to see Peter resting in a ward. Instead, we were approached by a Garda and were taken to a room where we found his wife and daughter crying, a priest and another Garda with them. Peter was in the other room - the life was gone from him. He had collapsed in the street just around the corner from us. He was 57 years old. For the next two weeks our apartment became the place of refuge. Along with others, we became their family until their immediate family was able to come. The soil had been turned over for my friend, in a very dramatic and painful way. I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t make things better for her and that brought its own pain. I learned that only God
LIFE IN GENERAL IS MORE LIKE THE MESSY SOIL OF THE ROAD WORKS OR BUILDING SITES WITH POPPIES GROWING HERE AND THERE, THAN THE TIDY GARDEN. can fully understand that amount of pain. I am sure that as you read this, you can add your own times when your ground was disturbed. We all have these stories to tell. Reflecting on this made me become aware that I follow somebody who suffered a lot of disturbances and also brought disturbances to others. He modelled for us how to live when the ground is disturbed, when people misunderstand you or treat you unjustly, when friends let you down or you suffer excruciating physical pain. And when you feel that even God has forgotten you. But He also caused the disturbance of religious leaders, of the political powers and of His own followers who expected Him to act and be the leader that He was not. And He disturbed the greatest enemy of all by dying and coming back to life. The ground was disturbed and produced the greatest event of all: victory over death. That seed continues to flower, as men and women intentionally choose to live on
a daily basis in the reality of His resurrection. Life in general is more like the messy soil of the road works or building sites with poppies growing here and there, rather than the tidy garden. We would like to decide where the flowers should grow but it is not always the case. It is in that disturbance of the soil, of our own hearts, that work is done in us by the one who said: “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 (MSG)
Ana Mullan is from Argentina but has lived in Ireland for 35 years, the last 18 in Dublin. She is an artist, a spiritual director, retreat facilitator and an enthusiastic grandmother.
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A Place of Welcome and Acceptance How should the church respond to racism? BY DR. EBUN JOSEPH As the coordinator in UCD of the first Black Studies module in Ireland, Dr Ebun Joseph lectures on race, migration, social policy and equality. She has lived in Ireland for more than 17 years and is a citizen of both Nigeria and Ireland. As a woman of faith, she finds comfort and solace in her relationship with God and in the church. But she also speaks out about the realities of racism in Irish society and that comes at a price.
hen I crossed over into this new decade, I was being trolled online. People had created parody social media accounts using my name and my photo and used those accounts to post terrible and abusive things. My head was wrecked. I lost days trying to report them. The thing that helped me most was my faith. If I had not been a woman of faith, I would have been broken by now. I remembered that I’m loved by God and I’m called according to His purpose. I remembered that “all things work together for my good” - that word dropped into my heart and sustained me. I can’t imagine how people survive without faith in God. The abuse didn’t stop. I’m still being trolled but something shifted in me. My focus moved away from the racial abuse. My faith has been a solid rock. When I am hit with fears for my children or myself, I remember God’s word. I rest in His love, knowing that God is watching over us. I say a lot of things that can be disruptive. I’m not looking for approval. People can be fickle, they love you today when you fit what they want but hate you tomorrow. God is the only constant, my constant. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He knows
my weakness and accepts me as I am. He helps me to accept others, but that doesn’t mean that we accept what is harmful or abusive.
RACISM IN THE WORKPLACE
We often hold stereotypes about certain people. Some will automatically gain respect. Others are more likely to be treated with suspicion or looked down upon. Here in Ireland, people of colour experience significant inequality in the workplace. In the western world, some groups of people always appear at the bottom of the economic ladder In the UK, France and Ireland, for example, the unemployment rate of Blacks is higher than the unemployment rate of white Europeans, even when they have been born and educated in those countries and speak the language. When I did my PhD research, it showed that Blacks are at the bottom of the economic ladder in Ireland while Whites are at the top. According to the Irish 2016 Census, the rate of unemployment for Western Europeans is 5 - 9%, for Eastern Europeans it is 13-19% but for Africans it is 43 - 63%. Just to be clear, those in my study were not asylum seekers. Yet, black people with a legal right to live and work in Ireland, including those born and educated here,
MANY YEARS AGO WHEN WE ENCOUNTERED DIFFERENCE, WE WERE TAUGHT TOLERANCE. BUT YOU ONLY TOLERATE WHAT YOU DESPISE.
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are five to eight times more likely to be unemployed. Structural inequalities within our system do not allow them to progress within the labour market. I wanted to find out why and my research showed clearly that there is systemic racism. We don’t want to believe it because as Irish people, we were colonised and many Irish people were sent to the Caribbean as indentured servants. Because of what we endured on both sides of the Atlantic, we believe Irish society cannot be racist. And yet, the reality is that black people in Ireland are experiencing racism and it has a psychological impact.
RACISM WITHIN THE CHURCH
The church is built on the notion of accepting and welcoming people as we are. It was set up to welcome difference. But we have to remember that the people of God are still just people with all our human weaknesses. The church is filled with imperfect, broken people who still make mistakes. The “badness” is not just out there; it is in here! Yet our assumptions can blind us to what is really happening. I was talking to somebody about her experience within an Irish church. Long before the coronavirus, somebody in church had refused to shake her hand. Many come to the church looking for healing, acceptance and respite from the things they experience in daily life. And the church in Ireland has done a lot of good! When people were facing deportation in the early 2000s, Christians wrote reference letters and campaigned for them to stay. But we need to continue to find ways to make our churches inclusive. If we
are not watchful, then the racism that is increasing in the wider society can so easily slip into the church and infiltrate our services. We end up having separate black services and Irish services rather than doing the hard work of becoming fully integrated.
MOVING FROM TOLERANCE TO ACCEPTANCE
How can the church become a place where we learn how to manage difference? We begin by accepting people. Many years ago when we encountered difference, we were taught tolerance. But you only tolerate what you despise. Tolerance draws on power dynamics. If we tolerate something, we have put ourselves in a position of superiority. The Bible tells us we should treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. We do not judge someone when they speak English with a Cork accent, so why judge someone for speaking English with a Polish accent or a Nigerian accent? When a person who is different comes into our church, all they want is to be accepted for who they are. Our spiritual reality says that we are much-loved children of God. But for many of us, our lived reality is so different. Even people who call themselves Christians can sometimes have racist prejudices. It can be easier to cope with outspoken racial abuse than with hundreds of “micro-aggressions” we experience every day. It is really difficult to report a micro-aggression because it seems so small and insignificant but it is like the sound of a dripping tap. You hear the same things over and over and over again. These might not be so bad, in and of themselves, but added to all the other “little” things, they absolutely wear you down. Unfortunately, we don’t like being challenged. We want to be able to say whatever we want and we expect people
not to be offended. But in our churches, we need to learn to be culturally sensitive and acknowledge that some people are exposed to a continual barrage of “tiny” things with a deeper, racial meaning. When somebody asks, “So, where are you from?” or “where were you from originally?” it is painful because the underlying message is “you are not from here” or “you don’t belong here”. To take another example, if someone makes a monkey sound close to a white person, they might laugh about it. But a black person will not laugh because they understand the underlying message. This is what we call a ‘dog whistle’.
Change is deliberate. The gender pay gap is closing because we named it and we began to put things in place to address it. If we really want to change the problem of racism and inequality, we need allies. Our churches can become safe places. Sometimes I go to conferences and I am the only black person there. It can get tiring to be constantly on the outside
trying to integrate, to be included. It is so helpful when other people make an effort to include you, to make you feel welcome and comfortable. It is time to take action! The church should be become a place where people who are weary and burdened can find rest and comfort (Matthew 11). Go to one person in your church and ask, “How can I be an ally to you? How can I be there for you?” Look out for the person who is standing alone. Invite them for a coffee. Don’t begin with a question that emphasises their difference but include them in your conversation. There may be young people in your church who are struggling to find work experience or internships. Help them to make the right connections. Offer work experience to TY students or internships for college graduates. People will remember what you did and how you made them feel. Little things go a long way. Let people feel normal. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind. When we use “LOL” as a family, it stands for “love out loud” - so don’t love in silence! APRIL - JUNE 2020 VOX.IE
WRESTLING WITH MY THOUGHTS A doctor with severe mental illness discovers strength
haron Hastings’ honest new book lifts the veil on mental illness and helps to equip churches to come alongside loved ones, fellow church members, friends and neighbours who suffer from devastating illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams spoke with Sharon to find out more: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” Psalm 13: 1-2 “I have always identified with David in this Psalm,” Sharon says. The raw honesty of David’s words resonated with her experience and seemed to sum up her painful journey with severe mental illness. It is a journey that does not have a neat or simplistic happy ending but rather one of hope even in the midst of an on-going and chronic condition.
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DOCTOR AND PATIENT
Growing up in a Christian home in County Down, Sharon had a good grounding in Scripture. At 19, she went to medical school and loved it. “I was fascinated by the human body,” she explains. During her third year as a medical student, Sharon was baptised, an event she describes in her book as “the pinnacle of my Christian life to date.” But during her fourth year she began to experience pain, tiredness and depression and was eventually diagnosed with a major depressive disorder that only seemed to get worse. “Just after my written final exams in 2007, I was admitted to a psychiatric ward against my wishes. I spent the rest of my final year in hospital. I campaigned to be able to be allowed to do my clinical finals and although my doctors were not keen, the university was very supportive. So I graduated as a
doctor while I was still an in-patient!” Sharon began to lose weight and was referred to a clinic for eating disorders but she was too unstable to participate with the programme. She began to have psychotic experiences and struggled with suicidal thoughts. “I thought, ‘What is left for me?’ Although I still totally believed in God, I felt He had completely abandoned me. I became angry with Him and then indifferent. God seemed irrelevant to my situation because I felt that He was not concerned about me.” An opportunity opened up for Sharon to receive treatment in Arizona, in America. “I was there for six months and I did really well. It was a Christian centre and I realised they really cared about me and valued me. There was a daily chapel service and one morning I felt that God wanted me back. I made a recommitment to Him. When I came home, I felt more of a connection with
“IT IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT HEALING BUT IT IS A BOOK ABOUT HOPE.
God. I was praying more but I was still depressed.
“I had applied for my medical practice licence with the general medical council thinking that would be the answer to my problem but they would not licence me because I had not recovered. They told me to re-apply in two years time.” Sharon began to have manic episodes: dressing flamboyantly and spending money recklessly. This caused her doctors to change her diagnosis to Bipolar Disorder and it gave her hope that they would now be able to find an appropriate treatment. “After a while I reapplied to the medical council. At my first interview, they were positive but then my health deteriorated and I had my first psychotic episode. I thought my psychiatrist was plotting against me. At my second interview, it was so obvious and I received a letter to say I would be a danger to patients. That was really painful for me and led to a downhill curve. I attempted suicide and was fortunate that I survived (it was a God thing).” Admitted to hospital, the psychiatrists began to re-evaluate their diagnosis once again and eventually Sharon was told she had schizoaffective disorder - a severe mental illness that combines psychotic symptoms with episodes of mania and depression.
The diagnosis helped and with a new anti-psychotic medication, Sharon became more stable. “It was a hopeful time. I started voluntary work, began creative writing classes and fell in love. Rob, my husband-to-be, has always been really patient and understanding but for the first few years when we were dating, he never really experienced the full implications of my illness. “We were married in 2015 and since then it has been a roller coaster. I suffered quite severe psychotic depression and eventually had electric
shock treatment last spring.” A different psychiatrist started Sharon on a new course of antidepressants, which made a significant difference. She has now sustained a long period at home, and launched her book in January 2020. “It is not a book about healing but it is a book about hope,” Sharon says. “ I have not recovered. My illness is there and I deal with it every day. I’m very aware that God can heal but He does not always. This is my thorn in the flesh. I’m coming to terms with the fact that it is God who gives me strength.”
DEMYSTIFYING MENTAL ILLNESS
Sharon believes there is increasing awareness in the church about depression and anxiety but the taboos remain when it comes to talking about severe mental illness and there is a lot of stigma. “I’m thankful for opportunities to speak out and demystify the topic. If people have less fear then it can open up the conversation.” Those suffering from mental illness can encounter different reactions from church communities. Some ask, “Where is your joy in the Lord?” Sharon has also experienced prayer for deliverance from demonic influence, something that can be damaging, unhealthy and unhelpful to those coping with a chronic condition, she says. But since they got married, Sharon and Rob have been in a church where people have been increasingly understanding, providing practical support especially at times when Sharon has been hospitalised. “The more I talk openly, the more people have begun to understand. In the book, I try to combine my medical knowledge with my journey with mental illness. I explain the different terminology that we use. The fact that it happened to me as a doctor can be a surprise. A lot of people have the idea that professionals are protected or that mental illness happens to people who are impoverished. One of the problems is that people with severe mental illness
are often on the margins or can’t attend church regularly.” Sharon sees such potential for the church to play a role in supporting those with mental illness and providing practical help to their families. “It is not rocket science. It might mean simply getting alongside somebody and asking what they need! “The other thing that has happened is that Rob and I are expecting our first baby. That is both exciting and scary. It is going to be a major life change. I’ve had a lot of anxiety and sometimes that has been hard to manage, but above all I feel blessed and delighted.” Choosing a title for her book was easy for Sharon. “I’ve always looked to Psalm 13 in times of trouble. David was wrestling with his thoughts and I’ve often asked, ‘How long is this going on?’ especially when I’ve been in a particularly bad episode. But there is hope because the Psalm ends with praise. It is always something I try to come back to,” Sharon says. You can find “Wrestling with my Thoughts” on Amazon and in Faith Mission bookshops across Northern Ireland.
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hen was the last time you read the Bible out loud? When we do so it forces us to read more slowly, to take in the words and think about what we are reading a little more. We can’t just skim past words on the page or screen when we read aloud. All over the world today people will read the Bible out loud as part of BIBLE 2020. They will record themselves saying words in their own language from the Bible and post it to the video wall of the BIBLE 2020 app. Intrigued? Why not join thousands of others around the world and download this app that will connect you with God’s Word and God’s people all over the globe. BIBLE 2020 encourages everyone, everywhere to read the Bible out loud every day in 2020. The vision of the Scottish Bible Society, this project connects people through God’s Word. There are around 150 Bible Societies – one in almost every country in the world. Together these societies make up the United Bible Societies (UBS), which is a global fellowship working together. Here in Ireland the National Bible Society of Ireland and the Bible Society in Northern Ireland are encouraging people to join in with this global wave of Bible reading – proclaiming Scripture out loud around Ireland and around the world.
DOWNLOAD THE BIBLE 2020 APP
It is estimated that around 80% of adults in the world have a smart phone! We use our phones for everything – we check our social media, watch TV, do our banking, book flights, send messages and even occasionally make phone calls! But how can we connect with this huge audience digitally through their devices? Our phones are increasingly where we engage with God’s Word. BIBLE 2020 helps us to interact with Scripture. Once you have downloaded the app you, your church community, your family and friends will have the opportunity to:
• RECEIVE daily Bible readings
throughout the year, straight to your phone, in a variety of languages and versions. • VIDEO yourself and your church reading and speaking the words of the passage. • SHARE your videos on the App’s global wall and to your social network.
• WATCH other project participants from around the world sharing the Bible in their own heart languages. • CREATE community groups enabling accountability, discipleship and Bible discussion to flourish as you spur one another on in the journey. • HOST events that will allow more people to hear and engage with the Bible in your area, and see what others are doing too.
We believe BIBLE 2020 has the potential to excite, equip and disciple the local church, as well as to mobilise us to mission where we are. All of this at the touch of a button! Can you imagine the eternal impact this could have on your life, your church, local community and wider world as God’s Word is spoken and His Spirit moves!? “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). The Bible is a powerful book; its words have power to change and challenge, renew and restore individuals, families, churches, communities and countries. Bible Societies in Ireland also offer other resources. A daily Bible reading guide gives a short passage to read each day – encouraging individuals into the habit of regular Bible reading. While many people have a well-established Bible reading habit, others do not. This free resource will unlock the query of ‘Where should I start reading in the Bible?’ Get in touch for copies of this resource for yourself or your church. “Where to look in the Bible” provides simple information on finding helpful passages for everyday life. With support in where to look for help, prayers, words of blessing and appropriate readings for special occasions, this is a useful tool for those involved in pastoral visiting or anyone who wants to help others access the Bible in times of need. “The Bible Course” is a resource for small groups, developed in England and Wales, which provides eight interactive sessions enabling people to apply the Bible to everyday life. This videoresource includes discussion time,
personal reflection and daily readings. The Bible Course has already been used across Ireland in a wide variety of contexts. This course is for people who feel that they know the Bible well and for those who want to go deeper in their understanding of God’s Word. It shows how all of the books, characters and events fit together to form one big story from Genesis to Revelation. An ideal follow up to Alpha or Christianity Explored, the Bible Course is available in a DVD format or as a download, with manuals for each participant. Today in Ireland, we have access to Scripture like never before. We can access it for free on our phones and many of us will have more than one copy of a printed Bible, too. However, around the world today there are millions of people who simply can’t have access to a Bible in their own language because it hasn’t been translated yet – only around 10% of the world’s languages have a complete Bible translated. Millions more people don’t have a Bible because they need it in a format that can be expensive to produce and they can’t afford it, for example audio or braille Bibles. Bible Societies exist to ‘reach everyone with God’s Word’. In Isaiah 55:11 God says that His Word “… will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (NIV)
BIBLE 2020 ENCOURAGES EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE TO READ THE BIBLE OUT LOUD EVERY DAY IN 2020.
Why not get in touch with your local Bible Society for resources or to invite a speaker to your church? National Bible Society of Ireland www.nationalbiblesocietyofireland.ie firstname.lastname@example.org @nationalbiblesocietyofireland Bible Society in Northern Ireland www.biblesocietyni.co.uk email@example.com @biblesocietyni
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Nourishing Faith at Home
Creative ideas for seeking God individually, as a family or within a shared household Experiencing “social distancing” or isolation can be a distressing time for many who find comfort and solace in their faith community. Here are some creative ideas that can help you individually, as a family or with housemates both now and in the future!
Write a letter to God
Writing a letter is a great way of pouring out your thoughts and emotions to God. It can help you focus and enable you to express what’s on your heart, especially if you are struggling with anxiety or racing thoughts (something that is very normal for all of us when we experience stressful circumstances).
Watch a service or message online (live or recorded)
Many churches live-stream their services or are releasing a video message of some kind. Some provide online devotionals materials. If you do not have access to Internet, many churches have audio recordings of messages. This may be something churches can do for people who are housebound and who do not have a computer or smartphone.
Find encouragement throughout the day by writing Bible verses on pieces of paper and sticking them up where you can see them regularly (on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror or close to your favourite chair). Take a moment to read the verse each time you see it and begin to memorise it!
Learn new ways to pray
We are all asked to wash our hands more frequently. Saying the Lord’s Prayer or reciting Psalm 23 while you do this helps us to wash thoroughly but also to connect with Jesus at the same time! List all the things you are thankful for on a piece of paper. Or hold tightly a stone to symbolise things that are worrying you and bring them to God in prayer as you lay it aside. If you have access to the internet, head to www.vox.ie to see more ideas.
Write a Psalm
The Psalmists wrote poems and songs to pour out their hearts to God. There are psalms of praise and lament, of anger and joy, of thanksgiving and frustration. Whatever you are feeling right now, why not write it down. Look at Psalm 13 as an example. If you are doing this together, you could each write one line or one verse and put it together or you could write individually and read out your psalms to each other.
Play Worship Music
Even when we cannot gather together for public acts of worship, it is wonderful to take time out to focus on God and to worship Him. Playing worship music (and singing along if you are able) can lift your spirits and help you to refocus your mind. It can be soothing when you feel anxious or agitated and it can help to change the atmosphere in your home. In Bible times, worship even defeated powerful enemies! (See 2 Chronicles 20: 20 - 22).
Read a chapter or short passage each day
Sometimes we can find it difficult to read the Bible regularly. Why not challenge yourself to read one chapter or even a shorter passage each day? Or read together with other members of your household. It is a good idea to start with a short book (e.g. Mark’s Gospel). There are also audio versions of the Bible available if you find reading a struggle.
Start a Journal
Why not keep a journal in which you can record prayers or note down Bible verses as you read the scriptures? Some people enjoy drawing or writing poetry to express their worship to God. You can note down answers to prayer to encourage you as you continue. In days gone by, the monks used illuminated letters to illustrate the Book of Kells. Today some people enjoy “illustrating” a Bible verse and as they do so, slowing down and pondering what it means. You can do this individually but also as a family or group! 28
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LOOKAGAIN Minister Alan Boal reflects on the partnership between the Church and the Arts
BY REV ALAN BOAL
rom the moment we heard about the Parnell Square Redevelopment Plan and the intention to make our area a “cultural quarter”, we imagined what Christian interaction with the Arts might look like. Despite our limited resources, we managed to run a summer Arts Café (‘Xpresso’) for several years, using the gifts and energies of interns from America. These cafés included both performance and visual arts: poets, actors, puppetry, dance, painting, photography and live music (especially folk and jazz). For some time, we dreamt of having an artist-inresidence, and just over a year ago we made contact with
Bethany Garvey-Williams. She had recently graduated with a fine-arts degree and was in search of studio space. We had a suitable room recently vacated, so we joined the two together. Although we were new to the concept of a church Artist-in-Residence, we researched churches with experience and applied some of the things they had learned. North America proved the best guide because most of the British examples focused on music and literature. Ours was to be an open-ended arrangement (not fixed term) to allow both Bethany and ourselves to find our feet through the process. So, we worked out an agreement between us. Bethany still had to work to earn
“Most of us are ignorant of the training, the craft, the opportunities and the challenges that fall to people who take both their Christian faith and their artistic endeavour seriously.”
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“We would really encourage other churches to ‘Adopt an Artist’ in Jesus’ Name.”
money and we didn’t want to pressure her to deliver anything in the first year. Bethany gets the studio space free of charge and between us we agree any projects that will promote our Arts Ministry. To date Bethany has led workshops, participated in Heritage Week, contributed a hands-on retreat day (Oasis Day); and recently she held her first public exhibition under the title Parabola. Her presence and activity has begun to impact us as a congregation. Already there is a raised consciousness of what it means for one of our members to be a Christian and an artist (painter). Most of us are ignorant of the training, the craft, the opportunities and the challenges that fall to people who take both their Christian faith and their artistic endeavour seriously. Many of our members from across the age and talent spectrum have enjoyed discovering or rediscovering their hidden artist, much of this through non-threatening and corporate projects. And one-on-one conversations with Bethany have enabled people to learn about art and how to understand it better. All Christians (irrespective of their artistic bent) need a community of Christians to support and develop them in their faith and ministry. For Christians who are also artists, especially within Protestantism, that relationship with the Church has often been bathed in mutual suspicion and ignorance. We hope that Bethany has found in us a family of faith that really cares about her spiritually and vocationally. Already our arrangement with Bethany has rippled out to her artistic circle (tutors, students and friends) and to the wider Christian community – we hosted two students from the Belfast Bible College for a summer internship on the back of it and many visitors to our Heritage Week were intrigued by the collaboration and spoke with Bethany and ourselves at length. Most of us recognise that church musicians must cobble together several jobs so as to make a living. Artists are no different. We have learned from Bethany the 30
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extent to which she must juggle seasonal work (“gigs”), commissions, exhibitions (with their own unique demands) and casual labour. This has given us a greater appreciation of artists’ networks that operate to provide practical and emotional support. We remain novices in this whole endeavour but we would really encourage other churches to ‘Adopt an Artist’ in Jesus’ Name. It helps to do some homework to find out the range of residential arrangements used around the world and decide which of these suits you best as a church. Artists come in many shapes and sizes: some have already established reputations and are looking for short, intense and focused residencies to explore some particular idea. Others, like Bethany, are taking their early steps from college to career and need an arrangement that works for them (free studio space and/or a financial benefit; and a supportive network). Because we tend to dedicate a year to exploring one big theme (parables last year and psalms this year, for example) there is a ready-made theological focus available for collaborative work. Other churches will have their own liturgical or expository approaches that will shape the arrangement. Our experience has flagged up just how much of an obstacle we – the church – are for many in the world of art. Rightly or wrongly, we are often seen as the enemy; we are viewed as superficial and retrogressive; and our gospel is assumed to be bad news for the world. It will take a long time of sensitive contact to break down our respective prejudices and ignorance, so our hope and prayer is that we have begun that journey. If anyone (artist or church) wants to join the journey we’d be happy to chat.
A REVIEW OF “PARBOLA” ART EXHIBITION IN ABBEY CHURCH
Artist Bethany Garvey-Williams’ first solo exhibition, entitled Parabola took place at Abbey Church in February. This work was created in response to a sermon series on Jesus’ parables. Intrigued at how parables employ familiar and simple narratives to invite the hearer to decipher more complex or subversive meanings, Bethany explored how visual art similarly suggests more than meets the eye. Using a variety of materials to create a visual equivalent, ‘Parabola’ embedded Jesus’ stories within the contemporary, without losing their long-standing history. ‘Fall and Rise’ is an arch-shaped painting of figures, reminiscent of gothic portals. The symmetrical arc’s rise and fall and positioning of the two sets of figures suggests a link between them. Our eyes move from the left pair, where a figure lands an uppercut to another’s chin, to the right pair, where one reaches a helping hand to the other figure, possibly the victim of the prior scenario. Even without knowing the painting’s source as the Good Samaritan, we
might consider the interplay of compassion as a response to violence or of problems leading to solutions. Bethany uses light in several pieces to illuminate and even to activate the work, suggesting our need for light and revelation to bring understanding to the parable. Two such works reference the parable of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom. ‘Full and Empty’ is a collection of four paintings on blotting paper. Here oil and light are not simply the subject matter but the physical medium. Spotlights illuminate translucent oilsaturated paper, giving vibrancy to colours and images. The four images suggest people who are fuelled or ‘running on empty’. On inspection of ‘Supply and Demand’ we observe a smaller jar immersed in the oil of a larger jar and itself filled with oil, implying a supply that will not run out, a cup that continually overflows. The quirky, playful sense of the absurd in some of Jesus’ parables is reflected in ‘Lost and Found’. The familiar experience of finding coins lost down the side of
a sofa, is evoked by a couch with cushions askew. A table light leads your eye to a painting of a coin hidden beside the couch. A play on Jesus’ parable of the lost coin, but perhaps also a comment on the value of art, or the search to find meaning and value in a piece of art. ‘Rich and Hearty’ juxtaposes two paintings, one of dried bread above and the other of raw meat below. The application and handling of paint evoke the nature of the subject - the succulence, indulgence and opulence of the meat, contrasting with the dry crustiness and subdued colour of the bread. They epitomise two lifestyles or attitudes - the wealthy, carnivorous, self-indulgent, and those living on the breadline. Referencing Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the placing of the bread above the meat hints at their final position. ‘Home and Away’ depicts two figures meeting and hugging. The figures merge into the landscape suggesting a path or a journey. This merging alludes to sense of home as being both geographical and relational. See more photos from the exhibition at www.bethanygarveywilliams.weebly.com/parabola.
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No such thing as a hopeless case How God is transforming lives through the Joshua Project
“People may change your circumstances but only God can change your life,” that is how founder Liam McNamara describes the work of the Joshua Project in Bailieborough, Co. Cavan and more recently in Navan, Co. Meath. This innovative faith-based programme seeks to give people the chance at a new start in life, a hope and a future! VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams spoke with Liam to find out more.
oney was my god for the first half of my life,” Liam explained. “I became a millionaire as a young man but by the time I was 35, I was a pauper. I ended up kneedeep in debt, living in a house that I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep with three young children at home. My business had collapsed and we had to be supported by Saint Vincent de Paul.” That was 1988 and, at rock bottom, Liam read a book which made him face up to the reality of his life. “I had walked away from God when I was 17. I was in charge of my life and I had made a mess of it. I should have put a bed in the confession box because I felt such a hypocrite,” he said. “Nobody had ever told me that if I could have been good enough on my own then Jesus would not have needed to come! I had a beautiful encounter with Jesus and I haven’t been the same since.” Liam’s life was turned upside down, “I could not get out of bed in the morning if it wasn’t for Jesus. Now I wanted to do His will, not mine,” he said. Eventually, going back to school, the door opened for Liam to go into the financial services industry. He opened a tax consultancy business and in 2007, moved into a Georgian building on Dawson Street in Dublin. Immediately, Liam noticed people sitting begging on the office steps. “This concerned me as they were clearly interfering with clients. My heart was troubled. I did not want them damaging our business but I did not want to
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offend and reject these people either. I soon realised that the steps were a well known begging spot for homeless people. This meant that if I told one to move, another would come and take up the same position. The problem wasn’t going to go away.” Liam decided to talk with one of the men. He met Dave who spent his days begging so he could get enough money to pay for a hostel each night. If he didn’t collect enough money, he would have to sleep on the streets. As he talked to Dave and others like him, Liam soon realised that they all wanted to find work but had not been able to. “They could not get dole because they had no permanent address. Some of them had no PPS number. Initially, they all used to go to the job centre but gave up because of rejection,” Liam said. It snowed heavily that year and Liam had a sudden brainwave - why not help Dave to have the means to support himself? Purchasing a broom and a shovel, Liam hired Dave to sweep the snow from the steps of his office building each day. Then he encouraged Dave to approach other business owners to offer the same service. During the snow days, Dave was able to earn a steady income. Soon Liam was finding other ways to employ Dave and others like him with small jobs around the office but as he did so, he encountered more problems. Those who are marginalised in society have complex needs and even when they are given a “second chance” these opportunities often fail. “I saw so much potential in these people but in the cur-
rent system is unable to help them realise that potential.” Liam saw the need for a programme that would provide training and supported work placements alongside opportunities for people to explore faith because “only God can change lives!” “I considered that Joshua would be an excellent name for the project as he was the one who led God’s people from the wilderness to the Promised Land.” The Joshua Project finally launched in 2017 as a faithbased community initiative that offers people a fresh start. Since then 82 people have gone through the programme and a further 42 are part of the current programme in Bailieborough and Navan. After hearing about Joshua through local media, posters and flyers, potential clients attend four coffee mornings to find out more and decide whether they are willing to commit to the 16-week New Beginnings Training Programme. This consists of one day a week of Faith Exploration, a second day of Skills Training (learning essentials such as communication skills and interview techniques along with recognised qualifications such as HACCP and Manual Handling) and a third day of work experience. The Joshua Project has launched a number of small social enterprises that provide opportunities for people to gain experience. One client had a passion for goats and had been making goats milk soap at home. The Joshua Project supported him to set up a social enterprise making the soap and this now provides employment for four or five people at a
time. Other social enterprises include a handy man and driving service, arts and crafts and the new Joshua Bakery, which is just about to launch. Some clients go on to work in these enterprises while others return to education, find other jobs or receive support to start their own businesses. “We’re finding that even the probation service and social welfare are referring people to our programme because they recognise that they are helpless to fix the root problems in people’s lives,” Liam said. One woman who came through the project had been a heroin addict for 15 years. Her life was turned around and she eventually became project coordinator for the Joshua Project, which she did with such excellence that she was head-hunted by “Employability” to work on their drug task force. Over time, a church community grew to provide for many of the Joshua graduates who had found faith in Jesus on the programme. The Joshua Community is now a thriving church in Bailieborough, which has outgrown its original meeting place. “We’re so excited about this. The harvest is ready but the church needs to start to go out. When we have people who come to our programme and whose lives are transformed, that is undeniable. It is a game changer for the church and speaks into the community!” Liam added.
“I SAW SO MUCH POTENTIAL IN THESE PEOPLE BUT IN THE CURRENT SYSTEM IS UNABLE TO HELP THEM REALISE THAT POTENTIAL.”
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Imago Dei LIFE IN ALL ITS FULLNESS
A new book from Evangelical Alliance Ireland will be released at the end of May. Donna Jennings from Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland interviewed co-authors Nick Park (Executive Director of EAI) and our own VOX editor, Ruth Garvey-Williams to find out more.
onna: Tell me about this new book and why you feel it is necessary. Nick: The book is Imago Dei - Life in all its fullness. For those who didn’t do Latin at school Imago Dei means the “image of God”. It is due to come out on the second anniversary of the abortion referendum. EAI was involved in that campaign stressing the right to life of the unborn. During that time, we realised that while Christians are happy to adopt a prolife stance when it comes to the unborn child, that passion doesn’t often extend into other areas of life. So we wanted to ask, “What does it mean to be genuinely pro-life, to be life affirming in all areas?”
Nick: We have this tendency to look at issues as left wing or right wing. We believe what’s important is whether they are right or wrong! Is this what God wants? Is this life affirming? Once we start determining our morality based on a political position, we have departed from the Gospel of Christ. Donna: But some topics have become big issues because of legislation and politics. Nick: It is unfortunate that sometimes our agenda is dictated by the news cycle. We should indeed speak out when legislation is going to lessen human rights or diminish justice. But ultimately, legislation is not the main issue; the human heart is the issue. In the last referendum, we said, “The church is pro life.” But people said, “We don’t believe you because we see so many things that have been done in the name of the church that don’t look life affirming!”
ONCE WE START DETERMINING OUR MORALITY BASED ON A POLITICAL POSITION, WE HAVE DEPARTED FROM THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. Donna: When we talk about human rights, we are often associated with certain political corners. What should the church’s stance be? Ruth: Our starting point is with Jesus who says, “I have come to give life and life in all its fullness”- that sense of flourishing, of the whole, complete and beautiful life that God intended. But so often we see that the image of God has been shattered as people have suffered violence and injustice. We want to be people who seek a flourishing life for everyone within our community. Donna: Won’t people look at some of the content of this book and say you are socialists? 34
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Donna: How then can the church be the place for human flourishing in relationship with Jesus? Ruth: When the children came to Jesus, the disciples wanted to send them away. Jesus was indignant. He said, “Let the children come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Society didn’t value those children, but Jesus valued and welcomed them. And He did that everywhere He went. He touched the leper who was considered unclean. Instead of conforming to the norms of the day, Jesus brought life, healing and acceptance. The Samaritan woman at the well was an outcast. Jesus saw the image of God in her. He answered her questions and transformed her to such
an extent that she became the evangelist to her whole community. Donna: So what is a good life (a flourishing life) for a human being? Nick: One component is the sense of dignity and respect. So if we believe in a good life, we cannot be satisfied with children being raised in a hostel because there is no adequate housing for them. We cannot be satisfied when parents with an autistic child don’t feel welcome in church because the congregation views their child as a disruption rather than a blessing. We should be concerned about refugees, leaving one country and trying to get into another country that doesn’t want them. Donna: I’m hearing words like dignity, respect, welcome, belonging and community. What else might we consider? Ruth: I love the word shalom. We often translate it as “peace”. So many in our society are in turmoil, in their relationships but also with anxiety and stress. The so-called “wellbeing” industry has taken hold of a word that should belong to the church. We should be concerned about the wellbeing of every person, in every area of life. For somebody who is struggling with mental illness and who feels that life is not worth living, Jesus offers shalom! Donna: A lot of charities are engaging with these issues. When we are called to seek the welfare of our society, what is distinctive about the way the church does this? Ruth: Jesus stepped into our world. He moved into the neighbourhood. He didn’t stay at a distance and try to sort out our problems. He was willing to be one of us, to suffer with us and for us. Jesus is present in the midst of
our broken world. And in the very act of participating in our brokenness, in experiencing our suffering and pain, He brought us healing. Nick: The New Testament says, “He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.” Christians often take this verse in an individualistic way. But I’d like to flip that around. In the crisis situations we see around us, we should be people who make a difference. Donna: So often the church sees a distinction between social justice and proclamation. How do we find a third way? Nick: I’m speaking as a pastor and somebody who loves theology and doctrine. A genuine incarnational theology where we believe that Jesus dwells in our hearts by faith must affect how we treat other people. If this faith of mine doesn’t enable me to sit with somebody who is suicidal and bring hope, then how real is my faith? Donna: We can’t have one without the other. We proclaim Jesus with words and embody the truth in action. Ruth: In 1 Thessalonians Paul says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel... but our lives as well.” I want people to encounter Jesus and know that He is able to transform them. But when the Gospel brings us into relationship with God, every part of our life is affected. Donna: So what topics do you cover in the book? Nick: I’m tackling the right to life of the unborn child and also looking at our response to migrants and refugees. I have a chapter on war and nationalism - why does nationalism sometimes allow us to condone or commit acts that
are blatantly unchristian? I talk about people trafficking and prostitution, about creation care and the environment and explore how our missionary activities can inadvertently do more harm than good. Ruth: I am exploring the systemic causes of our homeless crisis in Ireland. I also take a look at genderbased violence and the area of suicide prevention. And I ask how the church is responding to intellectual disability. Nick: We are both in privilege positions where we get to travel around the country and meet many different people. We learn so much when we are on the road. We have also gathered facts on these subjects from experts in each field. Sometimes, we act arrogantly. Sean Mullan said, “Maybe we need to stop pretending that we are the people with all the answers, but instead be the ones that ask the right questions.”
world squeeze you into its mould but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Donna: What does this look like in practice? Ruth: God invites us on an adventure to move into society and bring love, dignity and value for human life. It is both exciting and terrifying because we never know what we are going to find but as we go, we learn things about God that we never understood before.
IT CAN BE THREATENING TO HEAR PEOPLE’S TRUE STORIES, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE PAIN THEY HAVE EXPERIENCED HAS HAPPENED WITHIN THE CHURCH.
Donna: How can we read this book and be prepared to be called out of our false worldviews? Nick: I hope some will say, “What can I do better? How can the life of God shine out through me? How can I be a better ambassador for Jesus Christ?” Ruth: It can be threatening to hear people’s true stories, especially when the pain they have experienced has happened within the church. There is a humbling, a need for repentance. We need to ask the Spirit of God, “What do you have to say to me about this?” There is a time to be silenced. Nick: But that then brings us to a place where we can be transformed. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not let the
Nick: And this brings us full circle. We are created in the image of God with the capacity to love and in that capacity; we have something so worthwhile that it outweighs all the darkness. As the church gathered, we should be learning to love so that we can go out and express that love to the world.
Imago Dei - life in all its fullness by Nick Park and Ruth GarveyWilliams will be released on 25 May. Order your copy from Evangelical Alliance Ireland (www.evangelical.ie) priced €10 or download as a Kindle e-book from Amazon.
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Still Hopeful on Logos
Ship Visit to Ireland Postponed BY JULIE KNOX
lans for the first visit of the Logos Hope to Ireland since 2010 have been put on hold following the coronavirus outbreak. We bring you a message from OM Ireland leader Alastair Kerr, an update from the OM Ship Ministry and an opportunity to meet two Logos Hope crewmembers from Ireland. OM Ireland leader, Alastair Kerr (from Donegal) said, “We are excited to have Logos Hope visit Ireland and are sorry that the visit has been postponed this summer. Much work has already been done in preparing for the Logos Hope visit and we believe these preparations will be invaluable for moving forward quickly when the visit is rescheduled. We are delighted that so many people have been involved in the plans to date and hope that many more will join us when we get future dates, perhaps for 2021. Please pray for wisdom for the OM Ship ministry as they adjust current ministry and look at future port schedules.”
LOGOS HOPE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC AS A PRECAUTION AGAINST COVID-19 OM’s Ship Ministry has responded to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by closing Logos Hope to the public. The ship is docked in Kingston, 36
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Jamaica, while next steps are being decided. A response team has been put in place to monitor developments and make decisions in the best interests of the community on board and in accordance with the advice of all relevant authorities. At this stage, it is expected that the ship will remain in the Caribbean region for the next three months; not crossing the Atlantic as planned. Teams from the ship, which were due to travel overseas during that time have also had to be cancelled. One knock-on effect is that Logos Hope’s planned calls in Ireland and the Faroe Islands are being postponed. “We are indeed in unprecedented times,” said OM Ships CEO, Seelan Govender. “We have paused our usual ministry model and will spend time training and equipping our crew for future opportunities. Please continue to pray for the situation around the world.”
MEET THE LOGOS HOPE CREWMEMBERS FROM IRELAND
The story of how Isaac O’Shea (23) from Leap, West Cork, joined Logos Hope differs according to who’s telling it… Four crewmembers who toured Ireland in 2017 to speak to churches and youth groups say he was surely inspired by the presentation they gave at a meeting in his church. In fact, Isaac doesn’t remember the touring team
(whose Singaporean and Caribbean members saw snow for the first time while they were here.) As he finished his mechanical engineering degree, Isaac was challenged to offer some time to mission by a CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) camp leader. Exploring various options, he found out about Logos Hope’s Short-Term Exposure Programme (STEP) on the OM website. Isaac funded the three-month venture to Latin America himself and set off for the world’s largest floating bookfair. It was the first time he’d been beyond Europe and his first experience of travelling alone. Two years and 16 countries later, he’s still on board. OM has operated four ocean-going ships since 1971. Forty-nine million people have stepped aboard Logos, Doulos, Logos II or Logos Hope in 155 countries and territories worldwide. The vessel is manned entirely by volunteers: from the captain, engine and medical officers to the teachers, galley staff and outreach coordinators – everyone serves without pay. The majority are young people, sponsored by their home churches and friends to give a couple of years out. The buzzing international community is a unique place to explore God’s plan for their life and see the world through His eyes, as crew live out their Christian
faith in practical ways, learn skills and grow through all sorts of experiences together. As well as offering affordable literature on every subject under the sun, crewmembers share knowledge, help, and the hope of the Gospel in ports around the world, through events on board and outreaches on shore. They dig wells, renovate schools, visit prisons and hospitals. The vessel draws crowds of people from all walks of life and all levels of society: individuals, families, church groups, young offenders, shipyard workers, civic dignitaries, homeless and hurting people. There’s always someone on board who can relate and connect. The crew’s desire is that each visitor will encounter the God they serve: the ultimate captain of the Ship Ministry. Isaac was assigned to the bookfair. “I was put at the bottom of the gangway in the port of Barranquilla, Colombia. I had to welcome visitors on a crazy busy day, and I didn’t speak Spanish. Of course, my Irish skin quickly got sunburnt and I was easily identifiable!” He also had the distinction (at that time) of being the only person from the Republic of Ireland among the 400 volunteers drawn from nearly 70 countries. (Five hailed from Northern Ireland.) Laid-back and with a ready grin, Isaac bonded well with his group of 17 short-termers and became immersed in the ministry. “A day at an orphanage in Guatemala sticks with me,” he recalls. “I remember the kids wanting me to lift them up high; they just needed some fun and to be shown love.” The big white floating home to a diverse, inspiring community is a fascinating concept. Thousands testify to it being Christ’s kingdom in microcosm. People disembark challenged and changed. But Logos Hope is merely a
platform, insists the ministry’s CEO, Seelan Govender (South Africa). It is a neutral space, where all are welcome and a jumble of Jesusfollowers strive to demonstrate unity, acknowledge their dependence on the Lord and serve Irish crew members Patrycja Ozdzynska & Isaac O’Shea wherever they’re led. “In many ways, we live a miracle department had seen his leadership every day: the only reason this thing potential. He committed for a further works is because of God,” says Seelan, year, then extended again. His home who spent 14 years on board the church, Bantry Christian Fellowship, is organisation’s ships before taking charge delighted to support him. on shore. “There’s nothing attractive In February, the number of Irish about us except the fact that young crewmembers doubled when Isaac was people come together to learn, grow, love joined by Patrycja Ozdzynska, who and forgive one other.” has lived in Cork city since her family A key thrust of the Ship Ministry emigrated here from Poland when she is mobilisation within the Church. In was nine years old. Now 22, she’s also recent years, Logos Hope and partner working in the ship’s bookfair. Having organisations have spearheaded an just embarked in Jamaica, she’s still initiative to inspire 2,000 Latino getting her sea legs – but has already believers into mission. been challenged about sharing her faith Isaac took that mobilising message more openly. home after his first three months. The “Being here has made me realise how presentation team bound for Ireland many people haven’t heard the gospel. needed another member. He filled I feel like God has really put Ireland the gap and shared OM’s vision to see on my heart.” Patrycja remembers that vibrant communities of Jesus followers mission involvement seemed more among the least reached. common among those she knew in “Stepping out helped me look back Warsaw. It was there that her family first in to the situation at home with fresh encountered OM’s ships. eyes,” says Isaac. “I’ve been taken out Isaac and Patrycja would love to of my comfort zone and gained selfbe on board the ship when she visits awareness. I now have some perspective Ireland although this is less certain now from other cultures and churches. that plans for this year’s visit have been People who don’t know Jesus aren’t only postponed. in far-off lands.” Visit www.om.org for more Isaac sensed there was more for information about OM Ships and the him to do on Logos Hope. The bookfair ministry of OM in Ireland. APRIL - JUNE 2020 VOX.IE
ROOTED IN FAITH AND CULTURE
Victoria Johnston’s music is set to hit all the high notes Vincent Hughes (UCB Ireland Radio and VOX’s own music reviewer) met up with Victoria Johnston to chat about her music and her debut recordings.
ife is very busy these days for Spirit Radio producer and singer/ songwriter Victoria Johnston. As well as putting in the early shift at the Christian radio station where she researches and produces the morning chat shows, she has been hard at work putting the finishing touches to her debut double A sided recordings which were released on Friday 13 March. Already dubbed by Hot Press music magazine as the “New Enya”, and that before the songs were even released, Victoria’s schedule has been a hectic one of promotional photoshoots, social media publicity and video shoots in the Wicklow Mountains in near zero temperatures. On the day I met her in the beautiful Gathering Grounds Cafe in the grounds of Kilternan Parish Church, this hectic schedule didn’t seem to have adversely affected her at all. She was quite relaxed and fresh, and simply enjoying this latest adventure in a musical journey that stretches right back to when she was nine years old. According to her mum, Victoria was singing before she could talk, and the soundtrack of the The Sound of Music formed her repertoire back in those early years. Victoria attributes her love of music to the fact that both her parents were music lovers, too, and while there was a lot of Leonard Cohen, U2, Sting and Elton John to be heard in the Johnston household, it was her mum’s love for classical music that shaped Victoria’s path. Her mum was an accomplished pianist, as indeed were her grandmother and great grandmother She speaks highly of her grandmother, who encouraged both her music and her faith with constant reminders that her talents were a gift from God. This was something that Victoria acknowledged
over and over again during the course of our meeting. By the age of eleven, Victoria was a member of the Royal Irish Academy of Music and working towards her dream of studying music full time. She talked in glowing terms of the huge support and encouragement she received from her parents in her teens, and how they devoted so much of their time to practicing with her and accompanying her to the many performances and competitions during those years. Her mum often jokingly thanked God that she was an only child because there simply wouldn’t have been enough hours in the day to raise a second one! When I asked her if she ever considered her parents to be pushy, like so many parents who try to live their dreams
direction of her music. Further study in Trinity College led to a Master’s degree in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and a scholarship to sing with the renowned Trinity Choir. During this time, her songwriting was blossoming and the desire to perform her songs and touch the hearts of audiences was growing. The formation of her vocal trio Celtic Calling afforded her the opportunity to perform on the bigger stages, including the prestigious Helix Theatre in Dublin City University where they sang at the Fearless Women Conference. She has also performed at the National Concert Hall and the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin’s Docklands. Victoria wants to bring her music to as big an audience as possible and has ambitions to perform at the 3 Arena. She believes in setting her sights high and believes that God expects her to do so. “He’s my biggest fan,” she told me. “He is cheering me on and He wants me to succeed. God wants us to have high expectations. When we raise the bar He opens us up to bigger opportunities than we could ever imagine.’’ It’s hard to disagree with these sentiments given the success she has had so far and the ease with which great things just keep on happening for her, for instance, like meeting Denis Woods. Denis Woods is a Grammy award winning producer who has worked with numerous big names, including Clannad and Enya. His many years’ involvement with the world famous Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin has made him one of the most sought-after producers in the business. Victoria was put in touch with him following the performance at the Helix Theatre. He immediately saw her tremendous potential and produced the two songs that comprise her debut
GOD WANTS US TO HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS. WHEN WE RAISE THE BAR HE OPENS US UP TO BIGGER OPPORTUNITIES THAN WE COULD EVER IMAGINE.
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through their children, she told me that music was her own choice - she absolutely loved it, and her parents were only too happy to support and encourage her in everything she wanted to do. At 18, Victoria got through the demanding entrance competition for a place at the DIT Conservatory of Music in Rathmines where she studied for four years for a Bachelor of Music degree in which she majored, with a first, in composition. She had chosen this more difficult path in order to give herself a greater challenge and to obtain the maximum training and experience in writing and composing. According to Victoria, this was all part of God’s plan for the future
recordings: Tar Liom and You Are the Peace. Victoria had already arranged these songs for acoustic performance, but in the hands of Denis Woods they have been elevated to a level more suited to a bigger stage. The 3 Arena perhaps? When you listen to the songs, you will have no doubt that this is a distinct possibility. I asked Victoria about her songwriting technique. She told me that because of her studies and years of experience, the melody comes very quickly to her. As for the lyrics? Well, she starts every songwriting exercise with a time of prayer in order to ground herself in Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s presence and then the words just come from within. She writes whatever He places on her heart. It is a tremendous partnership, because the fruits of this collaboration are very sweet indeed. These songs are beautiful. Rich. Melodic. Deep. Songs rooted deeply in her faith and in her Irish culture and Celtic heritage. She loves the Irish language, and while not professing to be a fluent Gaeilgeoir, she believes that the Irish language is so melodic, it has to be sung. When you hear these songs I think you agree. Tar Liom, with its swirling melody and ethereal vocals, extends to us an invitation to follow Jesus, while the second song, You Are the Peace, based on an ancient Celtic Christian prayer, speaks of the ever presence of God, and how we just have to ask Him to bring us peace. As she explained these lyrics to me, I realised how she just seems to exude peace and calmness. As she had told me earlier, she knows Jesus is her number one fan. He always wants the best for her. And she relies on Him to provide her with everything she needs to succeed. So, what of the future? Well, she says itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in His hands. She will use the talents He has given her and believes He will open the doors and provide her with the opportunities. Given the doors that have already been opened, it certainly looks like the future is going to be exciting for Victoria Johnston. Download Tar Liom and You Are the Peace from iTunes and all other digital music platforms. You will have the opportunity to see Victoria performing live as part of the One King Music tour in July, which will feature a host of Irish, US and UK Christian performers. To keep up to date with all that is happening with Victoria, you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram (victoriajohnstonofficial) and her website is www.victoriajohnstonofficial.com. APRIL - JUNE 2020 VOX.IE
HELPLINES AND SUPPORT IN TOUGH TIMES FOR YOU OR PEOPLE YOU KNOW! TAKE A PHOTO. KEEP IT. SHARE IT.
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Tar Liom and You Are the Peace VICTORIA JOHNSTON
Rarely has a new release caused such a ripple of excitement on the Irish music scene as the debut double A-sided release from South County Dublin singer/songwriter Victoria Johnston. Even before the songs were released, Irish music magazine Hot Pess was dubbing her the “new Enya”. It is a title, I think, which rests easy on the shoulders of this musician who has been singing and performing solo at the highest level for a number of years now and more recently with her vocal group Celtic Calling. The Enya comparison is perhaps no accident, as both of the new songs were produced by Grammy award winning producer Denis Woods, who has done extensive work with both Enya and Clannad. But while Enya’s music is steeped in the New Age and the mystical, Victoria’s songs draw their inspiration from Celtic Christianity and from the Irish language, which she says just has to be sung. Tar Liom (come to me) and You Are the Peace were released on March 13 on all digital music platforms. These are two very beautiful songs and I have no doubt whatsoever that we will be hearing a lot more from this highly gifted musician during 2020. www.facebook.com/victoriajohnstonofficial
Waking Up The Parishioners HOMEGROWN WORSHIP
Andy Baker has been involved in Christian music for many years now, both as a musician and songwriter, and as a manager to UK worship songstress Philippa Hanna. His passion to promote a worship sound more in keeping with church and culture in the UK and Ireland has led to the setting up of Homegrown Worship, a collective, a community and a platform for new Christian songwriters and musicians to write, collaborate, and produce their own music. As well as releasing songs onto the various digital music platforms, HGW have also been showcasing their impressive collection of songs at a number of live worship events. These events have been hugely popular in the UK, and HGW are planning on holding similar events in Ireland this year. To get a flavour of what’s involved, just have a listen to their debut full-length album Waking Up The Parishioners. Featuring songs written by Andy, as well by two new major emerging talents, Nick Law and Loulita Gill, this album was recorded in Cheltenham in May last year. The album contains ten brilliant songs performed with a 10-piece band with congregational backing. Check out the website www.homegrownworship.com and listen to their extensive catalogue on Spotify and on YouTube.
After All These Years
Do you remember a group called Avalon? If you do you are probably showing your age. They have been around since their formation in 1995, producing nine best selling albums and picking up multiple awards along the way. Nothing has been heard from them since their last album Reborn was released in 2009, topping the Christian album chart. The good news is that they are back with their new album Called. So, was it worth the wait? Yes, it was. Their exquisite harmonies soar over lyrics full of faith and encouragement, complemented by exemplary musicianship and skilled production. While there are enough shades of “old” Avalon to satisfy older fans, there is a freshness about this newer sound that puts it easily on par with many of today’s artists and groups. For me, If Not for Jesus is the standout track. It opens as a beautiful piano ballad before bursting into its passionate second half. This is a worthy comeback album and hopefully the beginning of a series of new recordings from this brilliant band.
Talented husband and wife team Brian and Jen Johnson have led worship at Bethel for over 15 years writing the songs that have shaped the sound of modern praise and worship music. It has been an exciting journey, but not without its pitfalls. Brian suffered a devastating nervous breakdown, which resulted in a songwriting hiatus. Their comeback has been nothing short of spectacular with After All These Years. Comprising ten breathtaking songs with full orchestral backing, this album is a rare thing of beauty. The emotion in Jen’s voice as she sings will speak directly to your heart. The opening track Mention of Your Name, and the final track For the One, will bring you right into God’s presence, and between these songs you will find eight more that will both encourage you and give you hope. The song You’re Gonna Be OK will speak comfort to any who are finding life a bit tough at present. After All These Years is a must-have for your praise and worship collection.
BRIAN AND JEN JOHNSON
Albums reviewed by UCB Ireland Radio producer/presenter Vincent Hughes. Listen to his programme 12-3pm Monday to Friday and 11am-3pm on Saturdays on Virgin Media Channel 918, on Sky Channel 0214 or via the smartphone app. You can contact Vincent at firstname.lastname@example.org | www.ucbireland.com.
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WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND IRELAND?
ARC Launch Training 22 - 23 May Open Arms Church, Newbridge, Co. Kildare www.arcireland.org
Summer Fire 19 – 26 June Trabolgan, Co. Cork www. summerfireconference. com
Chapel Conference “Defined” 29 – 30 May St. Mark’s Church, Dublin 2 www.chapeldublin.com/ conf
Summer Madness 26 – 30 June Glenarm, Co. Antrim www.summermadness. co.uk
1 King Music Tour 2020 13 – 26 July www.1kingmusic.com
Sligo 20 New Wine 12 - 17 July Sligo IT www.newwineireland. org
Adventures in the Supernatural 27 – 29 July Bradford, UK www. europeanleadersalliance. org
* All events are subject to the coronavirus restrictions.
Street Pastor teams are in Dublin City Centre every Saturday night until 4am, aiming to care, listen and help whomever we come across. We would love to have more teams out serving - would you consider joining us?
Find out more: www.streetpastors.org/locations/dublin Facebook.com/DublinStreetPastors | 085 102 1727 44
VOX.IE APRIL - JUNE 2020
Culture of Honor
This is a companion volume to The Essential Guide to Healing, which I reviewed in the last issue. It occurred to Randy Clark that when we want to pray more for healing, we could learn a lot from chatting personally with those who have strong healing gifts. We could learn essential principles that they have learned the hard way. But such chats aren’t easily come by, so he decided to record interviews with people who regularly witness healings and miracles. One of those he interviewed was Bill Johnson, and Bill also turned the tables and interviewed him. This volume is the record of those interviews. “This is as close as you can get to being personally mentored by Bill and Randy.” - Francis MacNutt These are not sanitised accounts but they are real, raw and intimate. They share their journeys with humility and humour, both their failures and their successes. They question each other about how and why they started to pray for healing, what they learnt along the way and how, their mistakes and failures, their struggles, the breakthroughs that encouraged them, how they learned to partner with the Holy Spirit, how they pressed in for more healing, and the miracles that have astounded them the most. This is time-tested advice that can propel us forward to bring healing to those around us. This is a unique opportunity to gain insights from two men who are far further than most of us along the road of praying for healing.
In Ireland, we seem to be much more expert at begrudgery than honour. In recent years, dishonour has become even more manifest, with terms like “road rage”, “racism”, “hate speech”, “knife crime” and “gang violence” becoming part of everyday parlance. Even in our churches, many of us live in atmospheres devoid of honour. Yet Jesus revealed that the heart of God is full of honour. Remember the woman caught in adultery? When we are met with honour, we receive freedom to confront our lifelong issues and to receive healing, and we are released to move forward into our divine destinies. But honour does not just happen. We must all deliberately set out to create a culture of honour. This book outlines a ‘recipe’ for creating such a culture, both the ingredients and steps. “Accurately acknowledging who people are will position us to give them what they deserve, and to receive the gift of who they are into our lives.” The key is in discerning others’ God-given value, seeing beyond their current behaviour and relationships, and treating them as God sees them. When we treat them according to God’s perspective, it gives them the safety and freedom that encourages them to grow and mature. When we live in a culture of honour, we experience freedom, respect, empowerment, and healthy discipline instead of punishment. The resurrection life of Jesus flows into our lives, and as a result the presence of God impacts our families and friends, and ultimately our communities.
By Bill Johnson & Randy Clark
by Danny Silk
Complete NIV Audio Bible Read by David Suchet
I have trialled many Audio Bibles, and most of them reminded me of a bad GPS voice! Not so this one. Since he became a Christian at the age of 40, it was Poirot actor David Suchet‘s dream to make an audio recording of the whole Bible. He spent over 200 hours in the recording studio to create the very first full-length audio version of the whole NIV Bible [752,702 words!] spoken by a single nonAmerican actor. According to the Irish Times, Suchet became a Christian after reading a hotel room Bible in 1986. His moment of epiphany came upon reading St Paul’s epistle to the Romans, which proclaims: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Freed from the stiff disguise of Poirot’s accent, David Suchet’s deep, melodic, unrushed voice lends itself perfectly to listening to the Scriptures. He reads in a measured way, always full of feeling. His use of light and shade is excellent, his clarity and diction is perfect, and his voice extremely listenable. An Audio Bible can enhance how you experience Scripture, especially when you are very busy, and your devotional times are short. Many listen to the Complete NIV Audio Bible while they are driving, jogging or doing housework. Those with disability or literacy challenges also appreciate it. This 80-hour recording comes on six MP3 CDs. It can be used on any device that displays the MP3 symbol. You can also transfer the audio files for your personal use onto any other compatible device.
Book reviews by Julie Carvill of christianbooks.ie, from where you can order these and other inspiring titles: email@example.com or +353 (0)86 839 1870
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TRUSTING YOUR FAITH? BY SEÁN MULLAN
y joke repertoire is limited. It usually contains one solitary funny story. When I hear another one that I like it expels the previous occupant of the funny slot in my head. If I’m trying to be funny, and it usually involves a good deal of trying, I watch for the sign that my listener has heard my joke before, that facial intensity that shows energy being exerted to appear interested. That’s the signal it’s time to find a new funny story. One joke that occupied the funny slot concerned two nuns. Out for a Sunday drive, their car ran out of fuel on a country road. They walked to a nearby farm and found a farmer with a kind heart and some fuel he was willing to share with the stranded sisters. But, a bit embarrassed, he told them the only container he could find to hold their precious cargo was a child’s potty. “Not a bother,” they exclaimed, gratefully. Back at the car they were carefully pouring the fuel from the potty into the tank when a well-known Protestant clergyman drove past. Winding down his window he called across the road, “You know sisters, I don’t agree with your religion but I certainly admire your faith.” “I admire your faith.” Even in postreligious Ireland, it’s not an uncommon
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term. “She has wonderful faith.” “I’m glad you have your faith for a time like this.” The assumption behind such statements is that faith is something you either have or don’t have. It’s like a talent or a character trait. “You have a wonderful voice.” “You’ve got great style.” But unlike style or a great voice, faith is something all of us have and we all use every day. I don’t mean we’re all religious! And confusing religion and faith has been one of the great failings of our recent history. Nor do I mean that we all believe in a “higher power”. We don’t. But we all have and use faith every day. Stick with me for an explanation. I use public transport a lot. I have never yet asked a driver for their licence or for a vehicle safety cert. I trust that both driver and vehicle are up to the job. So far that trust has never been disappointed. They may turn up late occasionally but I have never boarded a bus worried that the driver is going to practice handbrake turns or drive us into a wall. I trust the service on the basis of what I know and what I have experienced. In other words, I have faith. All of us exercise this kind of faith all the time. We trust doctors and baristas, gardaí and checkout staff, electricians and waiters. Without this kind of faith, the world as we know it stops functioning. Bus journeys are interminable because every passenger wants to see the driver’s licence before boarding. Checkout queues stretch the length of the supermarket because everyone is running the sums on their
calculators. People would end up afraid to leave home. Life requires faith to make it work. Here is a big question. Why have we taken the issue of faith in a god and put it in a category of its own? Why is that particular brand of faith a quality that you either have or haven’t got and really can’t do anything about? If faith in God, like all other forms of faith is based on what we know and experience then it is possible to have conversations that don’t end simply because one of us says “I believe in God” and another says “I don’t.” I recently saw Tommy Tiernan and Bob Geldof on TV chatting about life. During the conversation Geldof declared, “there is no god so I can’t go to him.” Later Tiernan came back to the topic and asked, “Am I naïve to believe that if the heart has a hunger it’s because that food is there somewhere?” He understands that what you believe can be linked to what you know and what you have experienced. If faith in God has a future in everyday life in Ireland it will be based on what we can know and experience. If not, it may become the remit of the “enlightened” few who are dedicated to what they believe but can’t really explain why. Like the nuns with the potty the rest of us might admire them but won’t feel able to participate.
CONFUSING RELIGION AND FAITH HAS BEEN ONE OF THE GREAT FAILINGS OF OUR RECENT HISTORY.
Seán Mullan has been working in church leadership for many years. He has developed a project in Dublin City Centre called “Third Space”.
12 - 17 JULY 2020
BIBLE TEACHING, WORSHIP & MINISTRY FOR ALL AGES BIBLE READING SPEAKERS INCLUDE: SIMON PONSONBY AND CHARLES MCMULLEN BOOK NOW AT NEWWINEIRELAND.ORG
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VOX.IE APRIL - JUNE 2020