Sunday, 6 May
From 1 - 7 May, VOX Editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is travelling around Ireland hunting down stories of faith, life and reality. Follow the blog each day for a "taste" of the stories, meet the people she encounters and experience the highs and lows of the journey! (Of course, the summer issue of VOX will be packed full of these stories and more).
There was an incredibly warm welcome at Urban Junction in Blackrock on Sunday morning. This lovely, relaxed church has a real family feel and, interestingly, visiting speaker Rev. Mark Forsyth was talking about "The Church as the Family of God". A lovely feature of the service was "open mic" - a time when different members of the congregation could get up and share thoughts, prayer requests and encouragements.
Dividing into small groups to pray was a special way to end the service, although my group came to a rather abrupt (albeit humorous) halt when a football landed into the centre of our prayer time - definitely a real family church!
After the service, tables were laid out (both inside and out) for a community lunch. This bring-and-share meal takes place once a month and a certain magazine editor was extremely happy to be invited to stay!
Lunch was an opportunity to meet with a number of church members including Jono, who won a Silver Medal for Basketball in the 2003 Special Olympics. I had already spotted this young man who worked incredibly hard both before and after the service to set out the chairs!
Alan is involved with the Blackrock Men's Shed that currently meets in the church (although they are hoping to find a plot of land where they can house both the Men's Shed and a community garden.)
Michael works with Christian Aid Ireland. He arrived back at Urban Junction from this morning's Live RTE Service. We chatted about the up-coming Christian Aid week (13 - 19 May) and about the challenges faced by "displaced people" in places like Haiti. This six-minute video gives a powerful insight into how Christian Aid support enables local people to re-build after tragedy strikes.
From Blackrock, I head west again through Meath, Westmeath and Offaly (with a slight panic when I almost run out of petrol coming out of Dublin - for some reason I couldn't find a petrol station anywhere!!). My B&B for the night is just outside of Tullamore and I stop off there before the evening meeting in Mountmellick, Co Laois. My landlady tells me about the Durrow High Cross - just a few kilometres away and so I decide to take a quick run up to see it. Durrow was the site of a 6th century monastery established by St. Columcille (St. Columba) and the Book of Durrow is an illustrated Gospel manuscript that pre-dates the Book of Kells (it is kept in Trinity College Dublin).
From Durrow, I head to Mountmellick where I meet up with Ruth Matthews from the Methodist Church. Ruth shares about their thriving youth work (called CHAOS) attracting between 12 and 20 teenagers each week. The young people are active in the church - running annual youth services (last year a 12-year-old preached a challenging message!) and getting involved in various outreach projects. On June bank holiday this year, they plan to run a CHAOS cafe - serving tea and coffee outside the church for folks attending the Laois Fleadh. The youngsters will be visiting old people's homes over the summer months and they are helping to put together care packages for homeless people in Dublin.
The Methodist President, Rev Laurence Graham was visiting tonight so I stayed for the service. It was wonderful to meet the South Korean minister Rev. Young Nam Park who also pastors a Korean church in Dublin.
"When I think that serving God is all up to me, then I have begun working for Him instead of walking with Him," Laurence shared. "A real meeting with Jesus will overflow into sharing Jesus with others and with a greater hunger for more of Jesus."
After a cup of tea and a sandwich, it was time to head back to my accommodation to post the penultimate blog... last day tomorrow and although this has been an amazing journey... I will also be grateful to head home on Tuesday morning!