Sunday 24 May: Citywest, Dublin to Monaghan, Co Monaghan
For seven days, VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams and her husband Andrew are travelling around the island asking, "What is God doing in Ireland today?" Along the way, they meet inspirational people who are living out their faith in real life. This blog brings a daily round up.
We've been reminded that on this day in history (24 May 1738) John Wesley attended a meeting in Aldersgate that was to radically change his life. In his Journal he wrote, "While he [the speaker] was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins."
We had an easy start to the day and a straightforward drive to the town of Roscrea, Co Tipperary where we were set to join Oasis Christian Fellowship for morning worship at 11am. A highlight of the drive was tipping over the 1,000 miles mark of the tour so far! Arriving early, we had the chance to look around the town and especially to visit the High Cross, although we were rather crushed to discover it was only a replica.
At Oasis, we met VOX columnist Ken Baker and his wife Val and Pastor Trevor, who shared how the church has a heart to reach out into the local community. A lovely relaxed time of worship featured a rather unusual Bible reading (Psalm 136 as a rap!) and a time of communion including an opportunity for one of the younger church members to participate for the first time. In a special moment, she prayed the Lord's prayer in Irish.
On the road again, we travelled north, stopping only for a quick lunch overlooking Lough Ree before continuing to the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan for a special Pentecost Service for the Church of Ireland Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh. Over 800 people from parishes right across Cavan, Longford, Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon gathered for the service.
In his address, Bishop Ferran Glenfield reminded the churches of the importance of being Christ-centred, "All our prayers, all our praises, all our worship must glorify the risen Lord jesus. It is all about Him. There are times when we get the impression when He is conspicuous by His absence. He should be the centre, the chief attraction!"
As several clergy recounted stories of what God is doing, Canon Ronnie Bourke from the Boyle and Riverstown group of parishes (stretching between Co Roscommon and Co Sligo) shared, "Zech chapter four asks the question, 'Who dares despise the day of small things?' Like anybody of faith, I pray and I long to see big things happening but for that to be an honest prayer, we need to keep doing the small things in fresh and imaginative ways. At the end of an Alpha programme several months ago (alongside the local Methodist minister) I said a simple prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to come and touch people’s lives. A few days later, I had a call form the Methodist minister saying, 'Laura* (name changed) has been suffering severe pain every morning for two years. Since you prayed, she has had no pain!' To God be the glory! It reminded me to give more opportunity for God to work in the ordinary things of daily life."
Our final stop of the day was in Monaghan, Co Monaghan. Gayle Berry (a Church of Ireland minister's wife) was the very first person to invite us to visit during the Finding Faith Tour and together with her husband, Ian had lined up a range of opportunities for us to meet Christians from many different churches.
There followed a relaxed evening chatting with some of the local women. Gayle herself is a schoolteacher. Tracey is married to the local Presbyterian minister. Lizzie, from the Elim Pentecostal church, works at the YWCA. Suzanne has two young children and works at the town library and Fern, who also has two children, is a sales assistant at Carphone Warehouse.
The women share their excitement at the increasing unity between churches in Monaghan and the wide variety of opportunities for children and young people to grow in their faith through Sunday School, camps and holiday clubs and through a number of thriving youth groups.
"From a parent's point of view, I've seen how much my children enjoy going to church. They come out of church singing songs," Suzanne shared.
Lizzie describes Jesus as her "best friend" - "I talk to God all the time in the car. It is so real for me," she said.
Tracey told us how her faith has been strengthened through the tragedy of losing her oldest son when he was just six years old. "Even our friends were angry with God after Tim died. I was never angry. I felt that God knew what was best. At times, my faith was shakey. I struggled to pray because I just didn’t know what to say. But there were great folk around us who were praying when we could not pray."
There are many more stories but they will have to wait... for now, it is time for bed! A much-needed rest before the last day of the tour!