Thursday 4 May
Day three of the Finding Faith tour and it was another caffeine-fueled early start as I brave the M50 again to head back into Dublin city. For my first appointment, I was the interviewee, chatting to Vincent Hughes at UCB Radio Ireland about the tour. UCB is a national Christian radio station that broadcasts 24/7 with a mix of Christian music, interviews, teaching and inspirational thoughts. You can listen live on www.ucbirelandradio.com.
A trip across town brings me to the Westin Hotel, where I meet up with Ryan Ashley, originally from the US, who now calls Dublin his home. Ryan is a musician and shares how he is finding opportunities to lead worship and also to connect with other musicians through his passion.
Walking back across the Liffey and up O'Connell Street, I feel like a tourist snapping photos of random landmarks. I'm captured by the colour and beauty of the city even in the face of outwards scars like the chaos of the Luas extension and the deeper pain of broken humanity (...the woman begging on the bridge... the homeless man huddled over his few belongings... and a dozen other cameos I deliberately didn't photograph.)
With a few minutes to spare before my afternoon meeting, I call in to Foley Street to visit the folks at Tearfund Ireland. Niamh Daly and Gemma Kelly have just returned from a trip to Jordan. They had a chance to see first hand the way Tearfund support is helping Syrian refugees. To find out more about Tearfund's work, visit www.tearfund.ie.
And of course, I can't pass by the Innovista Ireland office without stopping off to say "Hello!" Declaration of interest here... I'm the chairperson of Innovista Ireland and I think the work this team does investing in the lives of young leaders is amazing... . I'm interrupting a planning meeting of for the up-coming Leading for Life NW workshop in Derry at the end of May so I wave goodbye and head for my next meeting!
The afternoon is taken up with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland Council of Reference - a gathering of leaders from a wide range of different denominations, ministries and church backgrounds to discuss vital national issues. There were some fascinating and important conversations through the afternoon but one highlight was hearing leaders sharing stories of what God is doing.
Christine Hand from Dublin Vineyard is excited about the renewed interest in the Alpha Course. "We used to run Alpha all the time but since last autumn, the number of people who are coming to Alpha has just amazed us. There seems to be a new momentum, especially of people in their 20s and 30s who have no previous connection with church."
Nick Park from Solid Rock Church in Drogheda shared how his church members handed out 2,500 packets of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday to friends and neighbours as a gift. Over 400 turned up to an Easter Party at the church the following day with bouncy castles, food and a traditional Irish music band. On Easter Day, many turned up to the service with 15 responding to the message.
There was plenty of food for thought in a discussion about the "posture" of the church at a time when society is often hostile towards organised religion. "There is a huge opportunity when the church is out of kilter with society if we combine that with credibility," says Rev. Laurence Graham, who takes over as President of the Methodist Church of Ireland this year.
After a long and intense afternoon, it was time to get on the road again and brave more traffic jams for the "short" drive to Naas, County Kildare where I am staying with James and Joanie Reilly ("short" being over 1 1/2 hours). Over a lovely meal, we chat about Joanie's work as a counsellor and her new project - "The school of emotional and spiritual health" which helps people to live healthy and resilient lives.
After dinner, I hear more of James' story (more of that in the magazine) and also chat about Science and Faith (James is an academic and a statistician - something I have discovered is much easier to write than it is to say!).
The clock has just ticked over to midnight... so I think it is time to swap my "pen" for a pillow!