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Newsletter October 2012


Change one heart at a time, one hard head at a time

Recently a Methodist community worker told Ward we are doing very important work, because people see us on the street, and at events, and say with wonder, they are those Americans.  Marda ran into a minister with whom we had engaged over meals at a two day retreat.  He said do you remember what you said when I asked you your impression of the Northern Ireland church?  He then said, "you said, needs to hear about Grace".  He went on to say he has used this in his preaching.

The theology here is reminiscent of the 1950s in America, when "inerrancy" was the battle of the day.  Pietism is rampant.  People and churches are divided.  This is overlaid with the 322 year old failure of King James to regain the crown from King William of Orange, which established British Protestant rule over Ireland. Years of strife and in 1921 Ireland was partitioned, and the south of Ireland became a free state and Northern Ireland was formed.  The angst is rooted in the politics.

The latest riots at the Carlisle Circus were ten blocks down the Crumlin Road.  The riots stemmed from the July 12th parade whereby the pipe bands stopped in front of

the Catholic church three blocks further east,and played provocative tunes.  Now mind you the church was closed that day, the only day of the year it closed, to avoid conflict, but the people in the parish area were annoyed.

Marda met the priest of that Catholic church who had worked hard to negotiate the peace.  She was bold enough to ask why he said on the radio that it seemed to him that the bands played louder in front of his church, saying it wasn't very helpful.  Not original with us but why does one group continue to march, and the other group is so easily offended?

A milestone for Northern Irish history is the Ulster Covenant when the Protestant people signed this document which let the British government know that they would take up arms to prevent the establishment of a home rule government in Ireland.  The centenary parade was 29 September 2012.  30,000 people associated with the Orange Order paraded six miles from City Hall to Stormont.  A half million people signed the Covenant documents in 1912, indicative of changing norms.

We prayed along with many others for peaceful parading and left the city for the day.  We rode the train down to Dublin and on to Greystones where we were met at the Station by our friend Ethel.  We had a delicious brunch in a local restaurant where I had a vegi nut loaf (meatloaf without the meat) with two salads and a latte, and Ward had quiche and a cappuccino with an extra shot.  This is close to heaven.  Then Ethel took us over the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough where we retook the photo used in our initial brochure for our calling to Ireland.  From there we drove to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Dublin, where an annual sculpture exhibition is staged, walked around and had tea.  On the way back north we stopped at Monasterboice where the original of the high crosses from the 10th Century still stand.  Muiredach's at 19' tall is reputed the best with a 1902 casting in the Ulster Museum.  Arriving into Belfast we tune into the news.  Praise God the parade was free of violence.

Significantly the Methodist church issued an apology for its historical role in the Ulster Covenant.  An outcome about which our friend Harry Smith wrote Heal Not Lightly.  This was met by scathing criticism and flag waving.  Loyalist Ulster is more British than the British.

Inge and Roger Henderson with Sabina and Rose, are visiting tonight for five days.  Inge is going to conduct a workshop on how to help children or grandchildren with reading.  This will be one of many events that use our church halls and bridge with the local people.  Next month Jim Weir, a Shankill Road community worker is talking about Drugs, Suicide, and Jesus.  Perhaps a poetry session is in the works.  It is, so it is.

Lastly we attended East Belfast Mission Fest a two day event marking the opening of their Skainos building.  I will devote next month's newsletter to EBM.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2

Email: wardstothers@cten.org
Phone: (028) 90 291986  From U.S. 01144.2890.291986

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