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Newsletter August 2013

Wheeler piece  

The Lull before the storm…hope our guests see sun

Last night we had the privilege of hearing Jim Wallis and our clergy group met with him this morning.  He is the long time political activist for social justice, now speaking on the "common good".  He is the publisher of Sojourners magazine.  He spoke for skepticism, but never cynicism, as it becomes our excuse for disengaging.  Marda was able to say to a local professor who cited the hypocrisy of Stormont to have an "I have a Dream" event when they have no vision, that the government ministers have given us a big vision for taking the peace walls down within ten years.  There are 80 interface area walls in Belfast.  We all must act for this to happen.

On a praise note our pre-worship prayer and prayer bulletin have been noted.  We are seeing the evidence of God working when people from the neighborhood have sought out our minister and are coming to the church.  This is from a hard core area decimated by the 30 years of the Troubles, dereliction, and a freeway.  In addition, a Bible College, from the east side of town, has moved into our adjacent premises, adding people and additional Christian ethos to the neighborhood.  Lastly, two gospel singers came in this week

to inquire about renting a hall.  We later saw them in front of City Hall, singing and offering free coffee and tea.

We have no vote but we do live here.  Marda attended a meeting of Art for Arterial Routes and met two artists who are contracted to make art for two streets in the lower Shankill.  Both have vehicular gates in the peace walls.  These are really blighted areas.  She gets a call from Frank who wants to meet her to discuss why the wall can't come down.  This is her opportunity to help one person remove the walls in their mind and heart.
July we purposely didn't write about parades and riots. It seemed that the world news was covering it.  However when we read many simplistic regurgitations characterizing the Irish Catholics as against the British Protestants I feel I must clarify.  The people born in and who have roots from the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland are Irish.  The old Gaelic language shared with Scotland and Wales is called Irish.  It is not Ulster Scots which is a dialect of English.  Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (Great Britain and Northern Ireland since the partition of Ireland in 1921).  Westminster is the seat of government, Stormont, is the Assembly for Northern Ireland, and the Belfast City Council is the local government.  Citizens of Northern Ireland are all British not just the Protestants.  Just like people born in the United States are Americans, red and yellow, black and white.
We advocate the rule of law and also give vent to frustrations.  We pray for resolution and peace.  We continue to support the local merchants who are affected and speak to strangers whenever we can.  We ask you to pray for peace.

I don't know exactly where the Divis Street bonfire was (another riot location) but when I pulled into the church parking lot one night, four teens were hanging around the entrance which is 100 feet from the security barriers (peace walls) and over on the other side I could see a bit of smoke rising.  So I rolled down my window to ask one of them "do you know what's burning over there?"  The wee teen said "I think it's some scrap wood". I said "so it's not really a problem".  "No I don't think so."  "Good."  I proceeded to park my car.

So yes it is all around us but not on our block so we are fine.  We pray and good things are happening.
John Grant who was baptized on St Patrick's Day came back, and is heading home to Wellington NZ.  Pray for him as he reunites with mom, kids, and church.

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

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