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February 2015

January 2015

FOR MLK DAY - JIM WALLIS INSPIRES BELFAST TO DREAM

MLK Day

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It is a day that inspires all kinds of provocative quotations to be shared on Facebook, Twitter and wherever else we can. I wondered what I would blog for the day and found this. It is a blog from August 2013 when by wonderful providence we had Jim Wallis in Fitzroy on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Jim Wallis's use of King that night in Fitzroy seems the appropriate blog for Martin Luther King Day. Ponder and surmise!

It was hearing that speech on August 23rd 1963, as a fourteen year old boy living in a very white world, that changed Jim’s life. Were it not for that speech Jim might not have been with us last night inspiring us to put Jesus on the streets, living the transforming command of Scripture to love our neighbour and giving us the spiritual stamina to decide for hope when all seems hopeless.

Jim used the speech very poignantly. He began by suggesting that it was the anniversary of King’s “I have a complaint” speech! Of course it wasn’t and the difference between a “compliant” and a “dream” is profound. There are many things we can complain about and protest against. It is easy to complain but it is in dreaming that people bring about social change. Dreaming is about imagining how change looks. The Bible had told us this a long, long time ago; “your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”

After Jim spoke we opened the meeting to the floor and John Brewer, Professor of Post Conflict Studies at Queen’s University, made us aware that at the very same time as we were listening to Jim there was a meeting at Stormont to celebrate the "I Have A Dream" speech. John shared how that seemed a little incongruous with the lack of imagination that we have heard publicly from our politicians over recent years. John then went on to say how refreshing it was to be listening to the hopefulness of Jim’s talk.

In my conversations with John, usually when we meet each other dog walking in Lagan Meadows, he has always been pushing the need for a public discourse on hope. I cannot count the number of times where I have been in political, Church and community situations where I have acknowledged how right he is. I understood his comparison and contrasting of these two meetings in the same city on the same anniversary night.

Earlier the next day I had been with Jim Wallis for a Breakfast meeting with church, community and political leaders, hosted by Glenn Jordan at Skainos in East Belfast, and got chatting to Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle who had been one of the instigators of the Stormont meeting. Chris gave me an alternative perspective. He felt strongly that it was a very poignant time to gather our political leaders to ponder on King’s speech. He shared some of, what he felt were, the similarities between King’s gathering in Washington and our own current impasse. So, I left the breakfast thinking that, though it might have been almost a hypocrisy for our leaders to be remembering such a historical moment of social progress and reconciliation at a time when they were failing to lead us in that way, that maybe a meditation on that speech at this time could only be useful; almost hopeful!

In the end Jim Wallis’s message to us, over the three different events he spoke at here in Belfast, was that we the ordinary people need to give a space and the mandate to our politicians for change. President JF Kennedy was not a supporter of King’s Washington gathering. The political leaders in Washington felt that it would need some time to bring the country to the place that King was dreaming of. However, what the Washington gathering of 250,000 people did was to give the politicians the encouragement to move faster. Jim was inspiring those of us meeting in Fitzroy to be a ground swell of change that would give the necessary collateral to those who met at Stormont to make our future together better! Where does that begin. Well, moving from “I have a complaint” to “I have a dream” is where it starts.


LET ME BE A PARTICLE OF YOUR LIGHT... (Bruce Cockburn - Hills Of Morning)

Belfast particle of light

There are phrase that the preacher uses that stick, that are repeated, that can become imbedded in lives and communities. Just a few words that can carry a sermon or a theological idea or a mission statement into people’s minds before hopefully seeping into their hearts and souls and then out into their lives and actions. “Particles of light across the city” has become one of many such phrases in Fitzroy.

I stole it as I often do from a song. My very favourite Bruce Cockburn record is Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaw. It is a spiritually potent album, vivid in literary images, influenced by the Charles Williams books that Cockburn was reading at the time. For years I had the chorus of one of that album’s songs, Hills Of Morning, on a photograph of the Giants Causeway up on my study wall.

“Let me be a little of your breath
Moving over the face of the deep
I want to be a particle of your light
Flowing over the hills of morning”

These words conjure the mystery of how us humans somehow get the privilege of merging with God in God’s tangible presence in the world. It is a prayer to be involved in God’s breath, in God’s light, in God’s mission to make the world better than the world is. 

Back in September 2010 I titled a sermon “Particles Of Light…” and it has stuck. As well as attempting to be missional where we are located, on University Street in Belfast, we are aware that as a community we are vocationally scattered across the entire city and indeed beyond. Our members work in very influential places, effecting social change and caring for many people who are not finding themselves cared for elsewhere.

A friend of mine who now works for a Christian development organisation told me once that when he was a probation officer no one asked him how he was bringing the Kingdom but that now that he is working for a “Christian” organisation lots of people ask him. 

I don’t believe you have to be working for a Christian organisation to bring the Kingdom. We can, and indeed must, be “particles of light” scattered across the city, bringing the thinking, voice, touch, attitude and ultimately love of God wherever we are and whoever we are with. Those particles of light are somehow partners with God making up the bigger light. I guess that is why Jesus called himself the Light of the world and then at another time told the disciples that they were the Light of the world. 

Cockburn’s lyric is powerful prayer seeking God that we might be part of the force that transforms the world.

“Let me be a little of your breath
Moving over the face of the deep
I want to be a particle of your light
Flowing over the hills of morning”


TOMORROW IN FITZROY 18.1.15

Fitzroy Board

Tomorrow morning (11am) in Fitzroy we will be looking at the story and our part in it. Steve will be baptising little Tom Arnold and explaining this Covenant story and symbol of grace, so wonderfully expressed in infant baptism where grace is all about God and nothing to do with human effort; loved simply as we are! Jonathan will then start his series in the Parables helping us see that we live in the stories we tell ourselves and how those stories tell us what is important to us. Jesus was a master storyteller and through the parable fo the Sower we will ask if we are sowing the seeds of God's love as generosuly and lavishly  across the city as his parable commands us?

In the evening (7pm) we have an absolute treat. Susan Mansfield, writer, journalist and creator of The Passion Walk in Edinburgh will help us to see the spirituality of walking and explain to us about this Good Friday's Passion Walk right here in Belfast. 


4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2015: SHORT PROGRAMME FOR GLANCING!

4C 15 BANNER

Here is a quick glance at the 4 Corners Festival programme... Perfect for those Church bulletins...

4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2015 - January 29th - February 8th

20 ARTISTS: RELIGION and SPIRITUALITY

January 29th to February 8th, at Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts (launch evening Thursday January 29th at 7.30pm)

How does the contemporary visual artistic community living or exhibiting in Belfast depict spirituality? Exhibition includes print, painting, sculpture and digital.

Free BUT donations welcome …

4 CORNERS PRAYER BREAKFAST

Friday January 30th at 8am

Our annual prayer breakfast 

This is an invitation only event.

 

A NIGHT WITH MESSY WOMEN

Friday January 30th at 7.30 in Canada Room, Lanyon Building, QUB, 

A Biblical Storytelling Event with Wendy Johnston. 

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.   

 

CORNERS OF THE CIRCLE: ART EXHIBITION IN 4 CHURCHES IN 4 CORNERS

Saturday 31st January from 1pm – 4pm. There will be an opportunity to visit the art pieces with the artist.   Bus leaving from PS² Gallery, 18 Donegall St, Belfast, BT12 2GP at 1pm. 

Corners of the circle, is the first ART piece to come out of Bronagh Lawson visiting 340 Churches in just a few years. Installed in four different churches around the city, Bronagh invites you to visit each.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

 

IMAGINATION TOWARDS GENEROSITY: A THEOLOGY

Sunday February 1st at 7.00, in St Malachy’s Church, 24 Alfred Street, Belfast

Michelle Marken and Steve Stockman explore the Biblical mandate and the pragmatic outworking of imagining generosity in Belfast.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.

 

IMAGINING A BELFAST WITHOUT WALLS 

Monday February 2nd at 7.30pm in Townsend Street Presbyterian Church

Vicky Cosstick will share about her soon to be published book Belfast:  Towards a City Without Walls 

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

 

BELFAST’S GENEROSITY TO THE 4 CORNERS OF THE WORLD

Tuesday February 3rd at 11am, Belfast City Hall

Belfast based NGOs share their stories of our city’s generosity toward the world. Philip Orr shows how historical this is as he tells us how we wouldn’t let the slave ships dock.

invite only... 

 

3 MAYORS FOR ALL 4 CORNERS

Tuesday February 3rd at 8.00pm, Ulster Museum 

In recent years Belfast city has been blessed with some imaginative and generous Lord Mayors. Gavin Robinson, Mairtin O Mulleior and Nichola Mallon share their stories!Event Free BUT donations welcome

 

IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING 

Wednesday February 4th at 7:30 PM, Fortwilliam & Macrory Presbyterian Church on the Antrim Road (top of Fortwilliam Park)

Come and hear how Tearfund, Trócaire and Stop the Traffik, are involved in different ways, at home and abroad, in the fight against human trafficking.

Free BUT donations welcome 

 

4 CORNERS REFUGEE FEAST (by invitation only)

Thursday February 5th at 6:30 PM, Belfast City Hall

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Nichola Mallon, in partnership with the 4 Corners Festival, will host this year’s meal for refugees recently arrived in Belfast. 

Buy a meal for a refugee for £20

 

“GREATER LOVE” - Stories, Images and Music from World War One with THE NEW IRISH ARTS

Friday 6th February at 8pm, Clonard Monastery 

New Irish Arts is delighted to be this artistic project on WW1 to Clonard. 

TICKETS £10 

 

 

 

FILM: A STEP TOO FAR? A CONTEMPLATION ON FORGIVENESS

Saturday February 7th at 3pm, in Strand Arts Centre

From Northern Ireland to the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania ’A Step Too Far?’ investigates an alternative to revenge; the idea of forgiveness. 

This event has been sponsored by Irish Churches Peace Project.

To book, please email: info@fourcornersfestival.com .

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

 

‘SLIGHE NA BEATHA - ‘The Path of Life’

‘You make known to me the path of life’. Psalm 16 v11.

A journey through the Psalms – an evening of reflection and music with Scottish Gaelic Psalm singers.

Saturday February 7th at 7pm in Skainos, 239 Newtownards Road.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

 

A NEW GENERATION OF PEACEMAKERS

Sunday February 8th at 7pm, in Sacred Heart Parish Centre, 1 Glenview Street. 

We close this year’s festival with a worship celebration led by and thinking about the young peacemakers of Belfast. Speaker is Jasper Rutherford!

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.

more information on the website here...  


SURMISING MY UNEASE WITH "JE SUIS CHARLIE"

Je Ne Suis

On Sunday morning in Fitzroy we prayed for the families of those murdered, in what has become known as the Charlie Hebdo Shootings, and the people of Paris and France as they came to terms with those very frightening days and for the world leaders for wisdom as they respond to what was an attack on our western freedoms. I have been surmising a few things in the aftermath of a week that shook Europe and beyond.

Almost immediately after the shootings the world wanted to empathise with the victims. Je Suis Charlie went viral. Free speech was what we felt had been violated. For sure, nobody should be targeted and shot dead for drawing a few satirical cartoons. Yet, I was uneasy about writing "Je Suis Charlie" on my Facebook status. I was moved to pray for the victims’ families but who is Charlie? What does Charlie stand for? Why are they selling millions of copies of the first edition after the attack? What is free speech?

I have grown continually uneasy. Free speech is indeed a precious thing but that free speech, like all our freedoms, comes with responsibility. We cannot just say things or print things or cartoon things because we want to have the right to do whatever we want. We need to ask why we are speaking and what will be the consequences of our speaking for the common good of all. The Bible is all about the common good. The love of neighbour and even enemy. The welcome of stranger. The gifting of grace to the marginalised. The hope for shalom. 

I am not Charlie because Charlie and I might well disagree over what is free speech and what is disrepectful to others. We do not need to misuse our freedom of speech to alienate groups, to caricature them or incite within those we are speaking for or debating against with a fear or hatred. The African poet and novelist Ben Okri warns us, “To poison a nation, poison its stories… Beware of the storytellers who are not fully conscious of the importance of their gifts, and who are irresponsible in the application of their art …” 

I was also struck by contradictions about freedom of speech. At the same time in history when Christians in the UK are being discriminated against because they wear a cross at work or put a Christian badge on the back of their van, or are publicly ridiculed and laughed at for believing in Jesus at all, we are raging about freedom of speech. Forgive me if I get a little confused!

Last Sunday’s rally in the centre of Paris as a response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings was an extraordinary stand of solidarity with so many world leaders holding hands in the midst of two million people wanting to somehow speak back to the terrorists. Whatever needs done to stop this terror threat from militant Islam it will need to be done by a uniting of the world. 

Yet, in my joy at such a response I was again more than a little uneasy. We have been hearing news reports of mass murders across Africa for some months without such a public outcry. We have been hearing of the massacres of Christians in Syria and Iraq and this week the Archbishop of Nigeria has asked for the same spirit if support as was seen in Paris for the 2000 massacred by Boko Haram just two days after the Charlie Hebdo shootings. I totally support the Paris rally. Twelve lives lost should cause such a stirring of emotion and resolve. My question is why doesn’t 2000 in Africa cause the same response? Je Suis Christian anybody? Je Suis Nigerian?

I was also left surmising what was happening beneath the cosmetic photographs of world leaders holding hands or people standing in a city centre. To deal with the deeper symptoms of terrorism will need much more than a Rally or a joining of hands. We will need a new desire and commitment to love our neighbour and to love our enemy. We will need to imagine and create a world where the first are happy to become last for the last to become first. We will need to be prepared for personal self denial and a sacrificing of rights for the salvation of the world. Yet, how many in the impressive media footage have actually dismissed those spiritual attributes of Jesus that are so evidently needed. 

So to my last unease. God forgive us as your Church for having lost the ear of the world when the world so needs to hear your word and see it become flesh and move into our troubled, divided, bloodied neighbourhoods.


IMAGINE (BELFAST WITHOUT WALLS)

IMAGINE 1

Imagine there’s no heaven

But what John if there is

A putting right of every wrong

Not some ethereal bliss

What if swords turned into ploughshares

And people loved their neighbour

What if everyone had their own vine

To shelter from satisfied labour

 

Imagine there’s no heaven

But what John if there could be

A tangible hope of somewhere better

Not a pie in the sky it should be

What if prisoners were released

And the blind recovered their seeing

Every human was given a place

Found fulfilment of their inner being

 

You may say that I’m a dreamer

And I’m not the only one

I dream the will of heaven

On earth be done

And in order to be that dreamer

I’ve got to exercise imagination

To pump the vision we all need

To transform individuals and nations.

 

Imagine Belfast without walls

Imagine an amazing grace

Imagine when all four corners

Are one welcoming generous space!

 


4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2015: PRESS RELEASE AND PROGRAMME IN FULL

4 corners logo

Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon will host the launch of the annual 4 Corners Festival on Friday 23 January at 11 am in the Mayor’s Parlour at Belfast City Hall. Now in its third year, the events of this year’s festival focus on the themes of generosity and imagination. The programme is wide-ranging, including art exhibitions and an art tour, music, discussions, storytelling, talks, a prayer breakfast, and a dinner for refugees.

The festival was conceived by Rev Steve Stockman of Fitzroy Presbyterian and Fr Martin Magill of Sacred Heart parish. It has been organised by a small group of Christians from all four corners of the city. Festival events are deliberately located in all four corners of the city so that people are enticed to travel outside of their normal comfort zones, seeing new places and meeting new people. The organisers welcome people from all faith backgrounds and none to attend the events, most of which are free of charge or ask only for a donation.

The Lord Mayor said:

“I am delighted to host the launch of this year’s festival. In its previous two years, it has helped people to cross boundaries all across the city of Belfast. I look forward to attending events and being inspired to use generosity and imagination to make our city a better place.”

Fr Magill and Rev Stockman got the idea for a festival after reflecting on occasions they had to travel to parts of Belfast with which they were unfamiliar. Astonished by what they saw in these unfamiliar areas, and deeply aware of how segregation continues to divide Belfast’s citizens, they hoped to prompt others to experience new areas of the city through a festival of events.

Rev Stockman said:

“To move from our political peace, which at times can be very fragile, to a robust social peace we need to find a generosity of soul that lives out Christian ideas like forgiveness, love of enemy and shalom. For those words to become a reality on our streets we will need to imagine new ways of acting towards one another. For that to happen we need to be exercising the muscle of our imaginations. Please God that this year’s 4 Corners Festival might contribute to that.”

Last year the “Listening to Your Enemies” event provoked a riot outside the Skainos building in East Belfast when a crowd gathered to protest against one of the guest speakers, ex-IRA bomber Pat Magee, who was sharing the stage with Jo Berry, whose father was killed in the Brighton bomb. The festival will return to Skainos this year with an event called “Slighe Na Beatha” or “The Path of Life,” a journey through the Psalms with reflections and music provided by Scottish Gaelic Psalm singers (Saturday 7 February, 7 pm).

Linda Ervine of Skainos said:

“We hope this year’s event will help us examine where we are in Northern Ireland in terms of healing, using the backdrop of the Psalms, which have brought such comfort to people down through the ages.”

A full programme of events can be found at: 4cornersfestival.com

Free to use photos can be found here: http://goo.gl/5KW0GQ

The events are:

20 ARTISTS: RELIGION and SPIRITUALITY

January 29th to February 8th, at Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts (launch evening Thursday January 29th at 7.30pm)

How does the contemporary visual artistic community living or exhibiting in Belfast depict spirituality? Artists historically important to the spiritual community have been depicting religion and spirituality for eons.  Always sensitive to the emerging shifts in society they have been leading the way in visual representation. For the Four Corners festival Bronagh Lawson

(www.creativechangeni.com) has curated an exhibition bringing a selection of works which tackle contemporary spirituality. All pieces have emerged from the  Belfast artistic community living and working in all parts of the city over the last few years but have never previously been shown together. Exhibition includes print, painting, sculpture and digital.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

4 CORNERS PRAYER BREAKFAST

Friday January 30th at 8am

Our annual prayer breakfast will gather Church and community leaders and focus on a theme that needs our prayers if we are going to follow Jeremiah’s call to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

This is an invitation only event.

A NIGHT WITH MESSY WOMEN

Friday January 30th at 7.30 in Canada Room, Lanyon Building, QUB

A Biblical Storytelling Event with Wendy Johnston. The sometimes shocking stories of the women five women named by Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary, told by master storyteller Wendy Johnston. This will be followed by a discussion panel of contemporary women, exploring the importance of these stories and women’s stories in general in a world that often overlooks them. All against the background of the Canada Room’s stirring mural “Women Emerging from the Shadows”, by award winning Newry artist Michelle Rogers.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.   

CORNERS OF THE CIRCLE: ART EXHIBITION IN 4 CHURCHES IN 4 CORNERS

Saturday 31st January from 1pm – 4pm. There will be an opportunity to visit the art pieces with the artist.   Bus leaving from PS² Gallery, 18 Donegall St, Belfast, BT12 2GP at 1pm. 

After spending 13 years in cross border, cross community development work Bronagh Lawson returned to her artistic practice. Not a church goer at the time she attended a service in Dublin with a friend which led her to observe just how many different churches there were in East Belfast where she lived. With so many of Northern Irelands issues supposed to be about religion she decided to explore contemporary Belfast church going and look again at what was really going on now. The result has been an odyssey of attending over 340 different church services over four years in all areas of greater Belfast, documenting the experience as she goes.

Corners of the circle, is the first ART piece to come out of this experience. Installed in four different churches around the city, Bronagh invites you to visit each.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

IMAGINATION TOWARDS GENEROSITY: A THEOLOGY

Sunday February 1st at 7.00, in St Malachy’s Church, 24 Alfred Street, Belfast

The key words in the planning of this year’s 4 Corners Festival are generosity and imagination. In order to do generous acts we need to imagine alternatives to the way things are. At a political, religious, social or personal level we need the muscles of our imaginations exercised so that we can love our enemies and live for the peace and prosperity of the city. Michelle Marken and Steve Stockman explore the Biblical mandate and the pragmatic outworking of imagining generosity in Belfast.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.

IMAGINING A BELFAST WITHOUT WALLS 

Monday February 2nd at 7.30pm in Townsend Street Presbyterian Church

Belfast:  Towards a City Without Walls by Vicky Cosstick with photographs by Frankie Quinn, will be published in 2015 by Northern Ireland publisher Colourpoint.  The book tells the story of the walls and of some of the people who are directly engaged with the walls, including community workers, politicians, civil servants, residents, artists and architects, church ministers and black taxi drivers.  In May 2013, the First and Deputy First Ministers made a commitment to bring the walls down by 2023 – is this likely to happen?  Is it desirable?  How might it happen? 

Vicky Cosstick will share some of her experience of writing the book, and some of the questions and issues that have emerged from her research.  Vicky has a background as a writer, journalist, pastoral theologian and church worker, and change facilitator.  Vicky was living in New York when she published her first article about Belfast in 1978 for the New York Daily News. She now lives in London and Donegal.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

BELFASTS GENEROSITY TO THE 4 CORNERS OF THE WORLD

Tuesday February 3rd at 11am, Belfast City Hall

This event, hosted by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Nichola Mallon will facilitate the gathering of Relief Agencies to share their stories and campaigns in a way that can remind Belfast what a generous city it is to the rest of the world. In doing so, we hope that we might inspire, on an individual and community-based level, similar energy, generosity and imagination in our working for a Belfast at peace with itself. Belfast has historically been imaginative and generous to the wider world. Philip Orr will speak about the time when Belfast stood up to slavery and refused to allow slave ships to dock in our port. The Lord Mayor will present Unsung Hero Awards to those who have contributed to our generosity abroad.

3 MAYORS FOR ALL 4 CORNERS

Tuesday February 3rd at 8.00pm | ULSTER MUSEUM

In recent years Belfast city has been blessed with some imaginative and generous Lord Mayors. What were their experiences as Lord Mayor? Where did they see imagination and generosity? What surprised them? What encouraged them? How were they changed by their year working across the 4 Corners of our city. Come along and hear the last two Mayors, Gavin Robinson and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir along with the current one, Nichola Mallon, as they share their stories of their year as Belfast’s first citizen!

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.   

IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING 

Wednesday February 4th at 7:30 PM, Fortwilliam & Macrory Presbyterian Church on the Antrim Road (top of Fortwilliam Park)

On 17th March 2014 an historic agreement was signed by the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, with the full backing of Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis, to combat slavery and human trafficking. This is the first time since the Reformation that the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches have united together on a project of world-wide import. Human trafficking is a scourge which affects approximately 29 million people worldwide, not only far away but also here in Northern Ireland.  As a topic of interest and concern to Christians of all denominations this evening will have input from representatives of Tearfund, Trócaire and Stop the Traffik, all of which are involved in different ways, at home and abroad, in the fight against human trafficking.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

4 CORNERS REFUGEE FEAST (by invitation only)

Thursday February 5th at 6:30 PM, Belfast City Hall

In conjunction with Embrace and others. Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Nichola Mallon, in partnership with the 4 Corners Festival, will host this year’s meal for refugees recently arrived in Belfast. Young people from various parts of the city will assist in serving the meal to people who have come here to begin new lives.

This is a closed event but sponsorship of a meal will be gladly accepted. Buy a meal for a refugee for £20

Greater Love”.   Stories, Images and Music from World War One

Friday 6th February at 8pm,

Clonard Monastery, TICKETS £10 Buy tickets now…

“Greater Love” was launched in Parliament Buildings, Stormont in May 2014 and New Irish is delighted to be bringing it to Clonard on Friday 6th February as part of “Four Corners Festival”. The script tells the stories of several local individuals who were involved in the Great War – and draws hope from the selfless acts of people who put others before themselves. The music is largely from the period of the war, and includes popular war time songs such as “Tipperary” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” but also includes some reflective items which are more recent compositions – “The Mansions of the Lord” and “There is a Hope”. The presentation lasts 90 minutes.

This event has been produced by New Irish Arts – an organisation working in partnership with the Irish Church to present Christianity through the Arts. New Irish produces large events in the major Irish concert halls every year, but also enjoys collaborating with other musicians and working on smaller community projects. Through all of our events, we aim to present Christianity, resource the church, and support Christians working in the Arts.

FILM: A STEP TOO FAR? A CONTEMPLATION ON FORGIVENESS

Saturday February 7th at 3pm, in Strand Arts Centre

Most of us at some time in our lives feel that we have been wronged by others in some way. It may be as a result of malicious gossip or maybe a violent act or even worse. How do we react in such situations? Do we lash out at the offender, are we eaten up with the desire for revenge? ‘A Step Too Far?’ investigates an alternative to revenge; the idea of forgiveness. From Northern Ireland to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, ordinary people share their real life stories and how they have come to view forgiveness. Leading academics also make a significant contribution to the film. The showing will be followed with a conversation with the Director of the Film and some others.

This event has been sponsored by Irish Churches Peace Project.

To book, please email: info@fourcornersfestival.com .

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

‘Slighe na Beatha’ ‘The Path of Life’

‘You make known to me the path of life’. Psalm 16 v11.

A journey through the Psalms – an evening of reflection and music with Scottish Gaelic Psalm singers.

Saturday 7th February at 7pm in Skainos, 239 Newtownards Road.

In many ways a journey through the Psalms reflects the various stages of grief including anger and despair before moving towards healing, forgiveness, acceptance and hope.  This event will journey through these various emotions using the words of the Psalms to explore where we are in Northern Ireland 16 years after the Good Friday Agreement.  Each person will have an opportunity to lament aspects of the past as we connect with ourselves as a people still recovering from the pain of ‘The Troubles’ accompanied by the beautiful and haunting sounds of the Gaelic Psalm Singers.

Last year the ‘Listening to Your Enemies’ event organised by the Four Corners Festival attracted unexpected publicity when a riot took place outside the Skainos building on the Newtownards Road in East Belfast.  An angry crowd had gathered to protest against guest speaker, ex IRA bomber Patrick Magee.  This year’s event will use the backdrop of the Psalms from the Old Testament to examine where we are in Northern Ireland in terms of healing.  Experience the ancient tradition of Gaelic Psalm-singing, a unique music form practised within the Presbyterian tradition which still survives in churches in the Western Islands of Scotland.  Join us on our journey through the many different areas of human experience and our relationship with God.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  

A New Generation Of Peacemakers

Sunday February 8th at 7pm, in Sacred Heart Parish Centre, 1 Glenview Street. 

An evening of worship and thinking about a new generation of peacemakers. What is our young people’s vision for a city of peace and prosperity? Where do they think we need imagination and generosity? We will be hearing from the city’s youth and celebrating the end of the Festival led by the worship of Fitzroy’s Source group and North Belfast’s Search group. Jasper Rutherford, who works for Summer Madness and the Church Army and has a passion for energising our youth towards peacemaking, will be speaking.

Event Free BUT donations welcome towards the cost of the event.  


TIM WHEELER: LOST DOMAIN - A PASTORAL JOURNEY OF ILLNESS AND LOSS

Wheeler

I met Tim Wheeler on a transatlantic flight a few years ago. As we disembarked I said hi and asked him when he was going to make a record that I would have to buy. Well, believe me, Wheeler can’t remember the fleeting moment and doesn’t know me from Adam, but he really has made that record that I had to buy. Those who self indulge me by reading this blog know that I love records that are not just good musically but have something deeper going on that is good for something more! 

Wheeler has made a pastoral record for all of us. At some stage in your life you are going to go through what Wheeler has gone through and artistically documented. No, it might not be via the Alzheimers’ tunnel that Tim lived through with his father, but all of us will sit and watch loved ones pass away. As a Church pastor I am in the presence of people struggling through illness and death on an almost weekly basis. There is no easy way through such journeys. I am a great believer that songs can be a cathartic comfort and so Lost Domain should be given away on the National Health.

This is a long way from those teen Ash anthems like Oh Yeah and Girl From Mars. Lost Domain is the work of a young man who has grown up musically and has had to grow as a human being as he faced up to the bleakest of ways to lose a parent. There is no turning circle with Alzheimers. It is like visiting someone you have already lost as if it is a glass coffin. As Wheeler sings, on the perfectly formed and beautiful closing ballad, Monsoon, “a mind that is still reeling, a heart in needing of healing/eyes that have lost  their light/ eyes that stare into the night.”  

Wheeler speaks of starting a song after a visit to his father and that that led to all these songs which he was using more for his own catharsis than for any thoughts of commercial release. That resulted in this album that just didn’t fit the Ash template. It was too personal and that even effected the sounds. Lost Domain sounds as mature as the subject matter it deals with. Hospital is a ten minute epic with Bohemian Rhapsody type shifts and drama but with a lot more soul and subjective truth.

As I went out last week to conduct a funeral I reached for an appropriate soundtrack and Wheeler did the job perfectly. This is personal, at times harrowing and yet often times uplifting piece of rock music. It is about illness and death but about the love and care of a son wrestling with the meaning of life and death and the strength and support of a family losing a loved one. 

It is also the meditation of a life and Wheeler’s father’s contribution to his loved ones. It is an ambitious piece of work of art and heart. If these songs helped Tim Wheeler through his valley of the shadow as well as they sound then Lost Domain has succeeded. In the raw pain of his subjectivity Wheeler has gifted us all some songs that can carry us through similar journeys through the dark vales of life and loss. 


IMAGINING FORGIVENESS OF YOUR CHILD'S MURDERER

School shooting

It was one of those, sadly too many, news events that I will never forget. Another shooting in America, this time in a small school house in the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Five children dead and five injured. The bloody horror of that day in the Nickel Mines school house will live with me for many years but the response of this Amish Christians struck me with a force in my inner soul that I will remember more and please God longer than the tragedy. This quaint and spirituality eccentric people preached in their actions a dignity and Godly strength that transcends the times we live in.

Within hours of the shooting dead of five of their precious children, Amish leaders had visited the wife of the murderer, Charles Carl Roberts IV, to extend forgiveness. They even attended the murderer’s funeral. This is not the normal way of things. It is a grace that is not of this world. I remember one of the Amish being thrust into the media spotlight in ways that they resist. His words, spoken with deep conviction and humble simplicity, will never leave me, “Jesus is about forgiveness and so we have to learn to forgive.” It seems so obvious. It must be incredibly difficult. They believe God will give them the strength. 

This all takes place in a tiny community in the middle of a nation that has responded very differently to its’ children being murdered. The Amish took an opposite response to the American government after 9/11. Surely it would have been easier for the Amish victims to rage against those outsiders who entered their antiquated safe tranquility to murder their loved ones and to launch a war against a mass murderer. Easier was never the way of the Gospel of Jesus. And the last words on Jesus lips were “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This Amish community did not only believe those words, the followed them and the one who said them.

It is almost impossible to imagine the pain that that Amish community experienced that day in 2006. It is even more difficult to imagine where they found the generosity of spirit to forgive. Today the murderer’s mother cares for the worst injured child in the shooting that her son carried out. She was ready to to leave the area after the killings but was encouraged by the Amish, including the parents of the two of the children her son killed, to stay. Imagine that! Imagine a world like that! Imagine a Northern Ireland where that simple but radical generosity of human spirit resourced our responses to one another. How long would peace take? How different would our lives be?

4 Corners Festival will be showing the film A STEP TOO FAR? A CONTEMPLATION ON FORGIVENESS that is filmed in Lancaster County’s Amish community and in Northern Ireland - Saturday February 7th at 3pm in Strand Arts Centre. It will be followed by discussion with the director of the film and others including Paul Gallagher shot by loyalist paramilitaries in his own home as a teenager, now confined to a wheelchair, not that Paul and the word confined go together; and Jonathan Abernethy-Barkley whose dad was shot by the IRA when he was just two years of age. How will they respond to the movie? What do they think of forgiveness? A powerful afternoon...

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TOMORROW IN FITZROY 11.1.15

Fitzroy Front

Tomorrow morning (11am) in Fitzroy I will be starting a short series on Luke Chapter 15. It is best known for the parable of the Prodigal Son but that is part of a series of lost stories where we see a shepherd and a woman and a father finding that which was lost. Today this sermon took a twist as often happens when the preacher is surmising how to apply the text to the context he, or she, is in. We will spend 3 sermons in this chapter but tomorrow we will ask who Jesus was answering with these parables? We will ask who the lost are in our context? We will look at how Jesus sees repentance and grace. We might get a clue to why I use U2 and Mumford and Sons in a Jesus model. 

In the evening (7pm) our Source worship band will lead us in an evening of praise. Their theme is Integrity: Living The Uncomfortable Faith. The speaker will be Jimbo McDowell from Youth Link. Another helpful night from our youth!