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October 2022

FROM GUNS TO GARDEN TOOLS

TurningGunsIntoGardenToolsInTheDRC-StoryBanner-CreditArletteBashiziTearfund

FROM GUNS TO GARDEN TOOLS

With HEBDAVI KYEYE

(Tearfund Country Director Democratic Republic of Congo)

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23rd 2022 @ 7pm

Fitzroy Welcome Area (Rugby Road Entrance)

 

We in Fitzroy are delighted to be hosting an evening in conversation with Hebdavi Kyeye. 

As Tearfund Country Director in DRC he has a lot of experience to share in peace and reconciliation and particularly a project From Guns To Garden Tools inspired by Isaiah's call in chapter 2 verse 4: They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Much of what Hebdavi has to say will resonate with our own slow efforts at reconciliation.

EVERYBODY WELCOME

 


POST COVID - TIME TO GATHER AGAIN

Fitz4

It is time. It is time to begin to leave behind the blessed benefits of Youtube Church or Streaming services. Oh they were a real help during Covid-19. To be able to gather alone together was an amazing gift. 

It is now time to move on. Covid is going to be always around us but we seem to have found the vaccines to dull its impact. That means that it is time to do Church in its proper and best way.

I recently caught, by chance on social media, a Bruce Springsteen interview from 1984 with David Hepworth. When I was 23 this was the most exciting thing I had ever seen on TV. I recorded it on my VHS and watched it again and again. It was nostalgic to see a young Springsteen talking about his work

At one point Hepworth asks him why he had yet to release a live record. Springsteen’s career was a decade old and his concerts where legendary. A live record made sense. Live 1975-85 would finally be released in late 1986 but Springsteen wasn’t keen during the Hepworth interview.

Springsteen’s reason was that the live show was too special. He almost suggested that if you didn’t get to a gig then you shouldn’t hear one outside the venue. The experience is the most vital thing. Being there is essential. 

It didn’t take me long to apply that to post Covid-19 Church life. Gathering is vital. That verse in Hebrews that many quoted, I believe erroneously during Covid, now has its day!

 

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

I did not believe that during the time when Covid-19 was a killer that this verse was as important as “love thy neighbour.” Yet now as we learn to live with Covid it is time to gather once again. 

There is something about being together, sharing a faith misunderstood outside of the Church, that is encouraging. 

There is something about singing together that emits spiritual energy. 

There is something about listening to the text of Scripture and context of the world around us that is spiritually stimulating. 

There is something about praying a congregational prayer that resonates with our hurts and hopes.

There is something about looking in one another's eyes as we pray that benediction over one another that genuinely blesses.

I am not saying that it is going to be easy. Habits need shifted again. Just doing things that we haven’t done for a few years takes courage. Yet, I don’t believe that God is happy as we sit in our pyjamas, with our donuts and coffee. 

We are no longer all alone together. People are gathering together and we are missing it out. Youtube and Streaming is still helpful for many but where you can - gather. Springsteen sensed something about that live experience. The people of God certainly should!

See you on Sunday!


CREESLOUGH... BEAUTIFUL CREESLOUGH - A PRAYER

Creeslough

Creeslough

Beautiful Creeslough

We are speechless

Feel useless

But we share in your grief

Realising 

That our share is minimal

Compared to those who loved closest and most.

 

How

In such quiet

Could loud be so LOUD

In such softness

Could hard be so HARD

In such idyllic

Could hell be so HELLISH

We pray...

 

We pray that somehow in your sudden grief

In the depth of your mourning

As you continue to carry your trauma

That you would meet someone who understands

God 

Not way out in space

But who came near

Lived among us

Wept in heart break

And in whose death

Experienced unfairness

Someone who is still near

And here by his Spirit

Offers empathy

Comfort

Peace beyond understanding

Who invites you Creeslough

Beautiful Creeslough

“To approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)


MY SCRIPT AS I LAUNCHED A TRAVELLER PASSING THROUGH

Ruth P

I have never been to the the Holy Land, well not the real one anyway! There are a few streets around Fitzroy but that’s not where Ruth is writing about.

Yet, as a preacher, every Sunday I imagine Holy Land scenes. Bethlehem, Galilee, Nazareth, Capernaum, Jerusalem and the places of Jesus journey’s in between. If the Lord spares me, to quote my Granny, I would love to see those places where Ruth stood in 2018.

For the time being, Ruth’s book will do. 

A Traveller Passing Through; Reflections from the Holy Land is what it says in the tin - the reflection of a pilgrimage. There is a diary feel to it. So we start, usually in the morning on a bus! And we go places. Holy places. I loved it. 

Yes I loved Galilee, on the lake. I mean “The sea Of Galilee is tranquil, sparkling blue. We have already been on a boat trip that gifted us with a glimpse of the eternal ‘now’ of presence.” Oh, I’m jealous. Somewhere else on its shore, the sand between her toes. 

Those last words are very Van Morrison who can get into a near spiritual rant on stage - the eternal NOW… the eternal NOW.

I have to admit I was kind of put off the busyness of Bethlehem and Jerusalem but the hustle and bustle has to be a big part of it!

I loved the poetic, imaginative energy of Ruth’s writing. For example at Jesus birth she has out on the hillside with those marginalised shepherds and writes, 

“When we hear the familiar words, we are, in a timeless moment, transported back to that night when the heavens blazed with stars and the night was filled with a song of hope that reverberates down the centuries and awakens hardened hearts or minds imprisoned by scepticism to the thought that maybe, just maybe it happened. Maybe, just maybe, this world is more than we know. Maybe, just maybe, there is a spiritual dimension, there are armies of heaven’s angels under the command of God whose nature is always love.”

WOW!

Or at the other end. In the Upper Room, doubling as the place of Jesus washing feet, the Last Supper and hiding after the crucifixion … the disciples leave it for the ascension and Ruth writes,

They too leave the Upper Room, as we did. I have an image of the unstoppable energy spiralling outwards through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the endless beyond.”

There are threads running through the reflections. Awakening and Unlearning are but two. Ruth Patterson has an amazing awareness of our inner terrain. She has a real gift at seeing the right questions that faith asks of our lives -  Who are we? Why are we here? Who is Jesus? How does he make a difference?

I will illustrate it with a close look at my favourite chapter, as I pull this launch into an epilogue or sermonette.

Ruth might be surprised but my very favourite chapter was the one around and in Jericho. The bus hasn’t even got to Jericho before Ruth is painting pictures. 

The heat of the sun. The rugged terrain. Rocky. Dry. Dusty. The isolation. The vulnerability of a traveller on a journey that Jesus knew well. I feel she has taken me there. I am checking I don’t get dust on my trousers. 

Ruth sees the Good Samaritan Inn and it leads us into that favourite parable of Jesus. What’s not there Ruth is asking again. She wants to know what happened the wounded man, how did the hotelier care for him. Did the Samaritan return. Like a good TV series ending - what happened next?

Oh I’d like then to go on into Jericho and sit below Zacchaeus’ Olive Tree and see how he has to “come down” and “let go”. I’ll leave that for you because I want to end back in the Good Samaritan bit. 

Ruth preaches on something I never have - the Inn. She opens up the Gospel importance of hospitality and I believe she is really onto something. She writes, “The whole concept of hospitality is at the core of the Gospels, hospitality between us and God, between the alienated parts if our own inner beings, between ourselves and others, and between ourselves and all creation”

I am so annoyed that I started this chapter this week because on Sunday I had just ended a series of preaching where I looked at sin as a pushing away of God, neighbour, enemy, creation and self. The Gospel, Ruth is showing us, in its love of neighbour, enemy, self and creation draws in. To an Inn. A Welcome Inn.

Ruth asks, “Am I an inn? Am I, in my very self, a resting place of safety and hospitality for others? Is generosity a way of life for me? Have I been attentive to my own inner journey on which I am called to the creation of the beloved community within that I am always prepared to let go and unlearn in order to embrace or be embraced be the stranger, the unseen guest, and be the mystery of the sacred now?”

There’s Van Morrison again. There’s that inspiration to stretch your imagination again? What’s not there? Or what are we not seeing? There’s also challenge there. Ruth’s poetry takes us to the far reaches of the Universe and eternity but also asks every day ordinary questions of how we live as a result. THE SACRED NOW!! THE ETERNAL NOW!!

A Traveller Passing Through is a pilgrimage to three places - geographically the terrain of Holy Land… places that open up the terrain of the Biblical text… which leads us to explore the terrain of our inner most places of soul. Ruth has been the last of these maybe better than anyone else on our island for a long time. The inner. Sin pushing away BUT the `Gospel hospitality welcoming in.

I highly commend it. Read it… and read it again… you’ll grab something new every journey through.


HOLDING THEOLOGY GENTLY

Bullying3

I recently came across a Wendell Berry quotation that poked my surmising. Berry said, “Some Christian spokesmen give the impression that the highest Christian bliss would be to get to Heaven and find that you are the only one there -- that you were right, and all the others wrong.”

Sadly, in the Northern Ireland churches there are so many such spokesmen. There seem to be those who find the joy of their ministries in seeking error in the theology of their brothers and sisters in Christ and then going after them publicly.

I have brothers and sisters in the faith who hold to a range of theological opinion. Many are much more liberal in their views than me and many others are way more conservative. I value both. My own understanding of Scripture and lived out discipleship benefits from honing my own theology off both sides.

So, I am not against church leaders holding more conservative or liberal views. My concern is the posture by which they hold that theology. 

I have always been suspicious of those who attempt as hard as they can to exclude others from the community of faith. When they go seeking reasons to count people out.

Jesus never considered our theological understanding, never mind purity, as a means of salvation. Grace through faith in a following of Jesus is the call to be a Christian. Theological knowledge is a constant quest and there is nowhere where a theological error outweighs and therefore negates the work of Jesus incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. 

Someone else’s theological position never concerns me. The posture by which people hold their theological views concerns me greatly as I watch the spiritual damage that it has done. 

When someone believes that their theological position is infallible the arrogance that comes with that will cause them to become judgemental causing the discord, dissensions and factions that Paul describes as the acts of the flesh in Galatians 5. 

Theology held by grace and the fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, can become a very helpful resource for spiritual formation and theological understanding. A deep love for a brother or sister has to be the only Jesus’ way to share theological difference, holding the body of Christ together at every cost.

As I put it in this benediction, carrying our faith needs the Jesus posture, a posture of gentleness and humility in its courageous conviction. 

Lord, save me from a heaven where I am isolated with a few others who believe exactly like me!

 

God, give us a confidence in you

But let grace keep us from arrogance

God, give us a strength of conviction

But let us share it humbly

God may we believe courageously

But help us carry it gently

Lord, may we go forward with vision

But help us to be careful that we do not abuse your grace to feed our own self righteousness

But use your grace to feed the world’s deepest needs.

AMEN


TONY MACAULEY - LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PEACE LINE

Macauley Peace Line

I asked Tony Macauley why he republished Little House On The Peace Line now. He replied, “Of all my books this is the one that speaks most clearly on my hopes for Northern Ireland. With our continued failure to achieve political stability and reconciliation, and the forthcoming 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, I felt the time was right for a new edit of the original memoir.”

If you don’t know about Tony Macauley’s first three memoirs then start with Paperboy. That hilarious description of being a boy on Belfast’s Shankill Road in the 70s was followed by the equally laugh out loud Breadboy and then his University days in All Growed Up. All three are witty gems strewn through with the astute social, cultural and political of growing up in a divided community. 

Little House On The Peace Line is the phase of his life where I best knew the name Tony Macauley. Yes, he was known in his Christian Union days at University of Ulster Coleraine but when he took a job at 174 in the New Lodge his reputation soared. 174 was a brand new cutting edge Christian Outreach and Tony was the Christian talk of the town!

In Little House On The Peace Line Macauley is beyond All Growed Up and is a mature work of a young, almost naive, man taking on almost more than he can chew.

This memoir is darker than the other three. It still makes you laugh out loud but not as often. For a young Protestant to work in a Youth Club in the Catholic New Lodge is a courageous thing. At that time, pioneering. That during this first job Tony should get married and buy a house in this part of the city would be enough to deal with. That one of his young people, Billy, would get shot dead adds even more to the emotional trauma. The book is touchingly dedicated to Billy. Beyond that Tony’s own father commits suicide in this season of his life too. It is harrowing stuff.

Macauley does not make himself out to be a hero but tells his tale in the most honest way. The books starts with feeling of being able to change the world. It ends with feelings of burnt out and moving on. There is a warmth about Tony’s love for the New Lodge, a real passion for peace in his city and passion for the young people that he attempts in his stumbling way to bring hope and a purpose to.

Since Paperboy, the first instalment, Tony has been taking the identity of a pacifist in a war torn city. Early on he had little understanding of what a pacifist was. In Little House On The Peace Line he is a practitioner. It might be why one of his two hardest critiques is therefore the paramilitaries. Was violence, death and mayhem the only way to put forward their cause.

The Church also receives Macauley’s ire! He speaks of the influence of the late 80’s movie Witness starring Harrison Ford and through that discovering the pacifism of the Amish community. Then a Mennonite arrived to work with him and suddenly he realise that there were Churches who believed what he did - “I suppose pacifist Christianity was never too popular in these parts”. That reality is a huge frustration to him and sadly I imagine continues to be. 

174 is a story that needs to be told. Protestants moving into Catholic areas during The Troubles to bring social justice and reconciliation is quite something. Catholic communities allowing them too, is quite something too. 

I have already reviewed another book on these same times in the very same place - Philip Orr - An Ordinary Kind Of Miracle. This is the subjective angle. One young man, following his faith no matter the cost, getting married, setting up home, losing his father in tragic circumstances and somehow in the midst of it all being a particle of God’s light across a dark part of a city in shadows. This is as much of a challenge and inspiration now as it was then. Fair play to you Tony Macauley!