My Dear Friends,
The change to British Summer time always has a positive effect on the way that we think, and although the weather has been very wet at times, the extending daylight hours have an encouraging effect. Nature is waking to exuberant life as the early morning bird song contributes to that joyful outlook. The world is coming to life again after the winter and we must make decisions as to how we want to use our time. The psalmist writes: My times are in your hands (Ps 31:15), therefore we must take careful thought on how we spend this precious gift of time.
Early in the last session we were blessed with the day set aside for contemplative prayer led by David Matchett. Everyone who attended was affected by the way in which God seemed so much closer when we actively set aside time to absorb His word. Even the simple sandwich lunch became a rich feast in our hands as our thoughts were drawn to Jesus teaching his first disciples: ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, and gratitude spread to reflect on the generous provision each of us has received. Little did I realise at the time that this had come as an introduction for our annual family holiday, which we spent on ‘A Wilderness Experience’ in Israel, led by Rev Desi Maxwell. One of the key texts to our understanding of the purpose of God for the children of Israel’s time in the wilderness was from Deuteronomy 8:10 ‘…you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless YHWH your God for the good land he has given you’. The Rabbis have built a whole series of blessings – expressions of gratitude – that permeate all of life, based on this verse. It is certainly an attitude that we would do well to adopt in our daily living.
The idea of blessing, as a way of praying for others, was introduced to many of us by Roy and Daphne Godwin when they spoke of the work of Ffald y Brennin retreat centre, at a conference at Carnmoney Presbyterian Church a few years ago. We have used Roy’s book, ‘Grace Outpouring’ at the Book Club during the current session and this has been a great encouragement and delight to find people capturing the idea of blessing others. The wonderful discovery is that when we have blessed others, we ourselves are blessed.
On return from Israel I was delighted to receive an invitation to preach at the installation of Rev Paul Dundas, Rector of Christ Church Lisburn as Archdeacon of Dalriada, at Lisburn Cathedral on 4th March. At the same time and on the same day, Frances went to St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast to receive grant from their Sit-Out appeal, presented by Tim McGarry. We are immensely grateful for both joyful occasions, which remind us that we are part of an un-boundaried ministry which stretches even beyond these shores. This was flagged for us with the visit of Rev Joe Johns from the diocese of Willochra in South Australia, who was brought to visit CMH:TM in February, by his colleague, Rev Andrew Rawding, Rector of Coalisland. Rev Johns is in the process of setting up a programme for spiritual healing for any in Australia who have suffered clerical abuse.
During Lent I held three Quiet Days; then six sessions on Prayer Ministry for the Ballynafeigh Circuit of the Methodist Church, on Monday evenings and at Wednesday lunchtimes, all of which were well attended. Then, in Holy Week, I held a quiet day for the Armagh Methodist Church at Echo Sound, and two mornings in Armagh: one on praying the scriptures; the other on praying for one another. These were followed by evening services on the Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, with a Tenebrae Service on Good Friday. The series was concluded with the Easter morning Holy Communion service.
Looking forward: Prayer for our Cities and our Land continue faithfully at Kilmore on the first Monday in the month at 7.00 am and at St George’s Belfast on the 4th Monday in the month at 10.30 am. We would be delighted to welcome anyone who wishes to join us at these times, and indeed find out how they can start their own group to extend the network of those who pray. The vibrancy and passion with which some of the people pray has challenged us to extend the hours we offer for prayer at 162. We have now set aside an hour for prayer on the 4th and 5th Tuesdays in the month at 11.00 am. We would be delighted if you could come and join us on these mornings.
During this coming session I have two Quiet Days open for anyone who wishes to come, on 21st June or 23rd June from 10.30 am to 4.00 pm, at Echo Sound. It is essential to book in advance with the office (phone 90795832) and send a subscription of £25 for the day. The other two Quiet Days are for Ards Methodist Churches on John Wesley Day, 24th May, and the Armagh Ecumenical Group on 2nd June.
There will be two seminars in May at 162. The first is on Wednesday 16th May at 2.00 pm led by Mark Hamilton from Knock Presbyterian Church, entitled, ‘Daniel in the Lions’ Den’. During the autumn we postponed the day of seminars with Rev Desi Maxwell entitled ‘God according to God’. This is rescheduled for Wednesday 30th May from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm which includes a sandwich lunch. Please phone the office (90795832) if you would like to book a place for either or both of these seminars.
During this session we have three fundraising events. This first is a Coffee Morning, Sale and Auction at Down Parish Hall, Downpatrick on 11th April from 10.00 am to 12.30 pm. Then the Coffee Morning and Plant Sale at 162 on Saturday 26th May from 10.00 am – 12.30 pm. At mid-summer we are holding a fundraising evening at Echo Sound with Downshire Brass on 16th June from 6.30 pm. Come and bring your picnic, your chairs and your friends for a delightful evening, in more attractive surroundings than Glyndebourne, and not so far to travel!
The almost unbelievably GOOD NEWS is that the DEBT is ALL PAID. We borrowed £157,000 to complete the renovations of our prayer house at 162. The loan was interest free and we aimed to repay it at a rate of £10,000 per year. This would have taken us until 2030, just over 15 years. We moved into 162 on 30th May 2014, and now less than FOUR years from moving in ALL OUR DEBT IS PAID. We are immensely grateful to all who contributed to making this a reality, but most of all to God for enabling it to happen. We give Him all the praise and glory, and our hope is to build for the future, on the firm foundation He has given us.
Growth is on our wish list for the future, growth in teams and in outreach, so that we can fulfil the commission ‘to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick.’ (Luke 9:2) If you are not already on one of our teams and would like to join one, or come to any of our events, or if you have ideas you would like to discuss, then please do come. There is always a welcome for you at 162.
Wishing you every blessing
Your sister in Christ