Made the Back Page

Acheived a lifetime ambition yesterday in making the back page of a Saturday newspaper... OK it was the religious section and not the sports section of the Grand Rapids Press... But a man can dream. Mind you, it should have been the fiction section as it begins by telling readers that I "fled" Northern Ireland in 1985...

For those who want a laugh the link to the internet version is printed above, although I'm not sure how long it will stay live... so I have also included the text below. Neither includes the best part of the paper version: a photograph of me in the sanctuary of Faith Church which is one of those rare ones that don't make me want to run out and buy up every copy of the paper and destroy them all! It's the text that makes me want to do that. A classic case of a reporter hearing what he wants to hear through a filter of years of dramatised/romanticised accounts of our conflict. The quotes from me are generally verbatim, but the surrounding bits are not so much verbiage as garbage.
The one plus was that it actually encouraged some people to come along to Faith UMC to hear me today... Someone even said to Sally in the Supermarket last night that they were going to come along when they found out she was my wife. International fame at last.
I just hope that I didn't put them off with today's service... which not only involved me waffling on for an inordinate length of time as usual, but also incorporated the much anticipated blessing of the animals... But more of that anon...

Anyway, here is the text of the newspaper article:

Irish pastor guest at local church
Saturday, July 12, 2008
By Aaron OggThe Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- The Rev. David Campton fled Northern Ireland in 1985 never intending to return. He had seen enough violence and bigotry between the Irish Republican Army and those "loyal to the crown."
For seven years, he kept an eye on his native Belfast from Edinburgh, Scotland. Belfast's seams kept bursting with sectarian hate. Soon, he couldn't watch from afar any longer.
"I genuinely felt God saying, 'What are you going to do about it?' " Campton said.
Campton, 43, is pastor of Dundonald Methodist Church, located in a housing scheme called Ballybeen near the outskirts of Belfast.
As part of a pulpit exchange, he is working as guest pastor at Faith United Methodist Church, 2600 Seventh St. NW. He's given two sermons and plans to stay until Aug. 3. Faith's regular pastor, Geoff Hayes, is retiring next July after 11 years with the church.
"The neat experience for us, as a congregation, is Geoff is going to be retiring so it's our way of practicing our hospitality," said Pat Sutherland, coordinator of lay ministries. "This is very important in the life of our church."
Sutherland said Faith UMC is making increased effort to reach out to the community, something Campton knows a good deal about.
Before leading Dundonald, he worked near the Belfast "peace line," a 2.5-mile wall stretching from the inner-city west. The barrier separates the nationalists, who are largely Catholic, from the loyalists, mostly Protestant. His former church's front door was on the Catholic side, and the back door was on the Protestant side.
Although British and Irish officials signed the Good Friday Agreement 10 years ago, the area still teems with tension, Campton said.
"Sometimes we can focus on peace building without realizing conflict comes out of social circumstance and history," he said.
Addressing conflict alone only means "deferring another explosion," he said.
"It's like an untapped volcano," he said. "Unless that reservoir of magma is being tapped or diverted in some other way, the top blows off."
Campton's wife, Sally Campton, heads the Dundonald Family and Community Initiative.
The vision is for the organization to be an umbrella under which all area Christian denominations can operate and respond to local needs. Ballybeen, composed of working-class families, has fallen on hard times.
There is a pattern of exodus among Northern Ireland churches, Campton said. Many are moving to the suburbs to escape lingering turmoil and economic plight.
Returning to the city -- "back to the grassroots community" -- can spark change, he said.
Campton said he's observed an "ethos of volunteerism" in the United States that isn't as marked in Northern Ireland. Since it's a welfare state, many citizens leave the task of helping the needy to the government, he said.
"To get something out of your community, you have to put something back in," Campton said.


crookedshore said…
"did you ever know that you're my hero!"

What a guy! You need to come home so we can re-establish your equilibrium

glad you're enjoying notoriety,
Just goes to show that local papers are appalling the world over and that I should NEVER agree to talk to any of them. said…
It just goes to show you Pastor that you can't believe everything that some one tells you and only half of what you read in the newspaper.

Being the pessimist that I am, I read the obituaries first and then for my optomist side I read the comics second then I will read the rest of the paper.

For not being a member of the First United Methodist Church or for the fact of the matter not being a Methodist, I hold you and Pastor Geoff in very high esteem.

Ron Marckini
Thanks Ron...
I really appreciate that!

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