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Showing posts from September, 2013

A Fourfold "Blessing"

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The following is the blessing I used at the conclusion of our Harvest Service last night at which Alan Carson spoke about the work of Storehouse in seeking to address the needs of the poor in Belfast. I adapted this from a prayer I previously pointed out in one of my Saturday Supplements, but when I went back to check it out on the original website, it is mysteriously suspended "for billing reasons." It was listed there as a Fourfold Franciscan blessing, but is to be found elsewhere as a Benedictine blessing. Wherever it emanated from, this Wesleyan thought it worthwhile posting here in my amended form:

May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen May God bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, re…

A Psalm for Harvest Sunday

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A short responsive Psalm used as the call to worship for our Harvest Service this morning:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures for ever. I will give you thanks, for you answered my prayers; you are my salvation and my song. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. You are my God, and I will give thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures for ever. From Psalm 118
Selah

What is wrong with this picture?

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What is wrong with this picture?
A shorter answer might be elicited by the question what is right with this picture? No-one in their right minds would combine a picture of an armed Klansman and a quote from Martin Luther King Junior.
Yet in my home area of East Belfast the following mural has been painted over a recently commissioned mural of footballer George Best...


At least they didn't have the gall to put Dr. King's name to the quote. Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle's comment that it is "Perverse beyond belief" probably sums up my feeling on it... Although the people that painted it probably couldn't care less what people like Chris or myself think... They clearly don't care what anyone else thinks. They are the faceless men with guns who answer to no-one. Neither democratically elected representatives, including the PUP who have historic links with the UVF, or the people who elected them. It is they who oppress, by threat of violence, the people they cl…

Follow Me...

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No Psalm for Sunday this week (and no Saturday Supplement again either... sorry but I've just been too busy to collate the backlog of weblinks)... instead I offer this reblog based on the theme of discipleship... We're currently exploring what is meant by our President Heather Morris's theme for the year "A People Invited to Follow..." This is as good a place as any to start...


Reader 1:        As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  Reader 2:        "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Reader 1:        At once they left their nets and followed him. Reader 2:        As they were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, Reader 1:        "I will follow you wherever you go." Reader 2:        Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, b…

A (expletive-deleted) great show...

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Last night  my wife and I went to the f*****g Lyric Theatre, and it wasn't to see Pride and Prejudice the f*****g Musical on the main stage, but something much more f*****g earthy in the Naughton Studio space: Re-Energize by Gary f*****g Mitchell, directed by my mate Conall f*****g Morrison with music by John and Damian O'Neill from the f*****g Undertones. It picks up the story of the members of a f*****g wannabe punk band 30 years after Mitchell's earlier play "Energy" was set.

I didn't see that production back in 1999 in the Playhouse in Derry, where this production also originated. But the previous year I first came across Gary Mitchell's work in another collaboration with Conall Morrison when I took a night out from Methodist Conference to take a ministerial colleague to see their play "As the Beast Sleeps" in the bowels of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin... The play was still in a fluid state at that time and one of the discussions between G…

In The Pink and Out of the Blue

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I've been using this book for a few months now as a devotional prior to going onto the wards of the Ulster Hospital as chaplain, ever since a number of them appeared there as a resource to share with those  wrestling with cancer. Its authors have experienced cancer themselves directly and within their families, and have a long pedigree of working within the sphere of prayer for healing, and this book finds its origin in a frustration that there was little written from an explicitly Christian perspective as they faced cancer. The title, tone and even the physical form of the book marks it out as being aimed primarily at women, but there is plenty in here that is useful for anyone going through the whole testing-diagnosis-treatment continuum of care, and those accompanying them on that journey, be it as chaplain, pastor, family member or friend. That is especially true of some of the prayers at the end of the book. The folksy "thought for the day" style will not appeal to…

Looking Back and Looking Forward

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My last Thought for the Day for a while, broadcast live today on Good Morning Ulster (as usual approximately 25 & 85 minutes into the programme), influenced not only by my anniversary today but also the Haass talks and the Hope and History campaign... Don't forget to sign up and help shape a more hopeful future for this province.

A few years ago I pre-recorded a thought for the day that was due to go out on my wedding anniversary and I used that as the introduction to my talk, but then forgot that I had doe so AND forgot to tell my wife Sally that I had mentioned it… This then caused her great puzzlement when lots of people wished her happy anniversary throughout the day…  Well, it is once again our anniversary… I won’t tell you how many years except to say that for some unknown reason the recommended gift for this year is a musical instrument… So I hope Sally enjoys the kazoo I’ve bought her!  I’ve many happy memories of our wedding day, when people from all the diverse sphere…

Hope and History

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Just a quick post to flag up something that you have probably picked up from elsewhere. Recently there has been much conversation about a marked lack of hope in political and civic discourse in Northern Ireland recently, with positions becoming entrenched in anticipation of the upcoming arrival of Richard Haass. But slowly, largely facilitated by social media and a few conversations over coffee, a momentum has been developing to articulate a more positive vision of how things might be. I am aware of a number of initiatives coming to a head, and will plug them here were I feel they have something to offer... I will also return in detail to the issue of hope when I get a chance to pull my thoughts together.
However, over the past week I have been part of a group who have tried to articulate some thoughts on the themes of hope and healing from a Biblical perspective as Richard Haass begins his work. As we said in a brief introductory statement that went out via facebook and email today …

Education, Education, Education...

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This morning's Thought for the Day... For those who missed it and prefer to listen rather than read, you can find it here 25 minutes and 85 minutes in, and in the second case just after an interview with Linda Ervine, about the Irish language classes in East Belfast Mission, proving the power of education in all its forms to help us to understand one another and find a new way of relating to each other.
It was encouraging to read over the weekend that a stand-off at HazelwoodCollege in North Belfast, between their management and the Belfast Education and Library Board is heading towards a resolution[although to later hear of the issue being dragged into the High Court didn't exactly fill me with joy... recourse to law rarely produces reconciliation...] I don’t know all the rights and wrongs, but it was not good to see children padlocked out of classrooms… Much worse however, were the threats supposedly made on Friday, by the so called Red Hand Defenders, against parents, pupils…

A Psalm for Sunday

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For the second time in a matter of months this morning I'm preaching on the theme of "New Beginnings" based on Luke 5: 33ff. The last time it was in my previous congregation, Dundonald Methodist, where they were anticipating changes with a new minister arriving in a matter of weeks, while this time, I'm on the other side of the move and my new congregation are probably a bit anxious about what upset this new minister will cause. The last time I said on the blog that I wasn't using David's Penitential Psalm (I managed to delete the previous post instead of re-blogging it... not having a good time with technology at present), but that it might have been appropriate... this time I am using this plea for forgiveness and spiritual renewal... 


Out of your unfailing love, O God, have mercy upon me;
Out of your grace, wipe away my wrongdoing.
Wash away my guilt
Cleanse me from my sin.
For I know what I have done wrong,
My sins are staring me straight in the face.
You, a…

A Big Dose of the Bard...

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No Saturday supplement this week... not because there isn't much out there of interest in the virtual world... if anything there is too much to swiftly sift it... but because there has also been too much on in the "real" world with the beginning of September and trying to find a new rhythm to life in a new setting...
But despite my busyness I did manage to carve out a whole day last Saturday to enjoy my birthday present from my wife... a triple bill of Henry VI parts 1, 2 & 3 performed by the Globe Theatre company... So at the same time as 400 people were gathering in the Lyric theatre to mark the passing of the bard from Bellaghy, I and about 400 others were staggering punch drunk into the Grand Opera House for the final furlong of nearly 8 hours of Shakespeare. I don't recollect ever having seen any of these three history plays before so I have nothing to compare them with from my own experience... all I can say is that I enjoyed the whole day. There were no b…

Franchise Faith

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This summer we spent our holiday in London, where I realised, yet again, how heavily our high streets are dominated by franchises... especially food and drink ones. I think that within central London, apart from in the parks, it must be impossible to go more than 100 yards without a Mega-Bucks, Cafe Nero and/or Pret hoving into view... and often you can see one Starbucks from the doorway of another...


As such it's a bit like churches in Belfast... Not only are there more pew places in Belfast than could conceivably be filled by its citizens, even if there was wholesale revival and an obesity epidemic that resulted in mega-sized gluteus maximi... but they are often arranged in clumps... And not just the Christ-shaming juxtaposition of different denominational mausoleums next to each other, announcing to the wider world that these Christians really don't love one another... but the insane proximity of buildings belonging to the same denomination. Sometimes they are due to histo…

Saying Nothing and Doing Something

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I don't know whether it was the shadow of Seamus Heaney looming over me, or due to biting off more than I could possibly chew, but I have never had so much difficulty distilling my thoughts for Thought for the Day, into this single thought... If you didn't hear it live and would like to "Listen again", you will find it at 25minutes and 85 minutes in to Good Morning Ulster for Monday 2nd September on BBC Radio Ulster's iPlayer.
Like many I was saddened on Friday to hear of the death of Seamus Heaney, that most humane, humble and humorous of poets… I was waiting to pick up my son from school, the school I used to attend… the school where, in the midst of the troubles, I first read Heaney’s poetry … a school where, because of the mixed religious backgrounds of the pupils, we practised the art of evasion famously identified by him as a characteristic of our conflict… “whatever you say, say nothing…”

The church has been repeatedly accused of doing that in this province…

Psalm for Sunday

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This ( I think) is based on the Psalm for this Sunday's lectionary readings... We're not using it in South Belfast Methodist this morning, but if you are going to be with me at the Ulster Hospital we will be using it there as a call to worship:
Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord; Those who delight in his commands. Their children will be powerful in the land; the offspring of the righteous will be blessed. Wealth and wellbeing come from his hand, and his righteousness will endure eternally. Even in darkness the righteous walk by the light; Dawn will rise on the gracious and compassionate. Good will return to those who are generous and share freely, Those who conduct their business fairly. Surely the righteous will stand unshaken; Their name will be remembered for ever. They will not fear bad news; Their hearts are without anxiety, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are free from fear, for they will triumph over their foes. The wicked will see their plans come to nothin…