We had a busy eight days in the new presbytery of Coleraine and Limavady last week, with a total of 22 different events, appointments and church services. But it was all very interesting and most encouraging. We ended the week feeling a bit tired, but enriched by all that we had experienced. A chronicle of the whole week would be tedious to read, but I felt that I had to highlight two occasions when the “Compassion for People” theme was clearly visible.
On Thursday evening we shared in a short, informal, and extremely enjoyable Harvest Thanksgiving service at Willowbrook.
Willowbrook is a supported living facility for adults who have special educational and physical needs. It has to be one of the happiest places I have ever visited. The singing was enthusiastic as the residents and friends of Willowbrook engaged enthusiastically in the singing of songs, ably led by my colleague, Rev Robert McMullan, whose long service with CSSM has well-qualified him for leading such times of worship. The supper was great, and then we were invited to see the homes of our new friends. What a joy and delight it was as they showed us around and told us how happy they are living at Willowbrook. We praise God for the compassionate people who had the vision for such a place, and for those who brought the vision to reality.
On Friday morning, we had the opportunity to visit the impressive facilities at Sandelford Special School. With over 140 students, the staff at Sandelford do a fantastic job in teaching children and young people who have to cope with serious physical and intellectual challenges. Again, the atmosphere in the assembly was one of unrestrained joy and enthusiasm which thrilled our hearts.
Kellie presented me with a beautiful picture which she had painted, and which I have already put up on one of the walls of our home.
The facilities at Sandelford are superb, but the greatest resource has to be the people who work there under Mrs Tenant’s outstanding leadership. We met up with our good friend, Leanne, a member of the Carnmoney congregation, whom we have known for many years. Leanne has responsibility for a class of children who are autistic, and she explained the careful and precise way in which she and her support staff enable these pupils to cope with their condition. It was all very impressive, and we were so pleased that these young people were under the care of such compassionate teachers whose approach is so professional.
These are only two examples of people who need a bit of extra support being treated with love and compassion. There are many others providing similar support in many places. But these two inspired us, and we left Coleraine thrilled and delighted by what they are doing.