Manny’s coming!

mini-cwc-coverIn the next couple of weeks we will be welcoming my good friend and former colleague, Professor Manny Ortiz, to Belfast for our church’s Urban Mission Conference. This is a great chance to interact with someone who is extremely knowledgeable and well-skilled in leading and directing urban ministry and mission.

If you are a leader in an urban congregation, you will benefit greatly from this conference. Be sure to sign up today as numbers will be limited.

From a Presbyterian perspective, this is a very important event. Our denomination is facing huge challenges in the urban areas of Ireland, and we need to apply ourselves with energy and urgency to this topic. In many urban districts, the church appears to be on the retreat from the city to the suburbs. But with over half the world’s population now living in cities, mission and ministry in the cities and town centres is not optional for us. Key questions about our involvement in urban mission will be addressed at this conference.

Manny was Harvie Conn’s close friend and understudy for many years, and he not only understands the theological issues which Harvie dealt with, but has implemented them in his own congregation, Spirit and Truth Fellowship which meets in the Hunting Park area of North Philadelphia. It is a vibrant and inspiring multi-ethnic congregation drawn from people living in a deprived urban area.

Manny will be supported by Dr Sue Baker, an accomplished social scientist and experienced teacher, who has first-hand experience of urban ministry in Chicago and Philadelphia. If you can make it, come to West Kirk on the Shankhill Road to hear Manny on Sunday evening, 18 October.

September’s over

It may be over, but it has gone fast, and we have traveled widely. Apart from the trans-Atlantic trip to Georgia and Tennessee (reported previously on this blog), and visit to the Welsh Presbyterian General Assembly, we have been back and forward across the north of Ireland visiting various churches and enjoying the hospitality of our Presbyterian brothers and sisters.

The month began with the opening of the new hall in Mountnorris. The sun shone and it was a great afternoon of celebration and thanksgiving.

It was great to return to our former congregation in Carnmoney as they kicked off their “autumn and winter’s work” (as my predecessor there, Rev Jim Fullerton, would have described it). There has been an “autumn and winter’s work” in Carnmoney for over 350 years, and this year promises to be one of the busiest ever. 1177280404We were able to catch up with many dear friends and experience the buzz and vitality of the congregation under Rev John Dickinson’s creative leadership.

Trinity, Boardmills were also launching their new season of ministry under the pastoral leadership of the good and godly Rev Tom Harte. It was lovely to share with them in their evening service, which was well-reported in the local Co Down press by the amiable and ubiquitous Lisburn photographer, John Kelly.

We also managed to catch up with our long-time friends, Rev Ian and Helen McClean before Ian’s retirement from Ballygawley and Ballyreagh. In our student days, we were near neighbours in Ballykeel II estate in Ballymena. We wish Ian and Helen well as they move to a new phase of ministry, and we believe that the congregations of Ballygawley and Ballyreagh are well-placed and spiritually strong as they come to a time of vacancy.

That same day we made the journey north to Portrush to share in “The Seven Churches” evening service. This fellowship of seven Presbyterian congregations on the North Coast has been functioning for some years now, and has shown how that by working together they have been able to do more than if they were working individually. It was a most enjoyable evening, and the music was particularly uplifting and inspirational.

After a Sunday going south to north in Ulster, we spent the last Sunday of the month travelling west to east, from Second Castlederg to Greenisland. Second Castlederg were joined by their friends from the Alt congregation as we celebrated 150 years of worship in their meeting house. It was a real joy to be with those fine people, many of whom have lived through the worst of the Troubles in what was once described as the most bombed town in Northern Ireland. There was a real spirit of unity in the congregation, nurtured by the ministry and pastoral care of Rev John Honeyford.

img_0329Greenisland congregation were celebrating 75 years of work and witness his month, and there was a real sense of joy and commitment among the members of the congregation. Greenisland has an impressive and very capable pastoral team led by Rev Jim Stothers, ably assisted by Andy Carroll. It was interesting to note that the work in Greenisland was first begun by some work carried out by Rev Dr James Dunlop, prior to his call to Oldpark. Dr Dunlop’s grandson, Alastair, is now our assistant minister in First Portadown.

The last day of the month found us very close to home in Newmills. Many of the members of the Newmills congregation are personal friends, as are Rev Gordon Best and his wife, Pamela. What an impressive addition they have made to their halls! Deceptively traditional from the outside, both the meeting house and the halls have a very contemporary interior. It was great to share a good evening of thanksgiving and celebration in this lively and warm fellowship.

So it has been a busy, but a rewarding and very stimulating month. On to Coleraine and Limavady next week!