Maize ‘n Grace

6When I was visiting in the Omagh Presbytery recently, I was impressed by the spiritual vitality, energy and initiative shown by some Christian people in that part of the world. In particular, I was struck by the desire of those who work in the agricultural industry in that area to share their faith in a contemporary and relevant way.

Two County Tyrone brothers, Brian and Lynden Keys, are organising an event called maizengrace at The Ecclesville Equestrian Centre in Fintona from 10-12 June at which Angus Buchan, a South African farmer with a Scottish name, will speak. All the details are on the website.

There’s a lot of careful and prayerful planning going into this event, and the message which Angus will share will be relevant to people from every walk of life, but especially to those from a rural or agricultural background. All the local church leaders and members have been invited to an information evening next Thursday, 18th February, in the Ecclesville Centre in Fintona. If you are a leader in a rural congregation, and especially if you live west of the Bann, you might plan to take a group along to one of these events. It may prove to be an ‘maizen’ time.

Ballinamallard

img_0086It was a beautiful, bright winter afternoon in Ballinamallard when we visited Mrs Isa Craig just a few days before her 100th birthday. She was born on St Valentine’s Day, 14 February, 1910. This was our 17th visit to a centenarian since June last year, and like many of the other occasions, the conversation was lively and entertaining. Mrs Craig was able to recount her life on Crumlin Road in Belfast during the years of the Second World War as she waited for her sweetheart, Desmond, a Fermanagh man, to return from the war. They didn’t see each other for four years, but were married in Crumlin Road Presbyterian Church on his return. She has been a widow now for 33 years.

She also recalled her father, Jack McGarry, who began his employment in the Belfast shipyard as a 14 year old and retired 59 years later as a 73 year old. He was actively involved as a foreman in the construction of the ill-fated Titanic. He lived to be 103, and it is clear that Mrs Craig has inherited some of the same genes.

Mrs Craig maintains a great interest in the life and work of her local congregation of Irvinestown, and her crochet work continues to win prizes in local craft competitions. A wonderful woman! Continue reading “Ballinamallard”

Screwtape Proposes a Toast

thescrewtapeletters

A local primary school recently gave me a gift of a beautifully-bound copy of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It is many years since I first read this famous satire, and re-reading it again has only increased my admiration for Lewis’s insight and wisdom.

This classic piece of Christian literature has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its ironic portrayal of human life from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” It is very comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, as C.S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly-wise old devil to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man. Some commentators claim that The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging and humorous account of temptation — and triumph over it — ever written. Continue reading “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”

Fivemiletown: The College and Creamery Tour

Mr Alastair Dunne, Principal of Fivemiletown College, points out the extensive sports facilities.
Mr Alastair Dunne, Principal of Fivemiletown College, points out the extensive outdoor sports facilities.
The fitness suite at Fivemiletown College is an impressive facility
The fitness suite at Fivemiletown College is an impressive facility
Rev Roy Campbell and Rev Colin Dickson wait for the Moderator to fall off the treadmill in the fitness suite at Fivemiletown College
Rev Roy Campbell and Rev Colin Dickson wait for the Moderator to fall off the treadmill in the fitness suite at Fivemiletown College
The Head Boy and Head Girl of Fivemiletown College watch the Moderator fail miserably in his Denis Taylor impression
The Head Boy and Head Girl of Fivemiletown College watch the Moderator fail miserably in his attempt to pot a snooker ball
The well-maintained swimming pool at Fivemiletown College (the Principal's a Baptist!)
The well-maintained swimming pool at Fivemiletown College ...is it because the Principal's a Baptist?
Former First Portadown man, Ian McConaghy, Vice Principal at Fivemiletown College, shows us the music room
Former First Portadown man, Ian McConaghy, Vice Principal at Fivemiletown College, shows us the music room
Ena Sharples' headgear humiliates everyone at Fivemiletown Creamery
Ena Sharples-style headgear humiliates everyone at Fivemiletown Creamery
Everyone says "Cheese" at Fivemiletown Creamery
Everyone says "Cheese" at Fivemiletown Creamery
The longest-serving employee at Fivemiletown Creamery is John, a member of Aughentaine congregation
The longest-serving employee at Fivemiletown Creamery is John Barrett, a member of Aughentaine congregation, who has worked at the creamery for 39 years
Elders and wives from Cavanaleck and Aughentaine meet for lunch in the Valley Hotel
Elders and wives from Cavanaleck and Aughentaine meet for lunch in the Valley Hotel

The Enniskillen Depot

img_0073It was interesting for us to note that on the same afternoon that the politicians were putting the finishing touches to the Hillsborough Agreement on the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont we had the opportunity to visit the site in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, where many members of the old Royal Ulster Constabulary received their initial training. Mention the Enniskillen Depot to any former member of the RUC and they will regale you with stories and incidents that took place there during their training. Many of the police officers who were trained in Enniskillen went on to serve their communities with great distinction during some of the most difficult and dangerous days of the Troubles. Continue reading “The Enniskillen Depot”