Some of us have been fascinated by the growth and development of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, under Tim Keller’s leadership. The congregation is now moving to a new phase of growth and expansion, and has announced the appointment of four lead pastors to look after the growth and development of four regional congregations around Manhattan.
Two of these men are personal friends. Dave Bisgrove was a committed and long-term student at Westminster Seminary during my time there. Leo Schuster was a colleague on the Board of Trustees at Westminster Seminary. Both are gifted and godly men. We wish them well as they take up their new appointments, and we will continue to watch with interest the continued growth of this remarkable congregation.
There will be a collective sigh of relief among Ulster rugby supporters that their side won against Edinburgh. And with a bonus point, they appear to have secured a place in the Heineken Cup competition for next season. That should encourage those supporters who had hesitated on renewing their season ticket membership to take the necessary action before the end of the month.
The past few weeks have been a depressing time for the Ulster rugby team and their supporters as their season appeared to have gone into free fall with no indication that they would ever start winning again. But with this win, and the prospect of being included in all the major competitions next season, plus the arrival of some new players, we can look forward to better days.
Spare a thought for our local Portadown rugby team who lost out to City of Derry on Saturday and have been relegated. There was a big crowd at Chambers Park, just across the road from the manse, and they enjoyed a spirited contest in warm spring sunshine. But it all ended unhappily for the home side.
Sport can be so enjoyable, but I need to remind myself that it is not the ultimate source of fulfilment or happiness in my life. Everyone connected with sport as player or supporter recognises that it can be desperately disappointing at times. But in spite of the disappointments, we always remain hopeful. There’s always next season.
Patricia and I flew to the US on Wednesday just before the cloud of volcanic ash erupted and stopped all flights across the north Atlantic. So here we are in Philadelphia, on the other side of the cloud, with many trans-Atlantic air travellers unable to get to where they want to be. We are quite content to enjoy the beautiful spring weather in Pennsylvania, and we will see how things develop by the time we are due to return next week. Maybe we will have to stay longer? For others, to be on the wrong side of the cloud will be very disruptive.
I had lunch yesterday with Dr Paul Wells, who teaches at the Reformed Seminary in Aix-en-Provence in France, and he left us to get an Air France flight to Toronto and then to Paris. The Paris flight out of Toronto was cancelled, but I believe Paul made it safely across the Atlantic on an Air India flight to Barcelona.
The last time trans-Atlantic air travel was so disrupted was immediately following the 9/11 attacks. On that occasion, Patricia and our eldest daughter had just crossed the Atlantic on the evening of the 10th September and I was in Philadelphia with our younger daughter. But all flights were restored within a week and Patricia and I were reunited on schedule.
This disruption seems strangely apocalyptic. One (relatively small) volcanic event has a massive impact on human activity and travel. It is another reminder that in spite of our successes and achievements in many areas of life, we are still quite powerless in face of the natural phenomena in the earth. I think the biblical writers made that point many centuries ago.
Cullybackey is an unlikely venue for the Senior Winter Olympics, but it seems as though the local authorities, by their inaction, are trying to prepare a skating rink or an ice dance arena for those in the older age group.
By refusing to salt the footpaths and driveway outside Tobar Fold, they have created a facility which the residents of the Fold could use to prepare for winter sports, but only at the risk of serious injury. A quick poll of residents revealed that none of them had in fact aspirations for the 2012 Winter Olympics, even if it is re-arranged to Cullybackey.
Seriously, the situation can only be described as ridiculous. Access to and from the Fold is dangerous for residents and visitors alike, and someone needs to take responsibility for removing the hazardous conditions by applying some salt. Maybe some influential person will read this and take some action.
In the meantime, my elderly relative who lives in the Fold is trying to see the brighter side. “If you seen them gettin’ and in and oot o’ cars, it’s a quare bit o’ oxtercogging.” I’m not sure if oxtercogging will ever make it as an Olympic sport, but there’s plenty of opportunity to practice around Kilmakevit.
I think the purpose was team-building, or maybe it was just relaxation and fellowship, but some ministerial members of the Iveagh Presbytery spent an enjoyable morning at the Tollymore Mountain Centre near Bryansford, Co Down climbing the Hotrock Wall. It was a great activity in which almost all took part. I am tempted to “name and shame” the non-participants, but they know who they are!
Ministers often use climbing imagery to describe the Christian life and to explain how that it requires concentration, perseverance and commitment. They came away from this experience with a new appreciation of the skills needed to scale a wall, and undoubtedly some illustrative material for children’s talks and sermons.