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Living the dream

janetteNext month’s Methodist Newsletter includes several stories that show what can happen when people ask God to plant his dreams in their hearts and then trust him to realise them in his way and at the time of his choosing.

On the centre spread, Janette McCormick (pictured) shares the story of ‘Follow the Star’. ‘Back in 2004, while working in a primary school… I asked God for a dream,’ she writes. ‘… I thought to myself there must be something different whereby children could be exposed to the true meaning of Christmas and also be participants in it.’  In 2006, Janette joined the staff of the Irish Methodist Youth and Children’s Department and her dream was ‘taken down off the shelf’.

The result was ‘Follow the Star ‘– an outreach resource hosted by local churches and supported by the Irish Methodist Youth and Children’s Department (IMYCD) – which once again this year saw hundreds of children engage with the true meaning of Christmas.

Read Janette’s account and what participants had to say about Follow the Star 2019 in the February magazine – out next week!

 

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So much more than bricks and mortar

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In the next issue of the Methodist Newsletter, the opening and dedication of the new Methodist Centre in Moira is the focus of a special feature by John Switzer and the Rev Robert Loney. They tell the story of Methodism in Moira from the early beginnings when itinerant preacher John Grace arrived in the town on horseback, and show how that same pioneering spirit has encouraged members of the present congregation to completely renew their buildings and facilities. ‘It took courage, wisdom, discernment and sacrifice for the congregation to see that this window of opportunity had to be embraced,’ writes Mr Loney, ‘which led to an open door and the open door to a fresh understanding of how God wanted us to follow him.’

Read the complete article in the February Methodist Newsletter – out next week!

January 2019 magazine out now!

Cover (20)Copies of the January 2019 issue of the Methodist Newsletter are now ready for collection. Agents collecting from Edgehill House please note that the magazines are available on the lower ground floor – entrance through the side door.

Coming to terms with the past

The January issue of the Methodist Newsletter contains a number of items on dealing with dealing with the past in this part of the world.  In one of these, the Rev Dr David Clements discusses a document that the Council on Social Responsibility of the Methodist Church in Ireland has put together to assist in tackling what, at times, appears an almost intractable problem.  The Council, after much soul searching, believes that putting a stay on prosecutions is now the best route to go.  They are not calling for an amnesty. If evidence becomes available, the justice system should take its normal course. The Council proposes that the Northern Ireland Office sets up units of Truth Recovery and Justice Facilitation under a Reconciliation Commission. They pray that they might contribute something useful towards healing in this place and for the Glory of God.

The Rev Dr Harold Good shies away from the term ‘Dealing with the past’ with its

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negotiating overtones, preferring to use ‘Coming to terms with the past’.  In a report printed in the Newsletter of a talk he gave at Agape South Belfast, he suggested three words familiar to the faith community, which have meaning in secular as well as religious talk:

Confession. Or being honest, with God, with each other, with ourselves, on matters of our history.

Grace. Or being generous, open in understanding.

Forgiveness. Harold could not find a equivalent secular word. Its unique meaning is seen in the words of the Dali Lama who when asked what was ‘forgiveness’, replied after long silence, ‘Who knows what forgiveness is?’ Only those who forgive and those who have been forgiven know forgiveness, seen unmistakably in Jesus.

Harold saw the power of these three words in the young German man he met at Corrymeela, walking from Berlin to Jerusalem to acknowledge what his forebears had done, say sorry and ask forgiveness.

The full text of both articles and an accompanying letter is published in the January issue of the Methodist Newsletter.

 

Methodist President offers Christmas message of hope

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A Christmas message from the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Billy Davison:

‘During 2018, a number of important milestones were remembered which brought new hope of a brighter future, such as the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, but others, brought into sharp focus the pain,, suffering and darkness of our troubled past.  Most recently, it reappeared with the brutal murder of a father waiting to collect his 13 year old son outside a school in West Belfast.

‘It was also the year in which we commemorated the centenary of the ending of the First World War – the war that was to “end all wars” yet we are still witnessing the distress and awful consequences caused by wars around the world to this day.  The casualties in such conflicts include children dying through food and medicine shortages, with powerless mothers looking on with faces that seem to say, “There is no hope”.

‘Hope is a characteristic which is in short supply in many quarters today.  At a time when the country is so divided over issues like Brexit and has no local functioning Executive or Assembly, it is not easy to convince people that there is hope when everything outwardly appears to militate against it. This lack of hope is a global issue as many countries strive to cope with all kinds of domestic crises with diminishing resources. The words of Isaiah the prophet are very apt: “Then they will look towards the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness” (Isaiah 8: 22).

‘However, the prophet speaks of a time when “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (9: 2). One way we celebrate Christmas is with the switching on of sparkling lights across the world to celebrate this very special season.  But what make Christmas truly special is the coming of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8: 12).

‘Human resources on their own are insufficient to put right the problems facing the world. Mary and Joseph faced many challenges on the first Christmas as they made their way to Bethlehem, when Mary gave birth to the Saviour of the world.  In her Magnificat, Mary doesn’t focus on the magnitude of their dire circumstances, but on the greatness of her God and her life is filled with hope and gratitude. She said: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 2:46).  As we receive the gift of Christ by God’s grace our spirits are lifted above the gloom and despondency around us to find fresh resources of peace and hope, and the joy of sins forgiven.’

 

 

 

Helping people who are in need

 

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Brian Burns, shortly to retire as CEO of Belfast Central Mission (BCM)

Brian Burns is currently BCM’s CEO, but will retire from that position at the end of December. One of his last acts was to cut the first sod on the site for a new care unit at Copelands. This will be a 60-bed, residential dementia and nursing facility situated between Donaghadee and Millisle in County Down.  It is due to open in 2020 at the cost of approximately £5m in total, have six households, each with ten residents living in en-suite rooms with 24-hour care available.

BCM was founded in 1889 as part of the Methodist Church’s response to problems faced by people living in the inner city. Now, as then, BCM offers spiritual, emotional, social and physical help regardless of class, creed or ethnicity and no religious commitment is required from its staff or anyone wishing to benefit from its services and many people do. It’s a sobering thought that their caring services are as much in demand today as they were in 1889.

Brian admits he will miss the involvement with BCM where he has spent many years supporting BCM’s mission of helping people in need.  However, although Brian has many plans for retirement, he says that these will still involve helping people who are in need.

A full interview of Brian burns with Anne Hailes will appear in the January issue of the Methodist Newsletter.

Are you a partner, donor or beneficiary?

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Tim West (photographer), Grace Quansah (Methodist Development and Relief Services volunteer) and Mr Addison (local coordinator) in a field in Ghana. 

A few years ago, Tim Dunwoody from Irish Methodist World Development and Relief (WDR) was standing in a field in the coastal area of Ghana, West Africa. He was there as part of his work, visiting a scheme being managed by Methodist Development and Relief Services (MDRS) and farmers who were planting new strains of coconut trees to replace ones that had been devastated by a killer virus. In that one field, there were donor organisation staff, donor supporters/volunteers, staff from the partner NGO and beneficiaries, the farmers, all ‘doing their thing’. A nice illustration of working together to improve things.

However, Tim felt there was something about his description of the people in that Ghanaian field that made him uncomfortable – three words to be precise. The words were ‘donor’, ‘partner’ and ‘beneficiary’. In the traditional view of international development, a donor gives funds to a partner (typically an organisation) and the partner then carries out work to improve the lives of beneficiaries (typically the materially poor). This paints a rather one-way flow in the system; from donor to beneficiary. It does not describe good development practice well nor, indeed, the reality of what is happening.

Instead of suggesting we look for new more inclusive alternatives for these terms, Tim offers another option; one that they at WDR, try to embrace:

Firstly, all in that scene are partners. Partnership is about people with common values gathering around a common task in order to see it achieved. True partnership speaks of equality and equity. The Ghanaian farmer, MDRS coordinating staff, WDR volunteers and staff are all of equal value, aiming to reduce poverty, improving lives and gathering around common values such as justice, compassion and solidarity. Together, they can each achieve more than they would on their own.  Another point to make is that WDR partners with people, not organisations.

Secondly, all are donors. The donor has usually been assumed to be the group that provides the financial input for a project. But money is not the only input required for successful development. WDR supporters may have the money to buy new coconut seedlings but they probably do not have years of experience in farming in southern Ghana nor the connections with local landowners in order to obtain new tracts of land. Each partner can donate what they have.

Lastly, all are beneficiaries. This last claim may seem harder to justify. A beneficiary is the one to receive the positive changes brought about by the work. The farmer grows new trees and harvests the coconuts. It is clearly the farmer and his or her family that is benefitting. There is no benefit for the supporter who contributes to the fund or the staff of the supporting NGO. Right? Tim would say wrong.

For example, being part of this wonderful WDR network of people has huge benefits for Tim personally. He gets a huge sense of satisfaction by being involved in something that is good and successful. As someone with a Christian faith, he is able to fulfil his obligation to help the materially poor. He also gets an insight into other cultures and lives – a very enriching experience. Others who contribute from the ‘Irish end’ and yet do not proclaim any form of faith, will also get huge satisfaction and fulfilment from partnering with people across the world to make that world a better place. The staff of NGOs, like himself, earn a living and they also see their own communities progressing thanks to their efforts; surely a heartening and uplifting experience that does the soul good. These are all good things received and so Tim would suggest that everyone is a beneficiary, admittedly in very different ways.

The full text of the article will be published in the Methodist Newsletter in January 2019.