The best kept secret of church life

Just back from speaking at a weekend away with Urban Junction. The theme was the Holy Spirit, with talks on Holy Spirit and Community; Holy Spirit and Transformation; Holy Spirit and Mission.

The location was Coolnagreina, the YWCA centre in Greystones, which has been recently revamped into a really excellent centre with a great accommodation block, landscaped grounds to accompany the older house. The weather was perfect.

Couple of reasons to post about this:

1)      The church gets a lot of criticism – from without and within (including this blog from time to time). Sure some of it is justified and plenty is even constructive and reforming, but I confess I get a bit weary of what feels like an endless debate of what the church isn’t doing / believing right (and here is what it needs to do next …).

What often gets overlooked is the wonderful, loving, sacrificial and caring ministry that goes on in local churches and Christian organisations day by day and week by week that doesn’t tend to make it into Pete Rollin’s latest philosophical deconstruction of the failures of Christianity as we’ve known it.

Urban Junction is one such place. It’s grown organically from an original desire to provide a safe and fun environment for teenagers, into a creative and innovative youth and community organisation, and increasingly into a Christian community in its own right. What’s impressive is:

– their focus on serving their community in Blackrock

– inclusion of a wide spectrum of people through a variety of different access points

– long term transformative presence in young people’s lives flowing out of a deep long-term commitment

– lots of energy, enthusiasm, and ideas

– a passion for God in all of life without becoming all religious

– holding together a heart for prayer and a serious engagement with theological thinking about mission and ministry in contemporary Ireland.

I’m not basing this on a flying two day visit. Staff members Simon Kilpatrick and Belinda & Michael Briggs, along with volunteer team members Peter Rigney and Marion Smith, have all been students at IBI (doing degrees or Certificates). I came away from the weekend enormously impressed with the sheer joy and vitality of the community … a sign of the Spirit at work.

And also reminded of what a vast amount of serving, loving, caring, praying, thinking, giving, worshipping and yes, even fun, goes on in Christian communities every week ….

2)      Second reason is that I finally did the Greystones to Bray coastal walk after meaning to for years and on a glorious day too. Ireland in May is a hard place to beat when the sun is shining and the gorse is blooming …. Here are some shots of the walk including the reward for getting to the other end 🙂

Gorse in bloomIMG_0359IMG_0407IMG_0410

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