COI Gazette – 1st September 2017

Sparks of good news in Garvagh

Canon Paul Whittaker leads SPARK (Servants Pursuing a Radical Kingdom), a cross-community youth initiative for building up friendships and helping communities.

Canon Paul Whittaker leads SPARK (Servants Pursuing a Radical Kingdom), a cross-community youth initiative for building up friendships and helping communities.

More than 40 young people recently took part in the annual SPARK Week programme in Garvagh. The cross-community initiative, now in its fth year, is based at St Paul’s Church of Ireland, Garvagh, and brings young people from across the community together to build new friendships and help communities in Garvagh and nearby Glenullin.

Garvagh is a village situated 11 miles south of Coleraine. It has a population of approxi- mately 1,300 people. The village and surrounding area are encompassed by the parishes of Errigal and Desertoghill.

SPARK (Servants Pursuing a Radical Kingdom) is one of several youth volunteering initiatives that have taken place across the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe during the summer. These included the diocesan On the Move project based in the village of Eglinton, at the beginning of July. It is encouraging to hear of similar projects in every part of the Church of Ireland, in which young people find ways to serve their local community.




If you’ve ever been given a task that feels undoable then spare a thought for King Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was a character in Greek mythology. The myths do not treat him well – describing him as greedy and deceitful. Unfortunately for him, he took one step too far, doing something that betrayed the god, Zeus. It was a betrayal that required severe punishment.

The punishment for Sisyphus was that he was made endlessly to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Every time the boulder almost reached the top it ended up rolling back down the hill, with the task starting all over again. The punishment lay in the fact that Sisyphus felt consigned to an eternity of fruitless efforts and unending frustration. Zeus had his revenge!

We’ve all experienced it. Having a task that feels too big to be doable – one that, when you start, seems to have no end in sight. We can sympathise with poor old Sisyphus – condemned to the crushing task of pushing the boulder, but knowing that it will never reach where it is meant to.

Is that how we feel about mission in the Church of Ireland? We can have any one of several reactions:

• The task is too great and we are too small;

• The task feels so big that we don’t know where to begin;

People seem so much less receptive now;
Our labourers are getting fewer.
Who would want to feel like Sisyphus – with a task that feels undoable?
There are two ways to avoid mission feeling like the endless and impossible task.

The first is to avoid the temptation of thinking that mission is a task that is always somewhere out there in the future, something that we haven’t started yet. What if that is not actually the case?

If you keep your old copies of the Gazette, why not have a quick scan of editions over the last six months. You will read about young people cleaning their neighbourhoods or others undertaking a challenge to raise funds for those in need. Parishes and dioceses have organised events to help us think about important issues. There are other stories of parishes and individuals simply doing their best to live out faith in their ordinary lives. Up and down this island parishes and people are doing good things. The reason why they do them is because of their faith.

The point is simple. Acts of mission are not something we are waiting to see mysteriously happen in the future. They don’t belong to one churchmanship or another, to town or country. They are happening now, often in simple ways. We need to find a way of acknowledging what is already happening and celebrating it.

The second way of avoiding the fate of Sisyphus is to make sure that if we decided that mission is a priority, we then say what we are going to do about it. Execution is a business term that refers to the capacity to complete assigned tasks and responsibilities to customary or specified standards within a certain timeframe. It is one thing to decide that something ought to be a priority. It is another to ensure that appropriate resources – financially, structurally and in terms of personnel – are invested to ensure a reasonable prospect of success. A good intention without the means to deliver it will usually remain just that – a good intention.

The experience of the Church of England, as described by Mark Russell (page 9), is worth observing. Deciding on a priority requires provision of the means to deliver it. This necessitates appropriate structures, finance and whatever else is required. If these mechanisms are absent, any priority set will remain no more than a good intention or wishful thinking.

In the Church of Ireland we say we that mission is a priority. Do we have the machinery for driving a mission agenda forward?


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Letters to the Editor

Same-sex marriage debate

THE REVD TREVOR JOHNSTON appeals to scholarship in his riposte to Canon Ginnie Kennerley. I won’t comment on the scholarship of those he cites: I haven’t read their works and I fear to do so would be but an expense of spirit.

There is a waste of shame, however, in the biblicist lovelessness that refuses to engage with the culture, insights and humanity of the “whole world” for which, Mr Johnston reminds us, the true and living God sent his Son to die. There are many casualties of that lovelessness; but that same Son sits still at the Temple gates with the tenth leper, who remained a Samaritan and therefore continued to be rejected by the religious authorities.

Mr Johnston may take on himself the task of the priest and declare who is clean; but the walls of his Christless Temple are crumbling around him.
Rupert Moreton (The Revd)

Joensuu, Finland


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