Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Trip to EBM

While the main “model” for YAVs serving in Northern Ireland is to be part time at a church and part time at a community organization, my assignment is all rolled into a full time position at the East Belfast Mission. As you might have guessed, EBM is a Methodist congregation located in East Belfast, but it’s actually much more than just a church. Its designation as a “mission” is an attribute given by the higher levels of the Methodist church noting the location of a congregation in the inner city. EBM is located in a mostly-Protestant lower class neighborhood, and the life of EBM reflects the troubles facing a working class population in a city that lacks a primary industry. (H&W the primary shipbuilders used to employ 33,000; today it employs something between 350 and 500 people who do repairs on ships.) Besides being a worshipping congregation, EBM functions as a thriving outreach center. From overseeing 10 thrift stores throughout the city (note: how it funds most of its work), various cafes that offer healthy alternatives to those found in local corner stores, providing employment resources, operating a basic homeless shelter/ resources for former homeless, to hosting various inner city youth programs, it’s a thriving, community-focused center. It employs 82 people in addition to 150 regular volunteers. (Wowsa!!!) It is currently in a HUGE renovation project which is tearing down basically a city block and putting up a vibrant community/worship center. The project costs 22 million pounds, and the best part is, all of that money has already been donated. (The fundraising was completed prior to the financial crash.) It should make for an interesting year as I wander to different temporary locations for various functions.

I am so excited to be serving at EBM! Every statement that they have made (both in what I have read online and what I heard today while visiting) echoes my sentiments on why I am doing a YAV year and what I feel is the greater calling of the Church. If you go here: http://www.ebm.org.uk/churchhome.php and click through on the three words in the middle of the page: believing, living, and serving. There are three statements put out by East Belfast Mission. I am so excited to be a part of this and see a thriving urban church’s ministry in action!

What will I be doing? Your guess is as good as mine. Since I will be working there full time, it sounds like I will be splitting my time between the church and the mission side of things. I will spend my first few weeks figuring out my place in the greater EBM picture.

Two highlights of the day:

1) walking up to Scrabo Tower (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrabo_Tower) and looking over Newtownards (pronounced like “Newton + ards”, or “fig cookie/ Isaac + cards minus the c”)

2) Walking along the shore of the Irish Sea at sunset. So far, I would vote that Scotland is prettier than Northern Ireland, but N.I. is absolutely beautiful nonetheless!!

The food today continued to be fantastic. The downfall of me will be teatime. The offering of tea also includes various scones, tray bakes (aka bars in the “coffee and bars” phrase), and other goodies. I need to start playing some Frisbee or football soon!

Day three of sunshine; hoping tomorrow brings more of the same!

In peace and grace. :)

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