Missing all of the folk in Virginia very much!
My apologies for the time between posts. Last week I missed a couple of days of work due to a nasty cold, and already having a busy weekend in store, I have not had time to sit down and write a blog post.
Some highlights from the past few weeks:
Two weekends ago, I went on a retreat to Corrymeela with women from a cross-community small group that has been meeting the past year. (All of the women had grown up in East Belfast; some in the Short Strand - the Catholic section of the inner East - and the rest in Ballymacarrett/ Ballyhackamore.) It was a GREAT time!
I wasn't too sure what I had gotten myself into when I showed up to EBM on Friday night, but the weekend turned out to be wonderful. Corrymeela is a Christian retreat center up on the North Coast outside of Ballycastle. It sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. (Pictures to come.)
The retreat consisted of lots of free time for the women to socialize. (Slumdog Millionaire was viewed, humorous games of Green Grass Valley were played, the X Factor was watched, etc.) The best section of the retreat though was Saturday morning when we met with a mediator from Corrymeela. Over the two hours, we did two main activities.
First, we would be shown a picture, and then we were to stand as close or as far from the image as reflected our feelings towards that person. The pictures were of the Pope, Ian Paisley, etc.
Then, we split into Protestants and Catholics, and each group was handed two large pieces of paper. We were told to write about things that we associated with each faith practice on the separate pieces, and we then came back together to discuss them.
Overall, it was a healthy time to discuss the stereotypes (some true, some not so much) about the two faiths. And the best part of it all, since these women have been meeting throughout the past year, there was quite deep discussions allowing these women to reflect on and express their beliefs. (Most of these women would very rarely get an opportunity to do so during daily life.) I really enjoyed the time, and the women seemed to as well. It was a comfortable and safe place for these women to see that while there are differences in their beliefs, there are also many similarities.
The weekend was topped off with some of the women running to the town's chippie, and consequently, a late night snack of chip butties happened.
Literally, bread, butter, chips (french fries), ketchup and vinegar to taste
People from the inner east of Belfast eat so unhealthily, but none are really obese. I think the trick is in the portions - instead of eating a big mac with an extra large serving of fries, they might just eat fries with gravy. (Plus, their fries are thicker, instead of the shoe strings that soak up more grease.) But, pure speculation on my part.
So having survived the retreat, I returned to fight sickness during the week, then the busy weekend arrived.
I led Friday Fusion (youth club on Friday night for 4-11 year olds), so we did a variety of Thankgsiving crafts and games. :)
SATURDAY NIGHT SAW HARRY POTTER 7.1. Enjoyable.
Then on Sunday, I got to lead the small evening worship service at EBM.
(Once a month, I have also been teaching the 4+5 year olds Sunday School class; this along with a music team meeting, kept me on my toes this past Sunday.)
This week has been busy planning out the upcoming Nativity service which is on the third Sunday of December. In trying to make it more meaningful and less about children wearing costumes, I have been helping one of the EBM staff members rethink the standard nativity scene.
So, children will be dressed only as 'humans' (no five year olds in sheep costumes), and the general theme will be about Jesus as the light of the world.
Costume inventory, planning of Christmas crafts, organizing music for the service, etc. is taking up a lot of this week. (Sunday School starts various preparations this Sunday!)
Tonight was Dance Nation - a healthy living/hip hop dance class for youth in the Inner East. Not teaching it, but help to facilitate, and do occasionally participate. :)
Life in Belfast has been busy but still good. The past two days have been sunny, so that is quite a treat from last week. (Wind and rain is the best combination for a miserable mile walk to work.)
The YAV group is continuing to get along. We had our weekly meeting with Doug this past Monday, and before we headed out of City Centre, we stopped by the Continental Market which is in Belfast for several weeks. It truly feels like the Christmas season... Time to watch a Muppet Christmas Carol.
For those of you who are wondering, my return date has been set for July 27th. Mark your calendars!
In grace and peace.