Monday, December 27, 2010
Hope everyone has a very happy and safe New Year's Eve!
(Can you believe it's 2011?!?)
Early tomorrow morning, I am flying to Frankfurt, Germany with one of my fellow YAVs to spend a week relaxing from work and exploring Germany. No worries, pictures will be taken. (FYI: we will return to Belfast on January 4th.)
I will have sporadic access to the internet most likely, but in case I don't get a chance to talk with you:
"Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!"
Happy New Year!!!!
Posted by Mrm at 5:51 AM
Friday, December 24, 2010
Happy Christmas everyone! I hope you are getting to spend this holiday season with family and friends. And special greetings to everyone at First United Presbyterian! I realized that this is the first Christmas Eve in many years that I won't be playing trumpet, organ, or handbells as part of the service! (For those of you who are worried: following the Christmas morning service, I will be spending the day outside of Larne at the home of one of the families from EBM. I am quite excited to experience a Northern Ireland Christmas Dinner!!)
My week at EBM primarily involved delivering biscuit tins to some of the elderly women of the congregation. As part of delivering the tins, there was an expectation that it would be a pastoral-type visit. Little did I know though that what I at first viewed as an obligation would actually end up being a wonderful opportunity that I thoroughly enjoyed. Many of these women shared with me pieces of their life stories, including some reasons why Christmas-time is often a difficult time when they miss family members who are no longer living.
For everyone who are missing loved ones this year, may you still find some peace and happiness this Christmas.
For those of you who are lamenting the 'commercialism' of Christmas, keep in mind that December 25th was not really the day that Jesus was born. Most scholars would suggest that he would have been born sometime during September. So with that in mind, we can remember that as we sing "In the Bleak Midwinter" or "Still, still, still," these songs are all part of, in essence, a holiday that even from its beginning was a part of humanity's commercialism and need for ritual.
What is important is what we are celebrating, not really when or how we celebrate it. Here is something to help you reflect on that
Christmas Begins (by Howard Thurman)
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost... feed the hungry...
release the prisoner... rebuild nations...
bring peace among all people...
and to make music from the heart.
To conclude on a more lighthearted note though, here is a glimpse of what the Christmas season involves in the United Kingdom courtesy of the Vicar of Dibley. :)
(That is part 1 of 5; you should find the other four parts also listed on youtube.)
May you survive all of your Christmas dinners and much love to you this Christmas season.
In grace and peace from Northern Ireland. :)
Posted by Mrm at 2:36 AM
Monday, December 20, 2010
The headlines across Northern Ireland bear not so glad tidings about the effects of the recent snowy weather across Belfast and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Yesterday (on Sunday), Royal Mail delivered an extra 7,000 packages around the city. Thank you dedicated postal workers! http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/evening-post-planned-to-clear-weather-backlog-15034528.html
However, the snow brings beautiful opportunities... See the end of this post. :)
This past week was full of Christmas dinners and parties with groups around EBM (Mums & Tots, Friendship Circle, and then on Friday, the official EBM dinner, and Friday Fusion!)
While thoroughly enjoyable, this past week was a bit harried as I was helping plan two events: Friday Fusion's Christmas Party and Sunday's morning worship: The Nativity Service.
Both went splendidly! The Christmas party was general chaos of course (it wouldn't be Friday Fusion if it weren't), but the kids got to play on bouncy castles, get their faces painted, decorate sugar cookies, and be sent home with a selection pack of candy distributed by Santa Claus.
It was brilliant: kids on a sugar high being sent home with their parents. Recipe for success. :)
Sunday's nativity service of course included children in Biblical-themed costumes. But since I was helping out with it (lol), it was a bit different than your standard nativity. (First change: no children in animal costumes; kids can be cute as humans, no need to humiliate them by dressing up as lambs or donkeys - which also detracts from the meaning of the story. Probably read too many books as a child about the scarring of other children because of Nativity plays.)
The script was around the idea of 'Jesus as the light of the world.' So as each 'character' came out, following their bit of dialogue about the greater significance of their lives to the Gospel story, they then lit their own candle from the Christ candle.
It was a success for two reasons: 1) the building did not burn down. and 2) overall, i think it was a genuine time in which all generations could reflect on these images of light - light coming into the world and being carried out by every one of us.
Since I survived the past week, Monday (meeting day with the other YAVs) eventually rolled around. It was topped off with sledging (aka sledding) at Stormont. It ended up just being myself, another YAV (John), and our fearless leader Doug Baker hitting the slopes with our 'bum boards' (nifty sleds that I am sure are also marketed in the states). It was good craic (aka fun).
Enjoy the following photos from the experience**.
**Disclaimer: who knew the most epic hill that I have ever sledged on would be in BELFAST!?
Posted by Mrm at 9:07 AM
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Each day, I am continuously amazed at the wonderful interactions that I have with the "employees" of East Belfast Mission. Many have backgrounds in theology, ministry and public outreach, some have previously been employed in the shipyards, engineering firms, and other businesses, and a few have backgrounds in both. I could spend this whole post raving about these people and the work they are doing, but this post is actually about another project.
The head of the Skainos project (the current building construction project) is a theologian as well as a business manager, and he is an avid fan of William Stringfellow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stringfellow
During the season of Advent, he and a group of other people contribute to a blog reflecting on the time of year and the writings of Stringfellow. I was given a copy of Stringfellow's writing and asked if I would like to contribute. I went ahead and said yes.
It felt a bit like I was back in undergrad, posting my comments on an article to the class discussion board, but it was refreshing nonetheless to dip back into academia.
My blogpost is copied/pasted below; if you would like to just check out the whole blog yourself, you can go here: http://themockingbirdsleap.wordpress.com/
Posted by Mrm at 4:28 PM
Friday, December 3, 2010
Happy December everyone!
This past week has been a bit of an unusual one, but also a very good one.
For those of you who have been following the weather in the UK, the British isles are currently getting socked with lots of snow. Northern Ireland has not gotten as much snow as some parts of Scotland and England, but we have gotten a fair share.
Surprisingly enough, we had 8 days of sunshine in a row. But it was cold enough, that the snow on the ground after melting slightly during the day would refreeze to ice. (It doesn't help that the sun is up for about 7 out of 24 hours.) And more snow would often fall at night.
Today, the snow is falling fast. For living in such a northern country, the Norn Irish don't deal well with snow. Think Williamsburg, VA, style of cancelling schools at the thought of snow.
But in their defense, the Norn Irish are contending with a lot of ice under the snow, lots of country roads that are hard to maintain, and lots of small city streets that few snow/ salt trucks can traverse.
Walking to work this week has been interesting as the sidewalks of one of the main streets that I walk down have been completely iced. Skating to work isn't really my favorite thing to do, so I generally ended up walking in the street, skirting around parked cars. Adventures-Belfast style.
This week has been unusual work-wise for several reasons.
The Nativity planning which started last week continues to go well! Consequently, this week has been a bit calmer compared to last week.
Due to the teacher being sick, Dance Nation was cancelled this week, and then due to icy roads, Friendship Circle was then cancelled as well.
Construction continues to go well at EBM - the church itself was torn down this week. I unfortunately did not have my camera at work the day that the roof came off, but it was quite a sight to see! (And some EBM staff were out taking pictures - hopefully they will be posted online soon, and I will share the link.)
Last night was the first meeting of Re:act, the youth group for 11-18 year olds. I hosted the gathering at my flat, and it was a resounding success!
I had forgotten how much I enjoy working with older youth. (For example: they are old enough to play some of my favorite and more "advanced" games - such as spoons. Also, in the down time, there is space for both serious and also humorous discussions.)
In addition to the standard pizza/crisps (aka chips)/ soda fare of youth gatherings, I also put out some plates of fruit and veg. The apple/ satsuma plate went over really well. The carrot/celery/hummus tray did not... As I expected, most of the youth had not had hummus before. Surprising revelation: only a couple of them had ever had celery sticks before. Most had only had celery in soups... And after their first bite of a celery stick, most made grotesque faces and couldn't finish the remainder of it. I tried explaining to them that carrots and celery sticks are standard fare in America, but I am afraid most of them still thought that I was crazy. :)
Not sure yet what the weekend and next week has in store. Perhaps a makeshift sleigh is in sight for the near future. Who knew I should have brought my snow pants to Northern Ireland!?
Overall, a great week at work of planning activities for the Christmas season, surviving and even enjoying the Scripture Union at the school yesterday (there were a couple of volunteers missing), and having some free time to reflect just how quickly the past three months have flown by!
I hope you are enjoying the Advent season!
During this time, let us reflect on how we often feel like this:
But when we are able to keep life in perspective, appreciate the time that we get to spend with friends and family, and realize that we have indoor plumbing, we are called to be more like this:
In grace and peace. :)
Posted by Mrm at 2:59 AM