Posts tagged ‘Church of Ireland’

July 23, 2015

Up to Down (and Antrim)

At the end of June, we took a week off to go camping up at Castle Ward in Co. Down. Actually it was more like ‘Glamping’, as we stayed in a wooden camping pod, which compared to a tent is the height of luxury! Highlights of the week including climbing Slieve Donard, visiting the Giant’s Causeway and the traversing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Below are some of the many photos we came back with…

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Slieve Donard – looking back towards Newcastle, Co. Down.

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On the way down…

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A beautiful Beach tree avenue, popularly known as “The Dark Hedges”, Stranocum, Co. Antrim.

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Ballintoy, Co. Antrim

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An Inquisitive local…

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Giant’s Causeway panorama, including the “Chimney Stacks”.

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Castle Ward, Co. Down.

(All Photos taken using a Nikon D7000 and 18-55mm lens.)

November 9, 2010

Horses for Courses (or why I am an Anglican)

West Cork Horses
(West Cork Horses waiting for that strange guy with a camera to fall off the fence, 
and no I am not sitting on any metaphorical fences, see below).  

By the time I was in my early twenties I had been thoroughly put off the Anglican Church for life, or so I thought. I had attended a Church of England boarding school where we were required to attend chapel every day, seven days a week. Listening to the chaplain preach, carefully explaining why the miracles in the Bible never actually happened and then singing the Te Deum (tedium) was like some kind of Chinese water torture. I finally gave up on the Church of England when on my first Sunday at University I went to the local Cathedral, to be greeted by no one, sat in a space where no one came within a hundred feet of me and then no one said good bye as I was leaving at the end of a very dry and boring service.

I started going to the Baptist Church when I was home. They were brilliant, friendly (but not invasively so), and I learnt so much from the great sermons and the example of the way those in the youth group lived. At University (after my brief flirtation with the Cathedral) I followed the crowd and went to the Elim Pentecostal church. They too were great people, great sermons, great ministry to the students (especially the free lunches – of course there is no such thing as a free lunch, the catch was that these people really cared about you). I probably learnt more about God, His love for me as a sinner and about personal holiness from these two churches than from anywhere else since. This was the place where I met my future wife; we journeyed though these churches together and it was a wonderful time.

Skip forward a few years and we find ourselves living in Ireland. Yes, there was an Elim and other churches in the nearby town, but we felt drawn to the local Church of Ireland. A good sized congregation was eight people; it was difficult to see any hope for the future. In my massive ignorance and shameful naivety I doubted how God could use a place like this. We helped with the Sunday School, more children then showed up and we began to realise that this place mattered to God (I am ashamed to think that I ever doubted otherwise). I can’t remember if it was a dream or a very clear picture in my imagination but I saw clearly that this church was like a table where there was very little food on the table and the people were very grateful for whatever there was. Other churches had more food than they could eat and their tables were overflowing. There was no doubt where we were needed most. It was not long after this that the sense of call (to ordination) came, starting as a small voice and growing gradually to the point that it was impossible to ignore or put off any longer.

I get frustrated today by anyone who thinks their church is better than someone else’s. We could take all day and hundreds of pages outlining the faults of the Anglican Church (in fact this is what many people seem to spend their whole time doing), but it is my home, it is the part of the church to which I feel called to help out in some small way.

I’ve been skirting around the edge of what I want to say because I am trying to put it as delicately and sensitively and lovingly as I can. Please my brothers and sisters in other church denominations don’t think that your denomination has got it right and the part of the church to which I belong has got it wrong. Please don’t feel sorry for me or patronise me; yes we pray using a book, yes our new hymns are not very new or trendy, yes our clergy wear seventeenth century fancy dress, yes we struggle with a historical / modern / relevant dialectic and I could keep going, but my point is this: We are part of the Body of Christ. Together.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 12:12).


When I was thinking about all this a phrase which I haven’t heard for a long time popped into my head, “Horses for Courses”.  I couldn’t have told you what it actually meant, so I looked it up: It means that some horses are more suited to some race courses than others, so some people take to some things better than others. God has made us all uniquely individual. Some people I believe are naturally predisposed to worship God in different ways (see Gary Thomas’ book “Sacred Pathways”, Zondervan, 2000, for more on this). Now if someone finds their home in one church denomination, how strange it is that they should look negatively on others who attend churches of other denominations.  Some like to worship in silence, some like to look at icons to help them pray, some like organ music, others like drums and guitars, some like incense, some like video screens, some like medieval hymns some like songs that are in tune with contemporary music trends. All these things are good if they draw a person closer to God. All these things are bad if they become an end in themselves.

Horses for Courses and lets leave it there.

June 4, 2010

Letting Go … letting God

Church of the Ascension, Timoleague  

Have you ever been at your wits end?  Have you ever been in a situation that was completely desperate and you simply could not see any way out?  I suspect most of us have felt a bit like that at one time or another.  Maybe it was a health problem, or something to do with finances or to do with a relationship or some kind of depression.  We are at a total loss and so we do not know what to do.  And so what is often our very last resort?  That’s right, we call out to God to help us.  And what are our prayers like in these moments; are they gentle platitudes?  No they are from the very depths of our being, from (as the saying goes) ‘the bottom of our hearts’.  And so with our fists clenched and our stomach in knots and our teeth grinding we cry out to God…  And do you know what?  In these moments prayer seems to have a potency and a power way and above the norm, it is like when we are on our knees in our own personal Garden of Gethsemene that the heavens are torn open and we have direct access to the Throne of Grace.  We have at last made room for God and He is there before the first word has even been uttered from our trembling lips.  

May 5, 2010

Rathbarry Church

Nikon D70s, 1/160 sec, f6.3, ISO 200, 105mm equivalent (click to enlarge)
This is the now long-abandoned remains of Rathbarry Church, on the Castlefreke estate, near Rosscarbery.  It was quite a gloomy day so I greatly appreciated the fact that the clouds parted just enough to allow the sun to light up the ruins for the photo.  This light only lasted a few seconds and then was gone again.  It seemed to us that access to the church was no longer available, but I was reliably informed the other day that as the church yard is still open for burials, the track leading to it is a public right of way.  The local land owner has made a convincing attempt to make it look as though you would be taking a very grave (excuse the pun) risk in setting foot on the road, but maybe next time we are taking a walk on the nearby beach at Long Strand we’ll take a better look.  
Seeing closed and derelict church buildings dotted around the countryside (of which there are many) could cause one to be a little downcast at the current state of the Church today.  “Numbers are not what they were you know”.  A Rector taking a service at which there are six people present (including the Rector) is encouraged by the words “In my day there were at least oooh ten thousand people in these pews at 5.30 am on a Sunday morning” and clergy are blessed by tales of how “in the good ol’ days” they had great fun breaking the ice in the font in order to baptise the queues waiting outside.  Make no mistake, these are challenging times.  
I’ve always had a great respect for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors with no boundaries, frontiers or borders) and I just love the name and what it means and what it implies.  Of course, the same idea is true of the Church also.  We are (or at least we should be) a church without boundaries, frontiers or borders.  Yes we meet together in buildings that are beautiful, historic (and cold and costly) but we are not limited by them.  Even if we had no buildings we would still exist (though the buildings committee might have to find something else to do).  A “church without walls” is not a new concept, but it ever remains an attractive one…
March 24, 2010

Church on the HIll

Nikon F100, Nikkor 18-35 f3.5-4.5 D, Ilford FP4 Plus (ISO 125)

I thought it was about time I put up a picture of some of the church buildings in the parish.  Others to follow in due course but first up is Kilgarriffe Church in Clonakilty.  This photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day and I have just developed the film so it is only appearing now.  The building dates from 1818 and is situated on a hill (and so is known locally as “The Church on the Hill”).  What more can I say – the people who go there are far more interesting than the building itself!

Regular visitors to this blog will have noticed a slight redesign – this was forced upon me when I was trying out Google’s Chrome Browser.  Somehow it managed to make a few layout changes without my telling it to.   I’m a bit scared of tinkering with HTML and have not managed to undo all the damage but I am pleased with the slightly new layout for the moment.

August 17, 2009

Looking Up

Panasonic LX1, 1/400 sec, f5.6, ISO 80, 28mm equivalent (click to enlarge)