Thursday, June 30, 2005

Photo Test

Ok, so a while back I figured out how to get a photo in a posting, using the code, but I'm going to try the new feature that blogger has, using just the wee button to insert an image... so here goes...
And behold, I do believe it has worked! Well done blogger!

History finishing

And there we have it... tonight brings to an end the History class in Magherafelt, in which we are looking at the events of Home Rule, World War One, the Easter Rising and the Somme, Partition, the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War. It has been an interesting tie, with some very keen people who know a lot of history themselves - it makes it all worth while!

Then tonight my holidays begin, which I will be well grateful for - Summer Madness on Saturday and Sunday, and then London on Monday!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

No more Cardinal Sin!

It appears that there is no such thing as Cardinal Sin now... according to the BBC News Website. What an unfortunate name! (My thanks to Primrose for this article)

For such a time as this

Last night I read through the book of Esther. Esther is an unusual book to be in the Bible, because it does not mention the name of God once. For this reason, Luther sought to have it removed from the Canon of Scripture, but the Church has retained it, because, while God is not explicitly mentioned, his providence and loving kindness can be seen through the book.

The story, in brief, is as follows: The people of Israel, the Jews (for Jews, read God-fearers and God's people) are in exile in Babylon. The king, Xerxes has a falling out with his wife because she is disobedient, and he fears that all wives would become disobedient if they heard of his wife, so he takes her crown from her, and launches a beauty contest to find a new Queen. A sort of Queen Idol, or some such reality programme. Esther, a Jewish girl, wins the contest and becomes Queen. In the meantime, her guardian Mordecai, who was her cousin, foiled a plot to kill the king. But one of the king's top men, Haman, hated Mordecai, and therefore hated the Jews (without knowing that queen Esther was also one), and he hatched a plot for men everywhere to kill the Jews in their locality on a certain day, using the king's signet ring to make it official. The Jews fasted, and mourned because their destruction was in view.

Mordecai urged Esther to approach the king (itself a risky business, with the punishment of death if the king didn't call for you or want to see you), which she did. She held a banquet for the king and Haman, saying she had a request to make of the king, which she would say the next day, when they all gathered again for another banquet. That night, the king could not sleep, and just happened to want the chronicle of his reign to be read to him, and the very section that told of Mordecai foiling the plot was read, when the king realised that he hadn't rewarded Mordecai. At the same time, Haman built a huge gallows on which to hang Mordecai, because he hated him.

The next day, the king talked with Haman, and asked him... 'what should the king do for the man he wants to honour?' Haman, thinking it was him, advised elaborate honour and the best of everything. So Haman actually then had to lead Mordecai about the town, calling out that he was honoured by the king. Then the feast came, and Esther revealed her wish - that the king would revoke the order given to slaughter her people, and when the king heard of it, he asked who had done such a thing. Well, the responsible boyo was sitting opposite him, and he was ordered to be hanged from his own gallows. Moredcai was then given the position Haman had occupied, and Esther was given the estate of Haman. The king allowed Esther to countermand the order previsouly given, so that the Jews could take up arms to defend themselves should anyone attack them - and so no Jews were killed.

The key verse, though, which shows the providence of God is found in chapter 4, in the words of Mordecai to Esther:

"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13,14)

What circumstances has God brought you to, in order that you might work some good? Just this week I have seen the providence of God, in that, in the eleventh hour, as it were, word has come through that I might now have a summer job in the group - something that seemed unlikely this time yesterday morning. The Lord be praised!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Last night I got into the flat and had a bit of a fright! Downstairs, there is an old shop, that my landlord uses to store wooden flooring and stuff, and I keep my bin and bike there. As you come in the door off the street, the door is always open into the 'shop'.

Well. Last night, I walked in and jumped! The bin and bike were in the narrow corridor down which I walk, past the shop, to get to the stairs up to the flat. And in the 'shop' was a pile of coffins and wreaths etc! Talk about a shock!

My landlord is also the village undertaker, which explains why that stuff was there - but I wasn't expecting to come across it!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Caution! Being with Jesus changes your life!

Acts 4... Peter and John had healed the cripple, and they were held overnight for questioning, and they answered everything the chief priests asked, and answered well - including the key verse: 'Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.'

But notice what the chief priests noticed:

'When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus'

The time spent with Jesus had educated these men beyond what the priests expected of them, and they were ambassadors of Christ, empowered and equipped by the Spirit working through them.

Oh Lord, grant that we would also be changed and empowered, by spending time with you, in prayer, and in Bible study, so that we too would be fearless ambassadors for you. And grant that my time in College wouldn't fill my head with things which take away from my relationship with you, but that I would be equipped with and encouraged to deepen my faith and relationship with you. Peter and John didn't go to College, yet could preach with a Spirit-given power and authority, grant, Lord, your empowering for my preaching, weak as I am.


Was reading Ezra last week... and realised that I hadn't put any Bible thoughts on in a while... so here's a quick one on Ezra.

Ezra was a priest during the time of Israel's exile in Babylon, but Cyrus and Darius (neither of them popstars), relented and let the Israelites who wanted to, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls and the temple. So Ezra decided he would go, and take supplies etc for those who had already left. And everything he did prospered. Why?

'For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel'

Ezra did 3 three things with the Law of the LORD (that is, the Scriptures that had been completed up to that point):

1. Studied it

2. Observed it

3. Taught it

It wasn't a dry study to him - it informed his teaching. But much more than that, he also framed his life according to it, and this is how he prospered. There's a similar verse in James that say we should not be hearers of the Word only, but also doers...

How does your Bbile reading affect the rest of your life? Learn with Ezra, and study, observe and teach!

Busy Sunday

Well, what a busy Sunday I have had! 3 services, and all over the place...

8.30am was Holy Communion in Dromore Cathedral - Trevor's first Communion as celebrant since being 'priested' last Sunday night.

11.30am was the Commissioning of Mark Lennox as Diocesan Reader in Christ Church Castledawson, conducted by the Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, Ken Good. The wee church was packed (and filled up quite early too), and it was interesting. It was also the quickest I have ever seen or heard a Psalm sung - it can sometimes drag a wee bit, but not in Castledawson!

6.30pm was the Ordination of four new deacons in Down Cathedral. One of them was from our parish, Rory Corbett, who will be working as an auxiliary in Aghalee Parish.

So a fair day of travel and experiencing different places and styles of worship, from a wee country parish to a cathedral! Although I missed Children's Day in our own cathedral - but there'll be other years for it.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


1) Sorry that for some reason now, all the right hand cloumn of stuff is further down the page than the left hand column... rage!

2) Sorry that comments now seem to be duplicated, so if you comment once, it will appear twice, and I get the email notification twice!

The Choir Trip

Every year, on the last Saturday of June, the choir of Dromore Cathedral and their friends set off for their annual outing, venturing to places far afield. Today, being the said last Saturday of June, we departed on said outing, and here follows the report of the venture.

The bus left Church Street, and via the new underpass on the A1, we eventually reached the Linen Green Centre at Moygashel, on the outskirts of Dungannon. There we enjoyed morning coffee and scones, before having time to browse the shops at the centre.

We then got back on the bus, and headed further west, to the town of Enniskillen, where we had almost 3 and a half hours for exploration. The younger ones of us headed first towards McDonalds, where we got a bite of lunch, then on up the street - the Christian bookshop was visited by a lot of us, and their trade was significantly boosted!

Up in the centre of town, there were some Morris Dancers (the first I have ever seen in Northern Ireland), and it was all a wee bit strange seeing them beating sticks together with their bells on their knees etc.

We then moved back to the bus, and arrived for our evening meal at the Greenmount Lodge, near Fintona, where we enjoyed a good meal.

We even arrived back in Dromore just in time to see the mini-twelfth parade, with two new banners on display (Watson's LOL 421 and Union LOL 834), a pipe band, and several lambeg drums.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Busy weekend ahead...

This might be one of my busiest weekends yet... Tonight we're going with YF to a youth event called Focus in Laurelhill Community College, then tomorrow all day is our Choir Trip - stopping at Moygashel and Enniskillen, before an evening meal in Fintona, then Sunday is the commissioning of Mark Lennox as a Lay Reader in Christ Church Castledawson in the morning, and then the ordination of Rory Corbett (among others) in Down Cathedral in the evening. Watch out for updates, if I have a minute in the midst of it all!

Thursday, June 23, 2005


You never know what's going to happen in the office in a day! We have just had an Austrian woman in, looking for someone who wrote letters to her family, or something - I didn't quite catch the story. But she was looking for an address: 'Birnagh, Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone'. Now, me being the 'blow-in' to Tyrone didn't recognise the name, and hardly surprising, but when the other person in the office didn't know it either, then we were in difficulties!

But it was the Public Records Office to the rescue! I knew that they have a townland index on their website, and that I have used it in the past to get some info... so it was back to PRONI I went, and behold, there it was! Sadly, they don't have maps on the website which show the boundaries or location of the townlands (something for them to work on maybe), but using the 'Division' in which the townland sits, we were able to find other townlands that were on the Ordnance Survey map and locate the general area of it.

So then she offered to buy the map I had in the office... so she's away with my map, and I have 5 euro, which will help buy petrol next time I'm in Lifford! What an interesting morning!


For a while, I hadn't finished any books... It seems that sometimes I go through a phase when it is hard to read, and to keep reading, and I got bogged down in a book on the early church. But now, this past two days I have finished two books! The first was John Grisham's 'The Broker' - his latest book, and just as good as the rest of his books, fast-paced, and a great read. It follows the story of a power broker on the Washington circuit of Congress who gets a last minute pardon and goes into CIA-enforced exile in Italy. A very good read. The second book was 'Alien Nation' by Melvin Tinker, which looks at how the church is in 'Babylon', with increased secularisation in our society, and how we should seek to engage and be a witness in society, but not be brought down by or to the world's standards. I have now started the 6th book in the Left Behind series, called Assassins. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Diocesan Synod

Yesterday was the Diocesan Synod, held in Moira. It was an interesting enough day, when about 300 people from the parishes of the Diocese came together to hear reports of the work of the Diocese, and to make decisions about the future. Well, no real decisions were made this year, but that's what normally happens!

The particular highlight was the book launched at the Synod, called 'Build Your Church, Lord', which is the report of the Episcopal Visitation carried out by the Bishop in the first half of this year. Basically, he went round every church, finding out how the previous five years had went, the growth or decline, the successes and weaknesses, and compared and contrasted strategies with those used in other parishes. The book will be an interesting read, and includes maps of each parish boundary, as well as diagrams and charts showing attendances, Sunday School numbers, and an age profile of worshippers at an 'average' service.

However, the day seemed to consist of a lot of eating! After the Communion service, there was a tea break, then a session of 2 hours, then lunch, then another session of an hour and a half or so, then another tea break, then the closing session. But I suppose those times gave us the chance to meet up with and talk to people we knew, and also those we didn't.

Oh, and I was also elected to the General Synod for the next three years, which should be interesting enough...

1000 not out!

So there we have it... 1000 page views of the blog, in just over 2 months. Thank you to all who regularly visit and read my thoughts - I hope you get something out of them! The more astute of you would realise that there are in actual fact two counters at the bottom of the page, but I find that the lower numbered one is more accurate.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Day Off!

Today I had another day off, which was nice, so I got a bit of a lie-in, and then went into Belfast and surrounding areas for a look in some secondhand bookshops... got a couple of wee bargains, which was all good... so I'll have something to read.

Tomorrow is the Diocesan Synod in Moira, and then back to work on Wednesday.

Sorry this was such a woeful posting!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Dundela Ordination

Tonight we had a parish outing on the bus to St Mark's Church, Dundela, for the ordination of two priests/presbyters, Christopher Woods, and Trevor McKeown (our Curate). It was an interesting service, with parts of the liturgy sung by the choir, including the Litany, part of the Prayer of Consecration, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, and stuff during the Communion.

I hadn't realised, but St Mark's is rather 'high' in terms of it's churchmanship, with candles in the procession, a crucifer, and the parading of the Gospel Book. There were also the references to the 'altar' which I didn't understand, but maybe that's because I'm a low-church fella who knows that Calvary was our altar, where the once for all sacrifice was made for our sins, and that the wooden thing at the front is the Lord's Table, the Communion Table or the Holy Table.

But it was interesting to see a different style of doing church - even if it was just to confirm that I'm more comfortable in a lower way of doing things.

Another bonus of tonight was that I saw a few people I haven't seen in ages - for one, Rev Gary Galway and his wife Heather, and Alison and Rosie - both of whom were at a Diocesan Confirmation weekend I facilitated at several years ago. So it was good catching up with them... even though Rosie insisted I was a country hacker... then she modified it to being a 'posh country hacker' - which I don't get!

The scary thing was that some of our parishoners were going on about how that will be me in a few years, getting ordained... again, time seems to be going so quickly!

Please pray for Trevor, as he begins this new phase of ministry, and looks forward to celebrating his first Communion next Sunday morning.

Service One Completed!

Well now... it is with some delight that I report that I have completed leading my first entire service from start to finish. Providence led to me having to take the service of Morning Prayer and preach for the first time on my own. But it was good experience for me, especially seeing I'm doing it in another parish in the summer.

One thing, though, I'm not sure about is the reception I got. When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Nazareth, the people tried to stone him or throw him over a cliff... nothing like that happened for me! Should I be thankful, or disappointed?!

I was soooooooo nervous beforehand, but now that it's over, I think it went ok. And while it was happening, I wasn't nervous at all - I was completely calm, and didn't make too many mistakes! One hairy moment was when I almost tripped coming down the chancel steps going to the pulpit - that would have been an interesting start to the sermon and given the choir something to laugh about!

The text of the sermon (which is really an extended version of a posting I made a while back on 'Identity') is below for you to peruse...

Sermon 19-05-06
Romans 6:1-11 Sinners or Saints?

Who are we in Christ? This morning I want to focus on the reading from Romans, to try to discover something of our identity in Christ after salvation, and our relation to sin after we come to faith. So many of us can be labouring and burdened by sins committed after being saved – frustrated at either our weakness in not being able to resist temptation, or else doubting that we are saved at all because we sin. Through our time together this morning, I hope that we will come to a better understanding of who we are in Christ, and what this means.

Paul, in writing his letter to the Romans, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was giving an outline of the Gospel, and highlighted some objections and wrong interpretations as he expounded the truth. One of these wrong interpretations was that, if God’s grace is shown when he forgives sin, then should we not seek to sin more, so that God’s grace is shown more?

On the surface, this might seem like a reasonable suggestion – after all, if man’s chief purpose is to glorify God, then what brings more glory to God than him forgiving sin? The Russian monk, Rasputin, taught this approach – on the basis that those who sin more need more forgiveness, and therefore enjoys more of God’s grace. He lives his life in notorious sin, and urged his followers to do the same as the path of salvation. To these people, therefore, salvation was just a free pass to sin all the more, in the knowledge that God would forgive them; God’s grace was to them a licence to sin. But this was not at all what God’s grace was intended to do – indeed it is the complete opposite!

God’s grace is poured out on those who recognise that they are sinners, and cannot be saved by anything else, other than the full and free pardon provided by the finished work of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection. To think, therefore, that when you’re saved, you can go out and do as you wish, because, after all, God will forgive because he always forgives, is wrong.

Why? Because intentionally setting out to sin, wilfully sinning (knowing in advance that you will run to God for forgiveness), is an abuse of his grace, and fails to recognise the seriousness of sin. The seriousness of sin was the reason that Jesus had to die on the cross in the first place – ‘There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.’ Indeed, it is a betrayal of God’s grace, and an insult to Jesus’ blood shed for us to sin after salvation, but to do it intentionally is much worse. Instead, after salvation we ought to strive to live a holy life.

You see, the first half of the book of Romans establishes in order, our condition. Chapters 1 – 3 (verse 20) show us that ‘no one is righteous’ (3:10), that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (3:23). Then Chapters 3, 4 and 5 show us how we can be saved ‘through faith in Christ Jesus’ (3:22), because ‘Christ died for us’ (5:8), demonstrating God’s love for us. This is justification – because when we trust in Jesus’ death, and the benefits of his passion, it is just-as-if-I’d never sinned. Justification is a once-for-all decision that we come to. Then in Chapters 6 – 9, we find the life of a Christian, working towards sanctification. Sanctification is the process whereby, after coming to faith, we become more like Jesus.

So if it is wrong to sin in order to maximise God’s grace, yet Christians still commit sins, ‘Which we, from time to time most grievously have committed’ in the words of the Confession at Holy Communion, how does it all tie up? Are we weak if we sin after coming to salvation? Or are we not saved at all? It is Romans 6 that helps to explain our state after coming to faith.

How many times have you heard someone call themselves ‘a sinner saved by grace’? Now, on first sounding, this can sound right, and humble, and proper. After all, it recognises that we are saved by grace – which is the essence of salvation. But it really isn’t right, and certainly isn’t a term found in the Bible. Why? Well, because in the Bible, there are only two groups of people – sinners and saints.

Now, when you hear the two categories, you probably think, well, I’m certainly not a saint, so I must be a sinner… But that is all down to our misunderstanding of the word ‘saint’. The images that spring to mind when you hear the word saint are probably those in heaven, or someone very good, a church named after someone, or maybe a stained glass window. But these are not what the Bible calls saints. Instead, when the word saint appears in the Bible, it refers to ‘one separated from the world and consecrated to God; one holy by profession and by covenant; a believer in Christ’ (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

Indeed, if we consider the usage, we find Paul writing ‘To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints’ (Romans 1:7), ‘To the saints throughout Achaia’ (2 Cor 1:1), ‘To the saints in Ephesus’ (Ephesians 1:1), ‘To the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi’ (Phil 1:1), as well as references in Acts to the saints in Jerusalem and Lydda (Acts 9:13, 32).

The implications are clear – those who are in Christ, who are believers, are therefore saints, and not sinners, nor even sinners saved by grace. How is this? Well, because in 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Cor 5:17). The passage we’re looking at this morning shows in greater detail how this is possible.

‘Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? … For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin’ (6:3,6,7).

This is the picture of baptism by full immersion – with the person being baptised going down under the water – buried, as it were, and dying to sin, before rising again to new life in Jesus. When we trust in Christ, therefore, we put to death our old sinful nature, and instead, Jesus lives in us, and lives his life through us.

But we must remember that although we have been saved by faith, at our justification, the battle is not over. While sin’s position in our hearts has been altered by us trusting in Jesus and giving him the throne of our hearts, it still wages war within us, seeking to regain a foothold. This is like the situation near the end of World War Two, when victory was guaranteed for the Allies, but there were still pockets of resistance to be mopped up. Victory was sure, but there was still fighting to be done.

Verse 7 tells us that we should no longer be slaves to sin. In essence, the entire passage is related to the concept of who we are serving. Is it our sinful nature (and therefore sin), or is it Jesus?

So what are the implications of all this? Well, it all depends on how we view ourselves as to how we conduct ourselves. If we think that we are sinners (even sinners saved by grace), then there is a fair chance that when temptation comes, we will fall into sin again. Our enemy, Satan, seeks to win against us, by questioning our faith, and all the more so when we come to faith. It is not easy to be a Christian – we are in a battle situation!

And if we continue to think of ourselves as ‘sinners’ then we are recognising the hold that sin has on us, and recognising that we are serving it.

But if we view ourselves as saints, saved by Christ, and being strengthened by his presence living in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, then we are more likely to resist temptation, by recognising the Lordship of Christ in our hearts. We will still occasionally sin, not wilfully, but by not being perfect, but we are likely to be quicker to return to God in confessing our sins, and being restored. It is all about how we view ourselves, and about our thought processes. This is why Paul closes today’s passages with the command: ‘In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11). Count yourselves… Think about yourself as being dead to sin, that it has no hold on you, that it is not living in you.

So therefore the challenge for you today is this: Are you a sinner or a saint? If you realise that you are still a sinner, that you haven’t come to faith, that your sinful nature still rules in your life, then come to Christ. Come, and put your sinful nature to death by trusting in Jesus’ death, and live in him.

And if you’re a saint – do you realise what this passage means for you? Count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God, and turn from your wicked ways. Stop giving the enemy a foothold in your heart, after you have put it to death. Live wholly for God, and not for sin. Invite the Holy Spirit to live in you more and more, directing your thoughts and actions, and serve him totally. Your sins have been put to death, they have been paid for by Jesus’ blood – go and sin no more.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


This afternoon was our Sunday Club Outing to the Zoo... we had a great day, with lots of jokes about me seeing my cousins, the monkeys, gorillas etc... The weather couldn't have been better - not too hot, but warm enough. Photos will follow on my album site when I have time to upload them...

Friday, June 17, 2005


Today is the first of my looooooooooooooong weekend off! And what a good day! After a nice lie-in, I went to Lisburn for a while with me ma, where I saw Mark pushing a pram... which led to a bit of banter as he is as single as the day is long - turns out it was a friend's ba, and he had gotten a lift to town with her.

I came across a set of tapes of Dick Lucas speaking on Romans, so I bought them, and have been listening with some profit ever since.

Then later in the afternoon, I took ma and gran to Tullylish for a flower festival - it's where ma was brought up and married etc, so she knew loads of people, but thankfully I had an escape plan, and dropped them off before heading to ICM Books at Bleary. Well, it turned out that everything I was looking, they didn't have - 2 books by Peter Jensen, and one by T C Hammond - it turns out that ICM in Dublin bought all their stocks of the 3 books for the bookstall at the event last week, which I saw... but I thought I would wait until I got back to Bleary before I would buy them. I'll know for again!

This evening the YF did a car wash for the Albany team mission in the summer - I sort of stood about talking, yet still managed to get a bit wet... hopefully it will have raised a lot of money for the girls going away.

But this Friday night finds me in the house as I prepare to lead the service in the Cathedral on Sunday... please pray for me if you're reading this before 11.30am, and if you happen to read it between 11.30 and 12.30 on Sunday, then pray all the harder!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

William of Orange

Tonight was another night of history in Magherafelt, and tonight we were looking at the Williamite Wars in Ireland - perhaps my favourite ever period of history! From the Comber Letter to the Treaty of Limerick, I just love it all!

As a Dromore man, it is an obvious shame that the first defeat for the Williamites came at our own town - where the Council of the North fled in the face of the Jacobite Army... but these things happen!

But my most favourite thing of tonight's session was the following four 'myths' which we shattered:

1. The image of William on a white horse - wrong - the only reference in a book is to a black horse!

2. The image of William raising his right arm holding a sword - wrong - William was shot on the eve of the battle in the right shoulder, and so couldn't carry his sword in his right hand as it was too painful.

3. The Williamites were identified by a green bough or leaves in their hats - so the Orangemen wore green!

4. Many Lodges and people are called 'True Blue' as an expression of their loyalty... yet the name comes from the Dutch Blue Guards, who were the elite Dutch Regiment, and to a man, they were all Catholics!

Hehe... these and more are exposed in the historical book I have written, and with funding from the Community Relations Council will shortly be available... more details when it is on sale!

Seminar Two

Last night we had the second seminar relating to the F-Word exhibition in Belfast. The theme was international perspectives, and we had two speakers, one from Rwanda, and one from Chile. Mary's story comes from the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, where she was the only member of her family not to be killed. But her story was inspiring and touching, as she told us that her therapy is in helping others in the same situation, and that she seeks to be a voice for the victims/survivors.

She said that the perpetrators of terror are listened and respected too much, while the victims are forgotten. How true this is in Northern Ireland, where ex-prisoner groups are taken by the hand, and hundreds of thousands of pounds thrown at them, while victims' groups like our own are struggling to continue. Her solution was to make herself obnoxious, turning up at all sorts of venues asking the difficult questions, which is also what our staff and committee do - for example, a run-in I had with the Mayor of Londonderry a while back over the word 'terrorist'...

I'm well glad that I was part of the event last night, and also that it looks like I'll be in Newtownstewart for another while!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Job Safety?

Well, it appears that I might be working til the end of the month... depending on how our proposals for an extension or whatever work, and if they are accepted. More info when it is available...


Last night, we had a seminar in conjunction with the F-Word exhibition at the Institute of Governance, which looked at the Government Consultation on the future of victims policy and strategy. The seminar was led by John Clark, head of the Victims Unit at OFMDFM (Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister), who outlined the proposals and then answered questions.

The evening was an interesting time, with lots of issues discussed. The meeting helped to feed into our thinking in formulating a response to the Consultation.

For the text of the proposals, click here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The End is Nigh!

Well, it seems that my end in Newtownstewart is coming sooner than expected - possibly as early as tomorrow. It seems that I have to use up all my holidays before the end of June, and, with time worked up as well, that means tomorrow is my last in the office.

And there's been no word on the summer research project we were hoping for, so I could be finished completely and looking a summer job. Any ideas anyone?

But it also means, more concerningly, that I won't be online as much at all, with no more broadband (not being in the office), and not having the work laptop (as the computer at home is busted). So for the next wee while, we might be on a reduced posting blog... but we'll see what happens. Keep checking anyway for the latest updates...


Today is the launch of the F-Word Exhibition in Belfast. No, don't worry, it isn't an exhibition dedicated to swearing... but rather about a word that can be a 'dirty' word for some people. We're talking forgiveness.

The exhibition tells the stories of some people from across the world who have been affected by conflict, or abuse, and their feelings on forgiveness. It is being held in the Institute for Governance building at Queen's University, on University Road, and is open from 9am - 5pm from today until Friday, and is hosted by Training for Women Network.

So what is forgiveness? Is it surrender? Is it letting other people off? Must someone seek forgiveness before it can be granted?

My current thinking on the matter is being influenced by the parable of the servant, where he pleaded for forgiveness in front of the king, who he owed a powerful lot of money to. The king was merciful, and let him off. Yet, as the servant went outside, he met a fellow servant who owed him a few pence, and he put his fellow servant into prison until he would get paid... Can this be like us Christians? Can we be forgiven a huge debt (our rebellion against God), and then hold petty grudges against others - none of which can compare to the immense debt we owe to God? Therefore, if we have been forgiven of God, then it is up to us to forgive those around us - indeed, as we pray in the Lord's Prayer: 'forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.'

I'm not saying it is easy... but it is the best way.

Monday, June 13, 2005


We're now gearing up for a busy summer. I suppose I'm thinking about this because we were checking dates for holidays in the office (on the assumption that I'll be here...). So here's how my summer is shaping up at present:

2nd-3rd July: Summer Madness, although I'll just be calling in rather than camping this year

4th-8th July: London, for the Proclamation Trust Student Minister's Conference

16th-23rd July: BB Camp in Prestatyn, Wales

As well as this, I have the opportunity of leading at services and preaching a few times, so it will be a busy time. Hopefully the weather will be good, and the craic mighty at the various things, so that I get well relaxed and rested before Dublin.


What a busy day! Things are hectic, so no major posting, until maybe later... History tonight looks at the Ulster Crisis.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sunday morning

This morning we had a busy time at the 11.30 service. First of all, there were 3 baptisms, and loads of extra people in church (and baby noise, which was great!). But then we had Communion afterwards for those who wanted it, because there was a mix-up over Early Communion, which found only Stephen present... But it was good to see the Chancel full (with one overflow in the Organ Aisle) whereas we would only have about 12 or so at the early service.

This afternoon I'm for a flower festival in Tandragee Presbyterian, and then Church and YF tonight. But this week is going to be very busy, as I am working EVERY night through the week, including trips to Belfast and Magherafelt... So hopefully I'll have Friday off to relax and catch up on sleep before our Sunday Club trip to the Zoo on Saturday...

Sad news

I cannot bring myself to type this. It is the saddest news I have had all year, but my 100% record of winning at 10-pin bowling has finished. So many times young Jordan has tried to beat me, and failed - well at least I still have that. But we went to the Odyssey tonight, and I'll let the results speak for themselves:

Stewart 109, Bryan 155, Gary 140, David 81

Stewart 125, Bryan 139, Gary 108, David 86

My first score was respectable (possibly even one of my better ones), but that was only because it was bolstered by two strikes in the 10th round. So I have lost my 10-pin bowling winning streak... but there will be other times, and I'll get Bryan again!

And as for David. Well, poor David. He used to always give me a run for my money during our time at Queen's, but recently he hasn't been at the game at all - whether Union College has done something to his bowling ability or what, I don't know.

I'll keep you all up to date with the bowling latest!

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Yes, once again, the magical mystery tour that is a Saturday afternoon landed in Ballymena. But there was something new and different today. As well as ma wandering around the shops and me wandering to Faith Mission etc, we also visited the Royal Irish Regiment museum in St Patrick's Barracks. In what is a site very close to the town centre, we had never been past it up close before, but we ventured in anyway (getting in past the security man!).

A group from my work had been there yesterday, but I was unable to go along (due to having meetings to go to), so I thought I might as well, while I was in the area. The tour started outside, looking at various memorials from Korea, and to the UDR and RIR, as well as some armoured vehicles and tanks in the grounds down towards the parade square. Then inside, there are a series of models and exhibits charting the progress of the regiments that would eventually become the Royal Irish Regiment (which only began on the 1st July 1992), begin merged from the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The museum was very good, and the shop was well stocked with posters, postcards, books, cds, videos and other products connected with the RIR and preceding regiments. The staff were also helpful, giving a good tour of the outside elements, and then letting us wander inside. If you're ever about Ballymena on a Wednesday or Saturday from 2pm - 5pm, call into St Patrick's Barracks and have a look. It is well worth a visit, and a bargain for £1 entrance fee!

Friday, June 10, 2005


Today work was hectic, and included meetings in Dungannon and Belfast, but it was a nice day, so pleasant to be driving in. Then tonight, I went for a walk in Tollymore Forest, and the weather was just perfect. Some photos have been added to my photo site, under 'Tollymore' so have a look - I didn't check the photos first, so some might be slightly out of focus, but the ducks were nice, and posed for photos, and then the sunset was nice over the Dromara hills.

Oh, and we went for Guinness too. Hehe. But not the drink. On the way to Dundrum from Dromara, you go over Guinness Mountain, and at the crossroads is Guinness Primary School!


I've just got this email from Stewart... how weird is this:

Just about 5 minutes ago I was walking across the car park here in CSS when I thought I saw you. I was so sure that it was you that I was about to put up my hand, when I thought, 'Hold on, what's Gary doing here?'. I looked again and this person is the spitting image of you, but drives a different car. He's probably wondering what this freak was doing staring at him!

So there we are... is it possible I could have a double in Craigavon? Should we hunt this person down? It would be like doing a 'Dave Gorman', only with looks instead of names... Hm... maybe Dave Gorman isn't well known to everyone, so I'll explain. Dave Gorman set out, with his friend Danny Wallace, to find 54 other people in the world called 'Dave Gorman' (I think it was to settle a drunken bet). To ruin the end of the story, he was successful, but the story is funny because of the telling, and how he came to find them. It was a stand up show, then was made into a tv programme on BBC 2, and is now out in a book.

I have also emailed a couple of people called 'Gary McMurray', but I haven't heard back from any of them - Google is handy for so many things! One Gary McMurray is the manager of the First Trust Bank in Lisburn, another was a competitor in the Paralympics for New Zealand, one is a senior researcher in a robotics initiative and so on... Maybe the idea of getting an email which says 'Hello to Gary McMurray from Gary McMurray' was just a wee bit weird!

Actually - having looked at Dave Gorman's site, there's a link to another site called YourNotMe which scans the electoral registers in the UK to see how many people share your name. According to it, there are 12 people called Gary McMurray in the UK! Which means that if two of us are within 10 miles of each other, that is quite something!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Dublin and Peter Jensen

Yesterday was a great day! From just being up, and Bryan sitting outside in the car (cos he wasn't sure of where he was coming and so came early), David arriving late, and then the drive down, to arriving back in Dromore, it was a great day.

The first lecture, I must admit, went a wee bit over my head. It looked at TC Hammond, who left Ireland as a 67-year old to go to Australia to become Principal of Moore College, Sydney, and who did a marvellous work for God in his 'retirement' years. However, some of the lecture looked at his theology, and some of the disputes he was involved in and has been accused of since (for a sample, try insubordination, federal theology and Arian theology).

We then had lunch, all provided, sitting on a wall overlooking the Liffey in the glorious sunshine and trying to make sense of the morning!

The afternoon sessions were a bit better for me. The second session looked at 'Living in the Light of the Future' - which was on Christian Eschatology (the study of the end times). The basic summary was that Christians should be living in the light of the future, knowing, as we do, that we will be with Christ, that there is a judgement and a hell, and that humans need to be saved from hell. This knowledge, therefore affects what we do now, and challenges us to 'read the times' and address the unchanging gospel to a changing world racked by materialism and worldliness. This was very powerful, and was a summary of the book At the Heart of the Universe.

The last session was called 'The 10% Vision' and looked at the vision of Sydney Diocese to see 10% of the population of the diocesan area to be in a Bible-based church by 2010. This seems to be by focusing resources into encouraging more people to enter ministry (full/part time, lay/ordained/voluntary), with relevant teaching.

All in all, there was a lot to be thinking about, and no doubt as I process it, I'll have more to share...

But one final thing. Jensen is Archbishop of Sydney. I'm not sure too many other bishops would say the following thing: 'We should be evangelicals first, and anglicans second' - our primary focus is our witness to the faith, and our gospel focus. Our church comes second, and always should!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What is a Christian?

I've come across this very good, clear, simple explanation of the Christian message. It's called 'Two Ways to Live' and explains the gospel in six pictures. To launch the presentation, click here. I came across this site, through looking at the All Saint's Belfast website.

Tuesday and Dublin bound

Last night the history seemed to go really well - although, as often happens, history merged into other discussions too, leading to plenty of chat until well into the evening. But that's good - the concept of our group is about bringing people together in a safe place to share their experiences, and support one another towards recovery (if possible). And if the history course provides a forum for people to talk, and opens them up, then who am I to complain about it (even if it means I'm in bed late!)

So today I'm in work again, but tomorrow should be an interesting day. I'm going to Dublin for the T C Hammond Lectures, hosted by Irish Church Missions. The speaker is Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, and I'm really looking forward to hearing from him. I have previously read one of his books ('At the heart of the universe'), which was very good. The lectures are in honour of TC Hammond, who was an Irish Evangelical Anglican who moved to Sydney Diocese (which explains why Jensen is speaking). I'll try and provide some summary of it on Thursday or so. But even besides the lectures, it should be a good day. We're having like a 'road trip' with Mark, David, Bryan and myself going in the car to Dublin - dear knows what the craic will be like, but it's usually good when David is about.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Tonight in the Historical Awareness Course in the office we're looking at the 1798 Rebellion - one of the more interesting times, when in Ulster, Presbyterians and Catholics joined in rebellion against the Church of Ireland Ascendancy. Yet within 5 years, the Presbyterians had become staunch unionists... And also the period during which the first settlers from the island went to America - not the Irish Americans (they came later), but instead the 'Scotch-Irish' who contributed so much to the new American society (including many signatories of the Delcaration of Independence and up to 17 of the 43 Presidents to date). There seems to be a huge interest in the Scotch-Irish now by Americans, with all things Ulster-Scots being valued by them.

Of course, 1798 is important locally (in County Down), due to the battles of Saintfield and Ballynahinch. One of the rebels was discovered and arrested in the Dromara Hills, and brought to custody first in the basement of our Rectory (before it was a rectory), before being taken on to Lisburn and being executed.

test image

This is just a test to see if I can get a picture in a post... and I think it has worked!


Well, what a busy Sunday! We had two services of Holy Communion, one at the Celebrate at Ten service, and the other at 11.30, a Sunday Club Meeting, then Evening Prayer and YF.

At YF we looked at what is important or valuable to us, by way first of all, of several ice-breaker questions: 'If you were on a desert island, what one song would you want with you?' and 'If you could have one wish, what would it be?'

We then looked at God asking Solomon what he wanted (1 Kings 3). Then we moved on to looking at a couple of parables form Matthew 13, about treasure in a field, and the pearl of great price. In both, the Kingdom of heaven is shown to be something of great value, that should be obtained without regard to anything else. In each parable, the man went away and sold all he had in order to get the pearl, or the treasure.

So then, having established that God's salvation is of immense value, we then looked at how God can see us as valuable, and precious. We did this by considering Romans 8 and Zephaniah 3:17. In these passages we find that while God love the whole world (having given his Son for it), he especially loves those who are predestined and called to salvation. Having been saved by grace through faith, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

We finished by thinking on Zephaniah 3:17, putting people's names into the passage. Why not do that yourself:

Zeph. 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Tonight I was bowling... 113, 112... so I got worser as the night went on. It was good craic tho, and I met some new and interesting people.

But now I am so tired... so I'm not gonna stay online... bed is calling!


Just a normal sort of a Saturday. Today I lay in til about 10.30 or so, then was up and about... making it to Newry, then Portadown, then Tesco in Banbridge.

I've just realised that I didn't talk about last night, so I might as well now... Last night I was in Markethill for the parade organised by Kilcluney Volunteers - never have I seen such a huge crowd at a band parade... the people must have been at least 5 thick the whole way up the main street as well as in the other streets... and there was a good mix of bands - 2 Pipe Bands (Tyrone's Ditches, and Armaghbreague - Armaghbreague was the better of the two), 2 Silver Bands (Hamiltonsbawn and Tullyvallen - Tullyvallen was the better), a wheen of Accordian Bands (possibly Pride of the Birches was the best), and then the usual mix of melody flute bands and blood and thunder bands.

The Pride of Ballinran stole the show, by stopping on the main street (just where I was standing!), and they did a bit of figure marching type stuff - in through the ranks, while playing 'Killaloe'. Then they did a drum salute, where the drummers not only hit their own drum, but also the sticks of the drummer beside them - hard to describe, but fantastic to watch. then they played 'The Great Escape' before marching on up the street. Absolutely brilliant!

See my photo site for some cultural pictures of band parades, banners and lambeg drums. Sadly I can't display my video footage of the parades, but if anyone knows of a site that would host video clips, let me know and I'll try and add them!

Friday, June 03, 2005

The following letter was in the Church of Ireland Gazette last week, and made a profound impact on me... here's the text of it, then I'll tell you why afterwards:

I was ashamed and embarrassed by Archbishop John Neill’s recent comment that the election of the Pope sent a shiver down his spine. He called Cardinal Desmond Connell a “reactionary”.
May I ask he takes the log out of his own eye first. He believes Anglicans are on a faith journey- searching, questioning and with no liking for packaged answers. We are on a journey, but not on the liberal high church path he is on.
A recent ERSI/Independent poll found that 60% of Anglicans in the Republic opposed homosexuality and 58% opposed abortion in all situations. The figures for the North were higher. Sadly, our bishops don’t know this, or refuse to acknowledge it.
The Reformation happened because people wanted a greater biblical emphasis in their faith. A reformation is happening within Anglicanism today. The Church of England was traditionally ‘High Church’ and suffered what the Church of Ireland is at present suffering – a loss in church attendance. Yet in the Church of England a biblical ‘Low Church’ revival is happening and the ‘High Church’ bishops are being pushed out, especially those with non-biblical views.
I pray this too will happen here and that our Northern Anglican brothers and sisters will lead us back to the path of eternal salvation, not eternal damnation.
-Barry William, Ballytarsna, Abbeyleix, County Laois.

So why did that impact on me? Well, when we were preparing for Selection for college and all that, we were told that when we are ordained, we have to commit to working 'anywhere in Ireland' for at least three years. As you may have gathered from this blog, I'm rather fond of my British identity, and Ulster-Scots culture etc... and so, I always squared it in my mind that, while I could end up anywhere, I would prefer to work in Northern Ireland...

And then this letter appeared in the Gazette. I have been thinking about it all week, and was inspired to think on the subject even more after a chat with Stanley Gamble. Now, Stanley is from Lisburn, but for the past two years has been working for Irish Church Mission in Dublin, doing evangelistic mission and outreach. Stanley is so passionate about the Gospel, and reaching people with it, and is also due to start college in September (although he gets to start in Second Year as he has previously done theology). According to Stanley, there is a hunger in the south for the gospel...

So who am I to turn down working with these people in the Republic who so desperately are crying out for the Gospel? Here am I Lord, send me where you will.

Hobbit Name

Did you know you have a hobbit name? Maybe you don't know what a hobbit is... well, they feature in Lord of the Rings, and Frodo is one of them. I came across a website that generates your 'hobbit name'... Are you ready for this?

I am: Minto Bulge of Hobbiton!

Click here and see what your name is!


So here we are... Friday again! Last night the history class in Magherafelt went very well. The participants were interested and keen, and all fed in their knowledge to boost what I had, so we engaged together in learning.

The drive over the Sperrins wasn't too pleasant, due to the rain etc, but on the way back it had cleared up somewhat, so that I was able to get a few photographs of the Sperrins in the evening sun - although I'll try again if it is clearer next week. There was one spot that was absolutely beautiful, where the stream meandered down through a gorge type thing, and then into the main river. The photos are now on my photo site, in the Sperrins album.

The other thing that struck me about the Glenelly Road through the Sperrins is that the sheep just run wild over it... on three separate occasions I had to stop or slow down to pass or overtake sheep... but at least they know their highway code... they were walking on the lefthand side of the road!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mary Part Three

Having been notified by IrishAngle, the text of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission report Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ can now be read online.


Well well... Today has been very busy, especially with the History course in Magherafelt tonight, which I'm not overly ready for... but ah well, I have to do it!

This morning I was greatly encouraged by reading a testimony of a friend, which will soon appear on one of the sites that I link to...

So other than that, there isn't much to report.

Oh, one other thing while I'm here - this might encourage more of them, but I'm intrigued at the number of anonymous posts on my blog... I know I have cleared the way for them, by allowing them, but have a bit of courage and out your name to your comments!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

1st June

So here we are at the start of yet another month... Just a quick post as I've a meeting, then to Belfast for a meeting... Happy birthday to Pamela, who I had the misfortune of forgetting her name in church when introducing her to people (at the same time as remembering her friend's name who I had never met before) - talk about embarrassing!