Monday, January 30, 2006

First Sunday on placement...

Yesterday was my first Sunday of being in the parish of Magheralin on a sort of placement. So for the foreseeable future, I'll be in the parish on a couple of Sundays a month, assisting with services and preaching the odd time. It's a great opportunity for me to first of all serve the people of God, and also to gain some more experience outside the parish of Dromore. Now, there's nothing wrong at all with me serving in Dromore, but given that I've been there every practically every Sunday in life, I know how things work, and am used to it. So this placement will be something more unusual, with the added mix of two different churches in two villages.

So on my first day, I was leading the services in both places. Dollingstown is a sort of more contemporary service, without robes, but with a praise band, all power point presentation for liturgy and songs, and a great congregation of committed, lively people. Magheralin is a bit more of what I would be used to, with a slightly more traditional (in a Morning Prayer Two way) flavour, robed choir, but still great people!

Then last night at Youth Fellowship we started a series on Colossians. My notes may indeed follow at some point, but they would need to be better organised - they're currently partially typed, and partially in my head!

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Whoops! I sort of forgot about my first anniversary of blogging. I had a look there now, and my first posting was the 12th January 2005, although it was over a month until my next posting. So this blog has now been in operation for at least one year, and we're on the verge of 4000 page views. Thank you so much for being interested in my random thoughts, and for continuing to read. Even if people weren't reading, I think I would continue, but it makes it all much more worth while when you keep comnig back to read it!

Or as someone put it today at the January Day... 'you're the Gary the theological student with the blog? I came across your blog by randomly clicking on links one day...' Katie, if you've made it back - thank you! And if not, thanks anyway!

So here I'm going to open it to you, the readers... are there any questions you would like to ask me, or would want me to talk about? Fire your suggestions in this direction, and I'll see what we can do!

January Day

So today was the appropriately-named January Day. Appropriate, because it is a day in January! Hehe! Anyways... what it is really about is that it is a training day for young people and their leaders in the diocese of Down and Dromore.

Today's event was held in Holywood, and although there didn't seem to be as many people at it as last year (which was in the 'country' at Moira). There were various seminars in the afternoon, looking at Youthwork resources, prayer, Bible study, up-front skills, and finding faith in films. After a break for dinner, we then moved to the parish church for a meeting, with worship and a speaker. The speaker was Neil Brittain, one of UTV's sports presenters. He was looking at the idea of Christians being a 'city on a hill' (Matthew 5:14).

There was a disco starting, but the Dromore ones headed back home as we were a bit tired, and not really into the disco! but it was good to be able to see people again that I hadn't seen in ages... especially brother Mark Henry, the Youth Pastor in Movilla C of I/Methodist congregation - who was also knocking about Queens Politics department when I was there!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Good news!

I am well pleased to report that the laptop has been returned, and it is fully working again this time!!! Hurray!!! They've replaced the keyboard and something else, so it's working!!! Which means I am able to have internet in Dromore again...

Nothing else much to report, so I shall sign off for now!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

January Prayer Letter

The following is my latest prayer letter. To be included on my emailing list, then click on the 'email me' link on the right, and leave a comment.

Greetings from Dublin!

I’m sure you’re wondering what I have been up to, especially if you didn’t hear from me over the holidays, or get a Christmas card from me. So here’s a quick update on what’s been going on in Dublin, and some pointers for you to be praying about.

My first term in Dublin seemed to go very quickly, with lots of new information and learning to take in, as well as the reading of books, the leading of services in the college chapel, and the social aspects of living in community! Thankfully, I have been coping so far with essays – with four being due in within a fortnight immediately after the Christmas holidays.

In terms of my studies, though, I have decided to concentrate on Greek, as it was just too complicated to try to learn both it and Hebrew at the same time. We’ve just started the second semester, which brings a couple of new courses as well: a pastoral ‘practicum,’ in which we learn how to reflect theologically on pastoral visits, and homiletics, the study of preaching.

But we’re not just in Dublin to study ministry; we’re also here to do ministry. And so we’re preparing for a mission in Trinity College on 13th February, through which we will be sharing our faith with our fellow students, and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus to them. I’m also preparing to assist in the parish of Magheralin, helping to lead services and preach in both Dollingstown and Magheralin, which will also provide me with some extra experience of these areas of ministry.

I hope that you will continue to pray for me through my time in Dublin. Some prayer points are:
- For the mission in Trinity College on 13th February, that we will be able to reach a large number of students, and challenge them with the gospel
- For all students in college, especially Third Years as they wait to hear where they will be working as Curates and as they prepare for ordination in June
- For Gareth Harron, the rector of Magheralin, and the people of the parish
- For my family, girlfriend, and friends, with the separation caused by me being in Dublin
- That I would continue to grow in my faith through all that happens, and be a good witness for Christ

Thank you for all your help and support through my time in Dublin. Be assured of my thoughts and prayers.

God bless,

‘Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’ Ephesians 3:20-21.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Here's something for you all to be praying about.

Approach is a mission outreach event happening in Trinity College in under three weeks time, on Monday 13th February. It sprang out of a desire on the part of the students at the Theological College to be engaged in outreach in our current mission field, that is, in Trinity College. We're being joined by the CU and Theological Society of Trinity, and also the Dublin and Glendalough Youth Council (3Rock Youth).

Pray for us as students, as we seek to share the Good News of the Gospel in Trinity, and for those who will hear the proclamation.

Dublin again

So here I am, back in Dublin once again. And straight back into the busy-ness of it! And I had my first visitor to college on Sunday night. Stewart was down for a visit, and then yesterday (after my classes) we went down sightseeing into Dublin. And sightseeing we did indeed do: Trinity, the Book of Kells, the House of Lords in the Bank of Ireland (old Parliament building), Christ Church Cathedral, then did the usual tour of bookshops which always seems to happen when we're together somewhere.

All my essays are now handed in, thankfully, and I've no more deadlines until the 10th March, which is sufficiently far away to not worry about for a while! Although I have two for that day as well - what is it with lecturers making sure we have two deadlines on the same day all the time? Ah well, 'theirs not to reason why'!

So now the next exciting things coming up are the DDYC January Training Day on Saturday, and my first Sunday of being with Magheralin (and Dollingstown) for some experience of preaching and leading services. And then next week, we have Lynsey's introduction to the college, as she comes visiting!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Our need and God's provision

What is your greatest need at the moment? Is it to find a girlfriend, or get a job, or decide on your university course. Or maybe you need to use the toilet...

The following is not my own, but is a small quote from Don Carson's book, 'A Call to Spiritual Reformation'. I'll probably use these words in a sermon or two in the future, so if you have the 'pleasure' of hearing me, please forgive the familiarity of these words, and hear them afresh:

'If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Saviour.'

And so we rejoice that God's wisdom and provision has more than met our needs, and that salvation can be ours, through the death of Jesus Christ, the Saviour.

Class Flight

So here I am in Dundee again... This morning hasn't started yet, but we're heading out somewhere soon... It's just great being with Lynsey again! Anyways... don't want to make you sick, so I'll talk about something else - namely that suggested by the title of this posting.

I flew with Ryanair last night from Dublin to Prestwick, and I really enjoyed the flight! First off, it was very smooth, so smooth in fact that I wasn't tense (as anyone who has flown with me before can testify I normally am tense!). So I must be getting used to this flying lark... Even though, in the words of Father Ted, "If God wanted us to fly, he would have put the airports closer to the cities."

But the main reason I enjoyed last night's flight was that it was a clear evening, and I could see everything! We basically followed the line of the M1 north from Dublin, so I could see the lights of Drogheda, and the Boyne Bridge and the toll booths (all of which looked very tiny), then Dundalk, and Newry, Banbridge, Lurgan/Craigavon/Portadown, Dromore, Kinallen, Dromara, then Lisburn which merged into Belfast and continued out the other side to Bangor and Ards... And we flew directly over Newcastle, which was amazing to see!

So if only all flights could be like that one!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

And who are you?

An incident in the college earlier on made me smile. We were in the reception room after the Communion service, and the Archbishop of Dublin was present. I was standing talking to one of the 'lay students' who lives in the college, an American, when the Arch walked over to us. So, naturally enough, he asked us who we were... but then my friend, being totally unaware of who he was says: 'And who are you?'

Thankfully, at the time, I managed to keep a straight face, but afterwards we had a chuckle about it - how embarrassing for her. It's a good job no one will ever know about the incident! (Sorry June, if you happen to be reading this!).

It has made me think, though. I'm currently reading Harry Uprichard's book 'A Son is Revealed', based on the Gospel of Mark. Mark's Gospel is all about who Jesus is. The first verse lets the reader into the secret: 'The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.' But it then plunges into the story, with the people not knowing just who Jesus is.

And so through the teaching, and the miracles, we find the people 'were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." ' (Mark 1:27).

As the Gospel progresses, the disciples think they have it, when they're in the boat in the storm. After all, Jesus has been teaching a lot, so he must be a teacher. '"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" ' (Mark 4:38) they cry, but still they aren't close to his identity.

Indeed, it is only in chapter 8 that Peter sort of gets there. "You are the Christ." (Mark 8:29)But then, his idea of the Christ or the Messiah was more a political figure who was going to kick out the Romans, rather than what Jesus came to do. So, through chapters 9 to 13, Jesus is teaching the disciples what the Christ will do, and how they are to follow him - by taking up their cross, and becoming the servant of all.

And isn't it ironic, that it took the Roman Centurion, the foreign occupier, the enemy of the Jews, to point out the identity of Jesus: ' "Truly this man was the Son of God!" ' (Mark 15:39).

So who was Jesus? Let's return again to Mark 1:1 to hear exactly who Jesus is:

'Jesus Christ, the Son of God'

Monday, January 16, 2006


Ok, so I had sort of promised myself not to use the title 'update' again, as it is so broad and vague and uninteresting. And then I did it again, cos I couldn't think of something else to title this posting.

I don't have that much to update on... The first week back at college was fine, and I managed to get back into the routine quickly enough, and now here we are in the second week and it is as if I had never been off. But at least I'm jetting out to Scotland this weekend, which will be good!

One other big piece of rageworthy news is that of the sorry state of my laptop. It has already crossed the Irish Sea twice last week, as it returned to the manufacturers to try and sort a problem with the keyboard (in that none of the keys work...) and they said it was fixed, I got it back on Friday, and it worked for about 2 minutes, and guess what... it stopped again. So it's flying off again tomorrow to go to the manufacturers again, for a second go at it. In the meantime, I'm at the mercy of the college computers for internet access (and none at home), and I've borrowed one from the Wilky's for to do my essays on. Hopefully it will be fixed properly this time, and I'll be able to use it again. Otherwise, well, who knows what I'll need to do.

We're still in the big essay season. I've two due in for this weekend (one on Friday and one on Monday), but I was heartily encouraged this morning, on getting the Old Testament essay back, and getting a First in it... although, having said that, the whole year got a First! Let's hope we can keep that up... although, of course, on this course we just have to pass, so anything over 40% is a wasted effort... according to those in the know!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Call to Spiritual Reformation

I recently finished reading the book A Call to Spiritual Reformation by Don Carson, and I have to admit, it's the best book I have read so far this year! But it is more than that, cos the other 2 were good as well! The book is a reflection on prayer, and looks at how the greatest need in the church is not more programmes, or different worship type, but a return to the greater knowledge of God, knowledge that can only come about by spending time in relationship with Him, through prayer.

Carson then takes a look at some of the prayers of Paul, as contained in his letters to various churches and individuals. And he comes up with some very good, practical suggestions as to what it is we pray for, how we pray for it, the basis of how we pray for the things, and the frequency of our praying.

And it has definitely been affecting my own prayer life. Since the new year, I have started my quiet time devotions with a verse from John's Gospel, to fire off ideas for prayer, and as a launchpad for praise; then I have worked through some of the events of the day, bringing praise and thanks, or issues of concern from them, then praying for God's guidance as I read the Bible. I then read a chapter or so from where I have gotten to (currently Hebrews), then continue after it, praying through the issues it raises, and then closing with some of my more regular prayers, for family, friends, and normally for a good night's sleep (cos I always need a good night's sleep...).

This certainly wouldn't work for everyone, but the important thing is not the system you use for Quiet Time, but rather that you have one. And if I can get time in amidst the hecticness of college, then no one should really have an excuse! Try it and see... time spent in the presence of God, building your relationship with him is never wasted.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


When was the last time you took God at his word? Does your Bible reading affect how you live, and the things you do? Last night I was reading Hebrews 3, and came across these words:

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)

How often do we encourage one another? What should be the reason and purpose of any such encouragement?

The verse comes in a long argument about how the readers should keep the faith, and continue to believe in God. The author explains Psalm 95 (known to Anglicans as the Venite), pointing to the fact that while the Israelites had seen the wonders of God in bringing them out of Egypt, they then rejected him, and refused to continue believing when he took them to the edge of the Promised Land. They all died in the desert, not seeing the land they had been called to - apart from the two spies who did believe, Joshua and Caleb.

[Incidentally, if they had any sort of Senior Citizens club or Evergreens in Israel, it would have been very lonely, just the two of them, as they were by far the oldest people in the land, because all the rest of their generation had died in the wilderness]

Anyways, back to Hebrews! The reason we should be encouraging each other is to stick at the faith, and to remember the blessed hope we have through Jesus. But as life is tough, and discouraging things happen, and the deceitfulness of sin tries to keep us back or drag us down, then we need to be involved in reminding each other of the hope we have, that the faith is worth keeping, that we shouldn't give up.

The knowledge that other people are praying for you keeps you going, and encourages you to stick at it!

So how often should we be encouraging each other? Is it the sort of thing that isn't needed very often? NO, by no means! The passage tells us to encourage one another daily! The discouragements can flood in at any time, so it is vital to be reminding ourselves and one another of the hope we have. Derick Bingham, the former pastor from the Crescent, wrote a wee book on encouragement called 'Don't wait until he's dead' - as in, don't wait until someone is dead to say something nice about them; tell them if they do something good, and encourage them!

Last night, in trying to obey this verse, I sent out a text to some people, giving them the verse, and encouraging them to continue in the faith, and reminding them I was praying for them. What a response! God is indeed faithful! It seems that some people needed prayer at the time the message came in - so I'm going to stick at the encouraging as well!

Monday, January 09, 2006


And so begins my blogging in this new year. After an absence of what seems like absolutely ages, I am fully back on the net - or at least, I have it in Dublin again so when there's a computer free when I'm free, I can get on. Over the past week or so I was able to check my emails a couple of times in Dromara, but didn't want to be hogging the phone line, so decided not to blog.

So what have I been up to? Well, the new year was ushered in at the Watchnight Service in the Cathedral. This is a sort of ecumenical gathering, mainly brought about through the closer links with the Church of Ireland and Methodist congregations in the town (seeing we have that Covenant thingy), but other people attend too - including the guest organist this year from the Bann Road Presbyterian...

Sunday 1st January was the first time I got to wear my new robes in the Cathedral - with several people commenting on seeing black at the bottom of the surplice, rather than the winey red of the choir robes! I was assisting at Communion - and Lynsey was in attendance... we're making a right wee Anglican out of her so far! Hehe! Although, of course, I'll have to reciprocate and attend some Presby services, as I do when I visit Dundee.

Then it was off to Lynsey's auntie's house for a family gathering with piles of food, fun and laughs. I even got to meet my old school headmaster, who is one of her uncles, but thankfully he didn't tell any stories of me from school - that might have been just a bit too embarrassing, and perhaps also would have ended my connection with the whole family!

The last week was then spent doing various things with people, and meeting up with those I don't see too often. Sadly, though, there were still some people I didn't get to meet - you know who you are!

A special note of sympathy to the Leahy family, on the passing of Fred Leahy. While never knowing him personally, I benefitted richly from his ministry, through the many books he wrote. Therefore, after getting to know Primrose, it was a joy to hear that he was her uncle. Primrose was saying that his last book was sent to the publishers hours before he passed away - so I will look forward to that. Primrose, I'm praying that you and the whole family will know the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit at this time, as you look forward to a joyful reunion in the heavenly places.

The end of the holidays also brought about a parting of sorts, as I returned to Dublin, and Lynsey returned to Dundee again. These holidays were great, spending time together, but now it's back to porridge (as my ma would say), and hard work again. But it'll not be too long before I see her again - this time in Scotland again!

And what hard work could I be talking about, I hear you say... Well, I had two essays due in for this morning, and another two due for less than two week's time. And for these next two, we have to pick our topic and question ourselves... so that should be fun... although trying to pick one topic out of so much Church History is going to be a bit of a nightmare. In the New Testament one, I'm thinking of doing something around the idea of 'proclamation' in the Gospel of Mark (which is the gospel we did an indepth study of before Christmas). But we'll see what develops...