WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH ...THE TOUGH ATTEND THE IRISH MISSION DAY OF FELLOWSHIP
6th June 2018
The Irish Mission held and all-Ireland Day of Fellowship on Sabbath 2 June in Dublin, attracting church members from across Ireland and Northern Ireland. The day, featuring guest speaker Alan Parker, from the Southern Adventist University, special music, and presentations from local churches, the Adventist Discovery Centre, and the Communication department of the British Union Conference (BUC) was hailed as a great success.
Alan Parker, a pastor who previously served as head of Amazing Facts school of evangelism, and currently lectures at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, preached an inspiring practical sermon about how our faith helps us to be tough in challenging and changing situations. His sermon recalled several episodes during the time when Zerubabbel – whose name means “Seed of Babylon” – led a first wave of Jews to rebuild the Jerusalem temple after a long exile. This was quite a formidable challenge with many difficulties and set-backs. Pastor Parker spoke about the need for the tough to get going, for the tough to sometimes not compromise, and for the tough to stand up when they fall. There are however times when the tough are also broken. Being broken is fortunately not the end of the story. Pastor Alan used inspiring illustrations to show that our Saviour carries us, supports us, and even continues to work through us in our brokenness.
The day was filled with activities for all. Three children and youth Sabbath Schools catered for more than 100 young people who came to the event. Pastor Andrew Willis, principal of the Adventist Discovery Centre reported that Irish Mission church members had delivered more than 100 free Bibles to people across the island who had completed quizzes on the www.freebible.ie website. There were also reports of exciting community-based outreach at the Cuisle Centre in Dublin Ranelagh and the Prehen Lifestyle Centre in Derry/Londonderry.
Pastor Dan Serb and pastor Richard Daly reflected about the integrated, multi-cultural nature of the event, and of the Irish Mission membership in general. “I think this is an organic thing that is happening. People are just gravitating to the church and coming for the church community,” says Dan Serb. “We don’t put too much emphasis on where people come from, just where people go to, and where we are going to as a church and this keeps us together.”
The theme of diversity was the focus of Pastor Alan’s lively afternoon presentation as well. This informative lecture warned that churches sometimes exhibit some cultural blindness when they are offered an opportunity to assess themselves. Many churches describe themselves as “the friendliest church in town,” but when people who are not part of the congregation are asked how they perceive the church, the picture might be completely different. Churches should not assume that their worship services are as “heavenly” as they think they are, or that they are good at doing evangelism. Sometimes “evangelism” can just be a matter of affirming one’s own beliefs, but it completely fails to reach out to people and connect with them in a way that they feel attracted to the church. Churches often declare that they “don’t have a problem with racism.” Almost all places struggle with racism and it is better to be open to this possibility because this allows churches to identify issues and deal with them more constructively.
These sober observations led to a challenge for church members and pastors to become much more aware of how culture affects the way that we go through day to day life in the different communities in which we work. A great deal of culture is hidden underneath he surface and it takes time and focussed effort to develop a cultural awareness. As this awareness develops the challenge is to interact with the culture in such a way that a person accepts differences and diversity, while also contributing and becoming an agent of change. The goal is therefore not uniformity, but unity in diversity.
The day featured choirs and music groups from Belfast, Cork, Dublin Ranelagh, Kilkenny, Dublin Romanian and Longford. Some of the littlest ones were also roped in to sing their songs of praise. “You can’t beat the music on a day like this,” said pastor Weiers Coetser who pastors some of the smallest churches in the Irish Mission. “There is so much talent together.” Pastor Salcianu was also impressed with the talent on offer: “Next time we should add even more music and try to add even more plays or special projects!”
Pastor Richard Daly, communication director for the BUC spoke to the audience in the afternoon about how to improve our communication in a world where everybody is a publisher on social media. One issue on which he focussed his spotlight was the issue of “fake Adventist news.” We should not repost stories, especially sensational ones without checking the facts first. He referred to stories that still do the round that the Pope’s brother is an Adventist, or that Russia has prohibited Sabbath keeping. These stories are not true. He also made a salient suggestion, that even if a story is true, one should think twice about sharing it.
It has been a while since an Irish Mission day of Fellowship had taken place. The reason for this IS that it has become increasingly difficult to find an affordable venue that was big enough to host the growing membership of the Irish Mission. The Betania Romanian church in Blanchardstown has recently, however, agreed to host this event. On Sabbath the members of the mission came close to filling the venue, but there was still room for more.
Several church members remarked how wonderful it would be if the Irish Mission could develop a church facility similar to the one that was rented for the day! This is a vision that is currently animating Irish Mission pastors, and the trustees of the Mission.
Days of fellowship serve an important function in the life of the Church. It offers a sense of connection in a world where believers often feel isolated. It provides opportunity to network and learn from each other. The beautiful music and top-notch preaching touches one’s soul in deep and powerful ways. It allows the Church to showcase the best that it can be and to dream big dreams for the future. This is worth getting up a bit earlier for and driving a bit further to attend. The 2018 day of fellowship has achieved these goals and will go down as one of the highlights of the year on the Irish Mission calendar.