From Our Minister

Pastoral posts created by the minister

Oh, those All Blacks!

Sam Cane consoles Bundee Aki

As I write New Zealand are preparing to play Argentina in the Semi Final of the Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks are hot favourites and although not by any means a rugby expert, even I find it hard to imagine them losing but then as I and you both know, life if nothing if not full of surprises! As the tournament winds down to a close many here will look back with a sense of what could have been, had we beaten the All Blacks, there is little doubt that at least a place in the final would have been ours. 

In some ways the fact we lost that game by the narrowest of margins and a roll of the dice really doesn’t offer much consolation to both team and fans who felt this could be our year. As New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and England prepare to slug it out for rugby’s most coveted prize Andy Farrell and his men begin the process of licking their wounds and going again. It is a story familiar to all of us. They say art imitates life; well, so does sport.

 We’ve all felt, and will again the pain of defeat, the pang of regret and the yearning for what might have been. Who hasn’t had that feeling? Who has not regretted a split second decision, a rash choice?

Life is full of regrets, of missed opportunities, of plans that didn’t work out, of “ what ifs”. That they happen is inevitable, that they define us, that they weigh us down along the journey; is not. That’s why we are already looking forward to the next rugby world cup!

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Are we immune?

Last Saturday I woke up with a plan for my day, it mainly revolved around a day vegetating in front of the tv watching the Rugby World cup. That morning I also woke up to the news of the devastating earthquake in Morocco, where as I write the death toll nears 3,000. Like me, all of these people had plans and hopes for Saturday. As I sat down to write this weeks blog on an entirely different topic I heard on the news that flooding caused by Storm ” Daniel” has left an estimated 2,000 dead in Libya. Sadly one of those numbers will increase with the decrease of the other. As of yet I haven’t mentioned the injured in either case. As we digest these unfathomable numbers our lives go on, of course they do; life does that. But the sheer numbers, the sheer scale of the disaster can leave us feel removed from the devastation and suffering.

I asked in church last Sunday, have we become immune or desensitised to such events? They are becoming more frequent, we see them on the news on an almost weekly basis and we’ve all be come accustomed the so called ” disaster” movies churned out by Hollywood. It all began with ” Towering Inferno” released in 1974 and starring Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Thing is; Hollywood has always loved a happy ending but sadly for thousands in Morocco and Libya in the coming days, weeks and months, that will not be the case. When the news cameras and reporters leave, when the pictures disappear from our screens, the pain and devastation will not. There is no director yelling “that’s a wrap”, actors will not collect their big pay cheques and a crew will not arrive and magically clean up the set.

From a far, individually there may not be much we can do apart from give whatever we can to help with the relief effort, but maybe when you’ve finished reading this, you might take just 30 seconds and for those moments….. not be immune.

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Reflections from a same sex wedding

Colin & Alister

I am very privileged to be ordained within a denomination that allows me to officiate at same sex weddings, indeed I have been honoured to officiate at a number over the years of my ministry. Last Saturday ( 2nd Sept. ) my wife, Kay and I travelled to Northern Ireland to attend the wedding of my dear friend Alister Bell and his husband Colin. Alister as well as being a friend is also a ministerial colleague, we studied for ministry side by side. I was honoured to read at his ordination and be amongst the clergy to lay hands on him. Last Saturday was one of the few occasions I get to attend a wedding without it being ” work” and it was a wonderful experience just to sit in the congregation and take the whole wonderful experience in. The ” work” was done by my colleague the Rev. Chris Hudson.

And it was wonderful, two men, deeply in love, totally committed to each other through good times and bad, total trust and respect. It was wonderful to see them hold hands, exchange vows and rings, share a kiss and before God be declared as husband and husband. The love between them was tangible, it inspired us all to be grateful for the gift of love in our lives. I’m sure more than one couple squeezed the hand of their significant other!

It was wonderful to see over 100 guests of all ages celebrating their wedding, wishing them well and sharing in their happiness. This evening I reflect that as a minister I support and have done and will continue to officiate at same sex weddings. But, I am also left a little sad that I and my denomination are in the minority upon the landscape that is church on the island of Ireland. Further I am left deeply saddened by those who persist in the notion that marriage should be based along lines defined by gender but even more so by those who cloak their views in the mantle of what they call ” God”. As I sit here this evening reflecting on a fantastic day filled with so much love, happiness and goodwill I can only conclude that the God of my belief is a different being altogether. Long live my God, long live love!

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Despite the heat, this World Cup leaves me cold

Those who know me, know I am a huge soccer fan, I watch it on TV and get to live games whenever I can. Since the age of about 5, thanks to my grandad, I have been a passionate Arsenal fan, living through the glory days of Arsne Wenger and the slumps before and after. Like all ” Gooners” I am basking in our revival and a hopeful return to those glory years under Wenger. I have owned every bit of Arsenal merchandise ever made; when alive, my dog Bobby wore an Arsenal collar, and I am a familiar sight around the church in my Arsenal baseball cap. As much as I love soccer, as much as it excites me, the prospect of this World Cup, the traditional battle of the worlds footballing giants is leaving me cold.
Bill Shankly once commented that football was more important than life or death, now it seems both life and death do not matter to a game that has been consumed by money. The World Cup is a spectacle, universally watched and enjoyed by all ages, its image I fear has been tarnished, its principles sold, it has given away its soul.
Some say that sport should be beyond politics, but this is not politics. This is life and death. The death of over 6,000 migrant workers in the construction phase simply cannot be ignored, Qatar’s treatment of those who are LGBTQI+ likewise cannot be brushed under the carpet, the rights of women and young girls cannot be ignored. The players did not choose this venue, they had no say but those who did surely have questions to answer because it seems Bill Shankly ironically may have been right; football is more than life or death and that is footballs shame.

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A Lesson from the Nuns of Kylemore

As you may have read elsewhere on our website, on Sunday 21st August, Irish Unitarians held an historic service in the chapel of Kylemore abbey, a service at which I was honoured to deliver the sermon. As well as a major tourist attraction, the Abbey is primarily home to a community of contemplative Benedictine nuns. Living their lives within the abbey grounds they do so in the spirit of the Benedictine motto; Ora et Labora– Pray and Work. After and during the service, I couldn’t help be struck by a number of things as I chatted to Abbess and members of her community. First, their openness to other faiths, their sense of God as the God of all people, their humility, warmth and kindness but most of all their smiles and humour, all blending wonderfully to make a group of Irish Unitarians feel welcome and at home. People often ask; well what is the point of monks and nuns who lock themselves away to live a life of prayer away from the world? That question misses the whole point; they are not removed from life but are very much a part of it, what’s more they offer a powerful witness as to the depth and joy of life, if only we take a moment to stop and recognise it.

All the best for now

Rev Mike

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You’d never buy a horse without seeing it!!

A glimpse of the new chapel, for more visit the ” Announcements” page

During Covid, like everyone else, we had to adapt and like many others took ourselves on-line and entered a whole new reality. Today, we have a ” blended” congregation as those in the building are joined by our friends on-line. We have people joining us from all over Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Brazil and the USA and those are just the ones we know about! Make no mistake, its great and we have embraced it with gusto! When I was a young lad, a neighbour of ours at home used to say; ” you’d never buy a horse without seeing it first!”.

Now that we ever emerging from Covid, there is nothing like the human contact we all missed so much. So, while we love having our on-line congregants, if you can, if you live near enough, why not pop in and see us in person some Sunday. We are a friendly, easy going bunch, we don’t take ourselves that seriously and when it comes to God, faith, religion and church; we are just about as diverse as you can possibly imagine and yet it works!

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Olympic Thoughts

As I write the Tokyo Olympics are entering there final week. The absence of crowds has made this a very surreal event, but it has not diminished from the extraordinary performances that every Olympics brings. We have witnessed the smiles and the tears of those receiving medals, have all been lifted by the four medals won for Ireland ( so far!) and we have witnessed the disappointment of those whose turn it wasn’t. The Olympics remind us of two very important lessons in life. First, success, whatever that be for each of us, doesn’t just happen. Athletes don’t just turn up and win a medal. It takes hard work, persistence, determination and a lot of sacrifice and courage. But more than that, every journey to success begins with a dream, never give up on yours.

Blessings – Rev Mike

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A Blended Community

As churches return to in person gatherings, there has been much debate over the past year about on-line worship. Some have suggested that it is not really church, taking the view that under the circumstances enforced by the pandemic it was merely something of a “ holding pattern”, like planes circling an airport waiting to land. While it is great to our church open, to see the masked faces, the smiles reflected in eyes, it is also a chance to reflect on what church means. During a recent sermon, I referred to our church as may be being “ church sans frontiers”, a church without borders. We are a new church, a blended community, all as one, be it in person or on-line, be you sitting in the building on a Sunday morning or watching from your kitchen, you are our community.

As you read this, it’s worth bearing in mind that you are reading this on your phone, tablet or laptop because of a Unitarian. The internet was created by Tim Berners- Lee, a Unitarian. That’s our spirit, it has always been and always will be. We engage with our world, we engage with the human condition, with our ever- expanding knowledge of both, we seek knowledge, not to own it or lock it away but because life isn’t static, it’s a journey, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes messy and complicated, often confusing and the great thing is nobody can truly say; “ yep, I’ve got this worked out”. The only truth is, we are all looking, all searching for something, all spinning around at astronomical speeds on a ball of rock in space, all here for a reason. Whether we realise it or not, we are all in this together!

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