By Richard Lister at Coaching to Thrive
Do you remember your first days at work? For Rev Mark, appointed ten years ago to pastor in one of the most deprived areas of Belfast, it was an unforgettable shock. The night after his appointment, his parish experienced the worst sectarian rioting Northern Ireland had suffered in years. ‘Bullets, blast and nail bombs, petrol bombs and bricks and bottles rained down as tensions between the communities exploded’ (The Times). As Rev John says, with wry understatement, ‘God has a habit of calling you out of your comfort zone’.
Over the last ten years, his church and wider community organisations have tackled the problems in the area in a range of ways. They’ve set up and run foodbanks, cross-community film clubs, drama classes and football games and prayer meetings with up to 800 people. Rev John has been quietly and faithfully serving and building relationships.
He has also met the nearby Catholic Priest for a coffee every week in a local café. This seemingly small thing has proved to be deeply symbolic. The situation is now much calmer. He says ‘as we speak, in my church hall deep in loyalist territory, there are 15 Catholic people rehearsing a play. There’s no way that could have happened before’. They’d have been barred entry or beaten up.
Small things matter. Building relationships across divides are important.
This week, what you could do, however small, to overcome divisions and make a lasting difference in your community?