Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Winter Retreat 2008...

Edited post: Link to all the weekends videos has been added to the end of this post!

I slept until 11.55am on Monday morning -
13.5 hours in total which can only mean one thing - I'm just back from our 20:20 Winter Retreat. I generally find there is a correlation between tiredness and how good the weekend was so my big sleep is an indication of a fantastic weekend!

We had 50 people attending this year's retreat at Castlewellan Castle aged from 15-21 and a few leaders in the 25-30+ bracket! I remember writing a blog last year about the winter retreat and calling it the best ever so the standards where definitely high approaching this year! However, i can easily say that the retreat this year was of an equally high standard - if not even better!

The theme for the sessions this year (voted by the young people) was 'God's Will - Hear the Call'. Session 1 explored 'How does God Speak?' and for this we engaged the young people in a couple of experiential spiritual exercises that they loved. I'm pretty sure that some young people understood how God can speak for the first time. Session 2 looked at 'What are my gifts?'. In advance of this the young people had completed a heart's desire survey and gifts survey from the Prepared to Serve Course. You may be familiar with similar courses such as Network or SHAPE. This session was very practical and discussion based for the young people and very enjoyable. In Session 3 i attempted to tie the 2 together by encouraging young people to consider where they thought they could best use their gifts to serve God. I also reminded them that gifts used without love are useless (1 Cor 13).

The worship throughout the weekend was fantastically led by the young people themselves and really helped everyone to focus and reflect on who God is, what He was saying, and what response He was calling for.

The entire weekend was made so much more enjoyable by the fantastic range of games and activities organised by the rest of the leaders. We had 'The Price is Right' on Friday night, 'The Crystal Maze' on Saturday afternoon and 'Play Your Card's Right' on Saturday night! I had no organisation responsibilities for any of this which was a great help for me. On top of that the video production and drama team put together some of the finest quality amateur videos i have ever seen - hilariously funny! I will put a link up to the videos once they get put online! The video below is just some footage of the Crystal Maze activities that was quickly put together! So that's it over for another year as they say! I just hope that this time next year i can testify to another weekend of God's rich blessing!

Click here to link to all the videos of the weekend!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Car wash & Coffee morning!

As you are already aware, we are taking a team of 10 to Kenya this summer to build a school in the rural village of Tuum. As a team we must raise £7,000 to finance the trip.

One of our fundraisers is happening this Saturday 1st March - a car wash and coffee morning at Waringstown Presbyterian Church.

Myself and the rest of the team would appreciate your support so i hope you can make it along!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New arrivals...

Updated Post with pictures! First is James and Anna in the pink!

So my family has grown again! Yesterday my sister Claire gave birth to her first children - twins! Baby James Thomas Grogan (4lb 6) and baby Anna Claire Grogan (3lb 5) were born yesterday about midday in Dublin! They were a few weeks early which we had expected but all are happy and healthy, including mum! No pictures yet but i'll stick one up as soon as i get to see them which will probably not be until they move out of the ICU.

I know many of you have been praying for the safe arrival of James & Anna so thank-you for that - God is good. My role as an uncle is steadily growing!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

ATL Rock School...

It's a bit short notice for this but ATL Rock School final is being televised tonight at 8pm on BBC2. Three of the young people from our youth fellowship have made it in to the final as a band called 'Wednesday Adams'. Tom McConnell, Rhea Lyttle and Kris Platt formed the band a year ago and have been writing music together and playing gigs ever since. Watch the link above to see a short video of the band and listen to a studio recording!

The programme was recorded in November but i am not going to tell you who the winner is - watch and see! Also look out for an interview with me in Cafe Rigmarole Waringstown about the band's history!!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

5-a day, Padraic & Jake...

This post is a bit of a double story - 2 completely unrelated musings.

Lent starts today, Ash Wednesday, the period of 40 days (not inc Sundays), that leads to resurrection Sunday. Christians are meant to use Lent as time of reflection and preparation for Easter. As Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days, often Christians will give something up for Lent that they will struggle without. Equally some may challenge themselves to do something each day that will be a struggle. I've been trying to achieve 5-a-day (portions of fruit or veg) for about the last 3 weeks and so i plan to sustain this throughout Lent. I know its supposed to be healthy but i have to say it has been playing havoc with my stomach! On top of that i've decided to be coffee free for lent. The greatest difficulty with this one will not be the loss of cafeine but the social aspect - i meet a lot of people for coffee and so it will be odd to drink water or tea! So what are you giving up for Lent if anything???

So I'm doing this training course called PYP (Preparing Youth to be Peacemakers) with PCI. I'm training so that i can facilitate the course with young people in Waringstown. The course explores conflict, specifically within the Northern Ireland context, how this effects us today looking wide
r than Prod-Catholic, and how we are called to be peacemakers from the life and teachings of Jesus and Scripture.

Yesterday, as part of the course, we got a 2 hour tour up the Falls Road by an Republican ex-prisoner called Padraic, then we met Jake, a loyalist ex-prisoner, who took us on a 90 minute tour of the Shankill Road. What an interesting afternoon! The tour was organised by an organisation called Coiste.

We met Padraic at the Divis flats. Padraic was imprisoned for 15 years in the Maze on 4 separate occasions. The first 3 occasions he informed us that he was accused of murder/attempted murder but there was insufficient evidence for a conviction! He was finally imprisoned and sentenced to 22 years for possession of weapons which came to a head in a shoot out with the RUC in his own home.
So having never met a Republican ex-prisoner before i felt a strange tension of discomfort and yet a sense that as we walked up the Falls we were in safe hands! Padraic gave us an unashamedly Republican perspective on Irish history. This was incredibly detailed by someone who obviously had a great passion for the history of our land. He informed me that his interest in history really started in prison as the importance of education was strongly promoted amongst the Republican prisoners. I found the murals interesting along Divis Street very interesting as they highlighted worldwide political issues and oppression such as the Iraq war and the oppression of Palestine.

We met up with Jake at one of the peace barriers that lead onto the Shankill (still closed every evening). This was a friendly handover as the two guides were obviously used to working together. Jake also spent 15 years in prison for attempted murder of 4 Republicans. He said he is thankful now that none of them died but he was caught up in a lot of emotion and hatred at the time. Unfortunately our Loyalist guide came across as much less articulate and educated on the issues at hand and historical facts. Using words like 'them-uns' didn't really help! However, it was evident we were being guided by a typical working-class bloke born and reared in the area through the height of the Troubles. His opening story was his first experience of the conflict and his decision to do his bit as a young boy aged 10, so he went round the area gathering up glass bottles in a pram to aid the petrol bomb industry!

Interestingly, at one point he said that he was happy with the democratic place the country is now in and that he and many of his colleagues would support democratic and fair decisions that come from Stormont. He stated that he and many others in the area are committed to the process and would not lift arms again should a democracy vote for a united Ireland. He acknowledged that he felt this would need to be a slow process of small steps.

All in all it was a really interesting experience to hear two sides of the same story told by men who lived through the conflict and yet view it through very different lenses.