Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Church in Shankill Road Finds Its Courage

On a Monday May 10, 2010 our Volunteer In Missions group met at 3 pm with Reverend Harold Good who is a Winner of the World Methodist Peace Prize and was involved in decommissioning of IRA weapons. This is the fourth in a series relating his talk. In the prior blog posting we learned of how he and his wife were assigned to Shankill Road in Belfast and how Father Murphy and he organized a meeting of clergy in Belfast for the first time to take the first halting steps toward reconciliation. From that, Reverend Good told us about a critical time for his church in the Shankill Road neighborhood:

There was such awful violence in the streets that rumors started too. One night there was a rumor something terrible was going to happen a certain night. It happened the rumor was this event would take place on Sunday night. The church always had a service on Sunday evening. Building up to that afternoon, people were getting wood, tin, hammers, nails and anything they could get, and they were blocking up their windows.

And some people in his church said we must cancel the evening service. Reverend Good asked why would we do that? They responded they must cancel the evening service because something terrible was going to happen on their road. He said, “Well, I think that's all the more reason why we should have our service.” And they decided to go ahead. Some men said they were going to get a hammer and nails as they needed to protect the windows of the church. Reverend Good said, “I don't think we should do that. Let's leave the lights on in the church, and the door open. That way if people are frightened, then they need somewhere they can come, and we should be here for them.” The church people looked skeptical. Yet, one little lady said, “Reverend, if you're going to do that, I'll be here, cuz you'll need a cup of tea.” Another little lady said, “Well Maisy, yah couldn't be here on your own luv; I'll come with yah.” Then one of the men said, “You'll need some men around the place too to keep an eye on yah, ya know.”

The lights never went out and the doors never closed for that night or for three weeks after that. It became a place of refuge, a place of comfort, a place of safety, where people, both Protestant and Roman Catholic could come. There were Roman Catholics living in that neighborhood as well. Again, it was the church seeking to respond in these very dangerous and stressful situations.

This talk will continues at a blog posting entitled "Indigenous and Settler People in Ireland ".

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