Sunday 7th July
The primary reason for Ruth and I recently being in Ireland was to meet up with various pastors of newly founded churches in the Republic of Ireland, to understand their challenges, and to see whether we might be called to such an environment. I had met some of those guys in Indiana last summer when we were receiving training together in approaches to “church planting and multiplication” with One Mission Society. For a while I became an “honorary Irishman” and we enjoyed great “craic” together as we cooked and ate together, and discussed all matters scriptural and theological long into the night – as so often seems the habit of the Irish!
One of the folk I got to know in Indiana was Andrew Compton who is the pastor at Midleton Evangelical Church in County Cork just down the road from Youghal where we were camped. The church has been going for a good few years now and, having outgrown their original premises, they now meet in some function rooms in a hotel in the center of the town.
We found the hotel relatively easily but could not see where the church was meeting so needed to ask the receptionist if “there was a church service here today”. It was an interesting insight to the psyche of this people that, rather than immediately understanding I was talking about the church that was meeting at that very minute in the function rooms a few yards from him in his hotel, he proceeded to direct me to the towns Roman Catholic Church where “mass is not until midday”.
But we did find the gathering, and we had a wonderful time worshiping with a church whose informal evangelical style felt very like our own parent church in Mickfield, Suffolk: similar songs, similar numbers gathered, similar approach to communion, and similar mix of people. We felt very at home. There was even a Scottish accent among the Irish ones to make me feel at home; and several folk from sub-Saharan Africa.
Afterwards we went to Andrew and Sharon’s home for a barbecue lunch in the beautiful sunshine, and we fell quickly back into the easy friendship that so often forms between Christ’s people. It was great to catch up on the progress the church was making in Midleton, some of the unique opportunities and challenges for the Gospel in Ireland, and learn again of the struggles of all pastors everywhere to manage the competing priorities of their calling.
And what a memorable way, deep in hospitable Ireland, to see the first ever Scot win a Wimbledon final. What a match, what a tense final game, and what a way to crown such a lovely day in Midleton with a welcoming church and a couple so faithfully seeking to spread the Good News of Christ in such a needy world.