Sunday, December 28, 2008

On the road again

After a three day break ... Robert on tour continues

Me and my wee suitcase has been all over the country, many miles have been clocked up, many, many cups of coffees with rectors both those on and not on the curacy list.

For the remainder of the holidays ... all of 1 week left I am heading to belfast tomorrow to St. Barts for placement - pastoral visits and a wedding rehersal which will be a new experience.

Then its off to the metropolis of Monaghan

And down to dublin for a couple of days to get my head showered and a couple of sermons sorted out. boyz a boyz where does the time go ... before coming back up north for next weekend!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


With a title like that I was just thinking this would be a sure way to pluck up a little bit of internet traffic from friends!

Well yes it is true, but it is the "who?" question which I know you are asking!!!!

Well the answer is: I'm actually talking about my wee sis Claire and her fiance Paul Carson ... after going out now for years and years. He popped the question last night ... and clearly she said yes.

Congratulations to both of them. awwwwh.... so that's a wee bit of news from the Ferris household this christmas time. :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Isaiah 61- Celebrations midst despair

A sermon preached on Sunday 14th December at St. Bartholomews' Parish Church, Stranmillis Morning Prayer service as part of my Final Year Placement.

Let us pray
Heavenly father may your written word be the source of my spoken word
and through the inspiration of your Holy spirit
point to your son the living word
in whose name we pray amen

Before I launch into this sermon, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the huge cast, technical people, musicians and director of the “Percy” performance last week – it was amazing!

Please do turn in your Pew Bibles to Isaiah 61

I wonder what you make of this morning’s OT reading – From Isaiah – It is great to hear good news after a week of extremely bad news – Pork, collapse of more businesses, unemployment, cholera in Zimbabwe

Each day when I read the news papers or as I have been working on essays this week I have been connected to the BBC website finding out what has been happening in the world lots of bad news stories.

When we put Isaiah into his historical context it was spoken to a people who were experiencing the most heart wrenching tragedy:

Exile, which meant that a foreign army came in and took the inhabitants from one land as prisoners to another land, broken families,
economic ruin,
the unknown future – extremely bad news of the worst kind –
and what’s more they were not simply watching it on Television they were living it.

If we were looking on, if we had video footage of this time period, it would be natural for us to say
• Lord, where are you?,
• why are you letting this happen to them?
• Are they not your people?
• Do you not care?

I am sure that from time to time we can relate to these questions as we look on in so many of the circumstances we see in out world today. Not only with international situations, but also with problems we encounter on a day to day basis.

Maybe even in our own families or in our groups of friends we can also identify with of this sort of thought – where are you Lord?, It was into this situation which this reading speaks into.

As I have read and prayed through this passage over the last week or so one word kept coming back to me, in regard to this passage celebration and I’ll explain why as we go through the passage – however, I thought – seeing that it is coming up to Christmas – I’d get the parishioners in St. barts a present … please do pass the sweets around! Although do try and not rattle the papers too much!!!

Where is the celebration?

Isaiah proclaims, A time is coming when sorrow will be put to bed, a time when the broken hearted will be built up, a time when the captives will be set free.

The Bible tells us The world is a messy place, it is not how it should be – there is no denying that!

But equally, and especially in this season of Advent we are looking forward to both remembering the first coming of Jesus at Christmas and looking ahead to his second coming.

This prophecy, this message for God’s people, yes had its first airing at time of complete and utter desperation that was the exile however we see in the gospels how it applied to another time 800 years or so later when Jesus declared himself as the fulfilment (See Luke’s Gospel) – the exile was over however the Israelites had another ruler – the Romans.

Many, if not all of us here in church this morning know the stories of Jesus’ Miracles, of his teaching and of the impact that he had on the early church; but how many of us stop and think about what it means to say that Jesus is the fulfilment of this prophecy –
He said it himself in the Synagogue in Nazareth – he is the one to whom Isaiah is ultimately pointing. The Messiah, the anointed one – “today this has been fulfilled amongst you”.

The other amazing thing about God is that he is timeless and this prophecy is still to find fullness of meaning in our time – and will only find complete fullness in the Kingdom of God which Jesus came to inaugurate

This is amazingly good news – both to the Israelite thousands of years ago and also to us today - when we look around at society and where we are going as a people.

In our prayer book we have a service entitled “A Celebration of Wholeness and healing” which sums this passage up and indeed what the Birth of Jesus accomplished for the world.

When it comes to Christmas – we are going to have a celebration

Listen to some of the Good news this passage announces:
• Good news,
• proclaim freedom to the captives,
• comfort to those who mourn,
• crown of beauty,
• oil of gladness,
• display of splendour,
• rebuilding, renew, justice, everlasting covenant, rejoice, growth

At the moment we are living in the in-between times of the kingdom – between the beginning and the fulfilment of the kingdom. There is a tension there

Sometimes in a party we can be there in body but wishing to be elsewhere,
we don’t really want to be there,
we feel maybe that we are not welcome – this passage says to us that there is good news - we are welcome, we are included in the celebration.
Remember the parables of the banquet Jesus told – the guy who was giving the banquet went out and gathered anyone he could into the party.

I wonder if we are a people of celebration? – have we actually realised the joys of the kingdom, the reality that as John has written in his Gospel – that Jesus came so that we may have life and have it to the full...

I don’t mean walking around the streets with a fake smile, saying everything’s fine when it clearly is anything but.

But a depth of relationship in him whom we can rely totally and utterly upon,
• through the struggles,
• through both the good and the bad times,
• through the seasons of mourning,
• through the seasons of captivity,
• through the darkness, through the seasons of despair,
• when we have been wronged, when we are ill.

Wholeness and healing

Around us all, we do not have to look far, to see that there is darkness, there is despair. But the Christian hope, the Christian faith, the Christmas season is all about the light, the word being spoken which will shatter the darkness. We no longer have to be slaves to the darkness, the captives are freed.

Sunday by Sunday in every service we have a confession and absolution – through jesus we have been cleansed from sin and assured of peace. We are a people of this prophecy.

As advent is a period of preparation – how are we preparing for Christ’s coming celebrating his birth?
Are we a people of celebration?, do we know that peace, that joy, that wholeness within our own lives?

There are many things which try to steal it – alcohol, drugs, debt are some of the common ones in our society today – are they something we need to deal with?

What preparations do you know you need to make for Christmas in your own life to make this years celebration a celebration of healing and wholeness which Christmas needs to be?

The sting in the tail of this passage (if I can call it that) is that if we take this passage seriously, if we believe that we are called to the celebration, if we believe that the broken hearted should be built up, if we believe that those who mourn should be comforted, if we believe that the captives should be released, if we believe God should be doing these things, if we believe that the kingdom should be built up then yes we need to be doing something about it.

God can do it but needs us to work in partnership with him.

Who do we know that needs this good news – The first verse says it all – “the spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon __ who? Because he has anointed me to preach good news.

Lets celebrate Christmas … as Christians it is our most amazing time of the year, but also lets remember the challenge that we, all of us need to proclaim that news to the world – the world around us, the people we meet on a daily basis – all of us have great news – the best news to share.

Let’s pray …

Heavenly father,
We pray for as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas this year speak to us about those things which distract us from you, help us not to be simply hearers of your word, but also doers of the same.
In Jesus’ name we pray – AMEN

Friday, November 28, 2008

Suitcase living ... and steping

At the moment in college it is difficult to find the time to stop and catch up with what is actually happening. In the midst of essays, reading and all the rest. This evening in chapel was one time when I actually stopped and looked around at what was going on.

"Be Still for the presence of the Lord, the holy one is here"

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:

And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me:

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know:

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you:

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you:

How much at the moment do we as ordinands need to pray this song into our hearts ... keep me travelling along with you.

Last night in Chapel Johnny was taking Late Evening office and what he said was sooo timely - when Jesus sent out the 12 he told them to go and "preach teach and heal ... to take nothing with them ... just get on with the job" At the moment in my life I know that it is so tempting to look at parish profiles and see if I would be "comfortable there" but that is not what it is about at all. It is about hearing from God, about being where I can be of use to him, of being a part of his body in the right place for the next few years.

I really do pray that from the old things to the new that he would keep me travelling along him

It is sooo good this weekend not to have to be packing up my trunk and heading up the road. ahhh the luxury!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

To-Do lists

At the moment, life in college seems to be a big long to-do list


Quiet time
Essay reading
Reading Parish profiles
Sorting out meeting rectors for this sunday
Interviewing someone for my project
Essay writing
Chapel - Assisting
Returning a camel to its rightful owner
Meeting re project presentation
Finishing off the essay
reading for next essay
Going to bed

Its all a wee bit mad now Ted!

Do you have a to-do list - where does God fit into it all?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rollercoaster .... Adventure

Have you ever been on a roller coaster?

Queued for hours ... chatted to friends ... made friends with others in the queue

It is quite amazing - you see others up ahead of you enjoying the thrill of the coaster

This evening I feel a bit like about to step onto the roller coaster that is the curacy round ... you have seen other ahead of you do it, you've heard their thoughts and feelings.

You know it is safe, you know its scary, you know it will be fine but there is a feeling that you dont really know what it will be like, what lies ahead, but you know that you have to do it!

Tonight, it is good to know that loads of friends are here - we are on this adventure together ... we will get through it! and out the other end.

Please do pray for us all (Ali, Mike, Si, Tracey, Alan, Johnny, Colin, RuthW, Patrick, David, Ruth E, Victor and myself) as we discern our way through.

I am also aware that I have stuck this blog on my CV, so if you are a visiting Rector - "Hello" you are very welcome!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sermon – Revelation Chapter 1 – St. Barts 16th November 2008

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight – O Lord our Strength and our redeemer. Amen

The Book Revelation,

Is a strange, strange book to the onlooker … it has all the features of a sci-fi fantasy – Dragons, lakes of sulphur, Plagues, a Red seven headed ten horned dragon, stars, horsemen, great cities, giant hail stones.

How then, are we to make any sense of it? Just this week, a friends daughter was told by a teacher that it was written by a mad man. However I must disagree, nothing could be further from the truth. It is a highly structured and historically situated text.

Let me explain …
In Judiasm and the Ancient world generally, numbers are important – and scholars tell us that 7 is the perfect number. In this book we have 7 Churches being addressed and then (for those in the congregation who are involved in Drama) we also see that the whole book is structured as a drama into seven Acts and each of those acts each with Seven Scenes … quite a drama don’t you think?

We begin with the churches and end the play with the glorious revealing of the Heavenly City.

Right from the outset of this book we gain a glimpse into the hope of the Christian, even under the most horrific of persecution the church perseveres and overcomes all that is thrown at it.

So what is this about … let us take a look at the text

It starts on familiar territory

It opens with an introduction quite similar to any of Paul’s writings … or any similar letters written at the time

The writer to the receiver – John to the seven churches that are in asia

And then comes some amazing words as to what it is about

It is making an amazing statement

V4 Grace and Peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

What a magnificent piece of writing, an amazing greeting.

As you know …From any drama - characters are important and understanding them is the key to the plot line. In these opening verses we are introduced to the main character … The main character in this book, the one who sits on the throne is of course None other than God Father and Son. Greetings are brought from both to the churches and to us as readers centuries after these great words were composed.

It would be great to be able to make a study of this book in-depth as there is so much to it, so many truths – I would like to simply highlight some of the things from the opening – of which please do take home and think about.

Then we see are recurring scene – that of the throne – Where the character sits – reigning over the kingdom.

In this sermon I would like to ask a few questions

The major question I would like to focus upon is – Whom is this that we worship?

Sunday, by Sunday we come to church, To Holy Communion, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Sung Compline, To Family Service … we sing hymns, chant psalms, we pray, we listen to the word, we receive communion. This chapter, contains amazing truths about the one we proclaim as Lord, the one we worship. This passage gives us some great descriptions about the God we worship

The one who is, and who was and is to come – What a statement about God
Present, past and future. (Remember Moses asking for God’s Name at the burning bush –
“I am”)

The one who is – is with us now, in the present

The one who was – The ancient one, right from pre creation, who told moses his name “I am” – through judges, the kings, the exile, the one who sent Jesus, then through the centuries. In a few weeks time we will be reading the Chistmas Gospel – In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God.

The one who is to come – This is the fantastic bit … he is always going to be … is to come … Time ticks away … I do not know what the future holds – it is probably just as well that I don’t - but the one constant, the one who was in the past, the one who is in the present is the same as the one who will be in the future …. That is an amazing constant.
He who knew my birth, loved me through my life, who I depend on now as I live each and every day is the same one who will be there at the moment of my death, and the one whom I will spend eternity – That is the God – father, son and spirit who we worship – Sunday by Sunday.

We also need to remember who these churches are … they are based in asia minor – modern day turkey … Are churches who are suffering percecution – they are indeed Christians who are facing death – being martyred for professing the name of Christ with this in mind we can then read who Jesus was

He is the faithful witness – the word “witness” in this instance comes from the word martyr – he stood and died to witness to God, he was the example for all who would go after him.

He is the first born from the dead – He is the only one to have risen eternally from the dead – The power that brought him, that is Jesus from the dead is now the one who will be our example. And that same power, that brought him from the grave will bring all those who die in the Lord from the gave – He is the firstborn – meaning that we all have the hope of eternal life. That Good news is the Gospel we proclaim Sunday by Sunday

And he is the ruler of the kings of the earth – At that moment the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor were being threatened by the government of the Imperial Guard so, let us realise the amazing impact that this statement would have had on the lives of church members – The emperor who was seen by many as a deity has been replaced by this king Jesus, who is not only king of an empire but King of all the kings of the earth. What amazing news!

So if that is who he is,

What are we doing when we worship?

When we worship we should be doing it as an act of LOVE, an act of dedication, an act of natural response to him.

As human beings we are all worshippers – every one of us. It is what we worship defines who we are.

One of the things which is clearly seen throughout the pages of the bible is the number of places where we find other gods. One Just has to turn to the 10 commandments – “You shall have no other gods’ before me” – there are alternatives – you can “Choose life”

If we take revelation in its entireity the throne is the centre of worship – and what is on the throne receives our worship we have to ask – what are we putting on the throne. Every individual has something which is receiving their worship.

Idols Past and present – We think of the Golden Calf in the exodus story – which critiques the need for graven images; In our world today there is so many people who have put something else in the place of God on the throne. Whether that be
The pursuit of Youth & beauty

If we search for a while all of us know instinctively that there are times when we have worshipped other gods. Of course this worshipping of wealth dosen’t mean going to the church of money and singing hymns and songs to the god of money. But it could mean being engrossed with it, spending so much time thinking about it that it becomes top priority to make more and build bigger houses.

The Bible calls that sin – putting something on the throne in our lives that is God’s place. One just has to look around the world today to see the effects of replacing God with something else – something less.

When we come to church, we are saying – Nothing is more important that you God.
We are responding to his love and his dying on the cross for us

We remind ourselves that – we are doing this worship, we are coming Sunday by Sunday not because it is a nice thing to do – but because God took the initiative he first loved us and continues to love us with an unfailing love and freed us from our sins by his Blood.

What are the outcomes of our worship?

Take a look at verse 6

He loves us
He has freed us
He has made us

He has made us to be a kingdom and priests

He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords – and he wants each one of us to be part of his establishment. Not just those who wear robes and have collars round our necks. All of us have been made priests. The priesthood of all belivers. A priest in the Jewish system was the one who made the sacrifices and who offered prayers for the people. They worked under the great High priest

We now have one great High Priest and thus we are working under him. We all have access to God now.

If all of us as priests and our worship is to mean something on a Sunday, it is worked out right throughout the week – in our homes, in our offices, in our universities, in stranmillis, in Royal Avenue wherever we find ourselves.

The Kingdom of God, The Kingdom of Heaven. If it is to mean anything - it will take all Christians who pray the Lords prayer seriously to act in their own calling and be the body of Christ where God has placed them.

Let us recap

Whom is it that we worship tonight in this Church?

The God who is Past, Present and Future – Who Knows the end from the Beginning – the alpha and the Omega

What are we doing when we worship?
We are responding to his Love – we are giving him his worth

What are the outcomes of our worship?
We are commited to his will, his Kingdom and His Glory

Let us Pray

Heavenly Father,

I pray that the words I have spoken which are of you may so take root in our hearts, so that your kingdom may be built up and your name Glorified

In Jesus name I pray

Monday, November 03, 2008

Can things get any busier?

This article has been prepared for the Nov. Issue of the College Review this year

In the midst of New Testament and Anglicanism essays, Curacy Rounds, Seminar Presentations, Ecclesiology and Old Testament essays, Preparation of CV's, Chapel Rota, Preparing of Sermons for placement, pastoral visiting, Research for project, Project Presentation preparation, mealtimes, writing of prayers for Sunday mornings, Spirituality preparation, preparation for exegesis, College Societies, RTE service, meetings, practicing for carol services and for some the added headache of Greek and Hebrew learning as well as classes to attend as well as keeping things under control in our other lives at home – to say that this is a busy term is a complete and utter understatement!

But then there is one other thing to add to the mix – yup the Bishop's list. All of that said there is a sense that yes, God actually does know what he is doing. Of course, after 2 and a bit years here in this place there is a realisation that God has called us here and we as a group will get through – and more than that will end up in the place to which God has prepared for us.

It is difficult at the moment to see the light at the end of the tunnel with so much work and everyday-ness of what we are doing now but once we take a step back and a look at the bigger picture and the fact that through it all – the assignments, the placements, the lists - God is sovereign – he is working his purposes out. It is to this alone I am clinging!

It is great to be able to turn to the pages of the Bible – to find some great promises

For I know the plans I have for you – plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give a hope and a future - Jer 29:11

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Prov 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

These promises, more now than ever have to be relied upon. It is to his word that we need to continually turn for strength and for encouragement. Please also do pray for us as we discern God's way through – in conversations and meetings with prospective rectors, as we visit parishes over the next few months. Also please do pray particularly for time management – good periods of work, periods of relaxation, periods of family time and periods of worship / prayer spent in God's presence.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Bit of a Rant about the church

This entry is written in order to get my thoughts prepared for a history essay as part of my final year History Course - necessarily it includes some perspectives of the current affairs. The Title is the "Place of the Church of Ireland in the NEW Ireland"

The Church of Ireland stands in a prominent position on this Island - touching some 450 parishes units North, south, east and west. Some 500 stipendiary clergy minister to some 390,000 people. It has a huge stock of estate in all arts and parts of the Island.

Organized as an Episcopal church split into 12 Dioceses with 2 Provinces and a synod to pass legislation. It is fair to say that we are a diverse church, with conceivably all shades of theological and indeed political opinion in our pews. We have evangelical, conservative, charismatic, anglo-catholic, liberal, unionist, nationalist, loyalist and no-doubt republican.

We stand as a church in an exciting postition due to our history recent and beyond which has indeed had its problems but with hindsight we need to be ready to face challenges of the present and future in faith and indeed hope as we minister to a new, modern, 21st Century Ireland with all its problems and diversity. Within this essay my aim is to discuss some of the current trends we find in this so-called “new” Ireland and look at how the church over the last Century has developed.

Ireland (North and South) is completely different to what it was even 20 years ago. The North has given up its troubles, the South its Punt, The Island as a whole is now more commercial, less concerned with religion and more about consumerism. Society today, as economist David McWilliams comments is bigger, more expensive and partying like mad. Throughout the island we are more aware of the world with immigrants wanting to come to Ireland for work. We are taking more workers on than any other nation in Europe. The population is changing its priorities and the church of the new Ireland needs to respond to that.

As a Church we have set up committees such as Hard Gospel, Board of Social Responsibilities, we are welcoming priests from around the Anglican Communion to minister to minority groups within our population. Having brought these positive things to the table there is also a lot more that still needs to be done. As we look back over the century there has been a complete change within the Island which we must remember there are still those within our number who have seen this whole change:

• People who remember their parents speaking about the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.
• Those who were affected by the two world wars
• Those who saw the partition of the island of Ireland
• Those who were affected by the troubles in Northern Ireland
• Those who have raw emotions of hatred towards the “other side” within the conflict

We also must remember that as a church 150 years ago we were the church to whom tithes taxes were payable to – hated by both Catholics and Presbyterians alike.

The Church here in Ireland is showing signs of becoming stronger in its prophetic voice, however as the world becomes more commercialized and secular we are in danger of losing that distinctive Christian voice and thus becoming one among many rather than one.

We do as a church have something to say to society in regards to – Morals, environment, politics, values, education, ethical debate, poverty, community relations, prevailing culture, consumerism ... We do have a role in this society and if we are to fulfill that call we must speak out with clarity and ask the difficult questions of our politicians, leaders, society and of course ourselves. If we are not the salt and light in the world what good is there being here in the first place.

In the 19th Century the church of Ireland was at the centre of Government, its Bishops sat in the House Of Lords, many of its members were in parliament, this of course was good in terms of being heard and being there in the debates and the decisions that were made. However this privileged position is no longer there, in many ways this is advantageous to the church as we do not have to be directed by the government, we do not have to do what they say. However, it also means that our influence upon policy and law making has diminished but as a body representing our members we do have distinctive voices which need to be heard on the issues of the day.

From our 450 pulpits we have the privilege of being able to teach the Christian message and gospel, to many, many people. We have within our congregations a huge diversity of people working in all corners of the economy. As a church we have huge influence – yes we are no longer the established church but we have a network of individuals most of whom are baptized and have links which span the length and breadth of this nation. This must be one of the most exciting times to be going into church leadership.

There are huge problems – indeed there are:
- Debt is rampant
- Alcoholism and marriage break-up are widespread
- Church going is at an all time low
- Drug abuse is so high
- Criminality is round the corner

But there are glimmers of hope, where the church is working with the local communities, where the church and government bodies are working together, where people can see Christians really caring for their needs, churches are growing, where churches are growing they are investing their resources in providing what the communites need. In return where needs are met – the gospel is being preached and lives are being completely turned around.

It is sad indeed to see churches being closed, converted or even demolished.

In an Island which has seen so much conflict which to the untrained eye was all about religion and protestants fighting Catholics, we have so much of what could be termed as “religion” do need to get back to the basics and ask what the church is actually here for.

The place of the Church of Ireland in the new Ireland is and needs to be is right in the middle of it. Involved at all levels of society. We need to be reaching out to those at all strata’s of society.

To the poor and the marginalized we need to be saying we are here with you – we will assist you in your dealings to get you a fair package of help when you need it.

To those who are having problems with addictions we need to be saying we will help you to overcome

To those who have arrived as immigrants we need to be saying – welcome and offering a place to belong

To those who are struggling to make ends meet financially we need to say we will give you advice

To all who are OK we need to say – the church needs you as it does everyone

We as a church need to be continually reaching out with the good news of Christ to all in this new Ireland, seeking to move beyond our comfort zones into what can only be described as our mission field. In the past when churches spoke about missionaries the widely held view was that of empire and bringing Christianity to Africa with pith hats and Bibles in hand. However on our doorsteps across the Island today we have people who have either a very negative view of the church or those who have no idea what the gospel is all about.

It is in these areas the church needs to be stepping out in faith and proclaiming the good news and expecting things to change for the better.

Are these things the churches responsibility – well I would argue yes! IF we are to be missional and intentional about our proclamation of the gospel – yes we are to preach the word through the power of the spirit. It is the empowerment of the community of faith to ensure that as many as possible are brought into hear that word, and if possible we should bring the gospel out to the people wherever they are.

The church, I have heard it described as being simply one hungry beggar, telling another hungry beggar where to find food. That is all the church can and should be doing! That is where we should be.

This has turned into a bit of a Rant – it will be refined into a much more reasoned argument as part of an essay – but hey – it makes for a bit of a Blog anyway!!

Through the curacy round ... with My Blog! :-)

Now that final year has arrived and the month of October is nearing a close it must be nearly time for the curacy list to be published

For the uninitiated - the process in the Church of Ireland to find us ordinands places of employment at the end of trainning is quite a job it involves parishes, bishops, interviews, CV's, College, meetings, coffee, discussions late into the night along the corridors.

Hopefully on this blog you may find a few insights into the process as well as prayer pointers etc on the whole experience from an insider ... Of course no names etc will appear simply my own take on the process.

Until then please do pray for us, for guidance, patience, unity with our year, discernment.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Conclusion of 10 Commandments series - St Bart's, Stranmillis

This sermon was preached at the 10:30 Service on Sunday 26th October as part of my Pastoral Placement in St.. Bartholomew's Stranmillis Belfast. It Concluded a sermon Series on the 10 commandments.

1 Kings 21; Ephesians 4;

Heavenly Father,

I pray that you would take my lips and speak through them, take our minds and think through them and take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you – In jesus name we pray - Amen

I wonder if I asked anyone in church this morning to recite the 10 commandments – would you be able to do it?

Maybe you learnt them in school, maybe before your confirmation. Could I invite you to turn with me in your prayer books to page 767 and see that they are written in the context of the catechism. The teaching of the church.

Clearly there is some importance we give to these laws – In this sermon I would like to consentrate on three areas

Firstly old testament

Then Paul’s understanding of the laws

And then what does it say to us here in Belfast many thousands of years later.

In our first reading this morning we read of one of the so-called evil kings

If you are ever looking for political intrigue and scandal – Take a study through the book of first kings!

So Let me introduce you to King Ahab:

* Son of the evil King Omri
* Married the infamous Jezebel and bought into her cultic practices worship of Baal and Asherah.
* Let his people through 2 wars assisted by YHWH

When you read the story of Ahab you see that God sent people to try to warn him that he was on the wrong track but he just doesn’t seem to listen. One of the biggest characters was Yahweh’s man Elijah through whom God showed his power – continually giving Ahab the chance to change. And eventually he did repent.

In marriage, he married someone who was a foreigner and who brought their religious practices with them – even though it was forbidden by the Lord. Ahab then introduced the idol Baal and built places for the worship of Asherah. This was the Beginnings of his problems.

Elijah told him that there was to be no other God’s but the Lord and that he needed to repent – He didn’t – Elijah prayed for no rain and no rain came - exile

Then Elijah again confronted Ahab – contest on Mount Carmel – Prophets of Baal v’s Elijah. YHWH triumphed BUT Jezebel ordered Elijah Killed!

Then there was the Battles against Benhadad – A prophet calls Ahab to lead the attack if they are to be successful – he did and they were

The prophet hold Ahab that there would be another battle – there was and again that was successful – The lord had given them the victory – one problem was that he didn’t finish off the job – and for that Ahab would have to suffer. So it is with this background that we meet and can understand some of what is going on when it comes to Naboths vineyard

Ahab has had tremendous success he has, through the power of God, saved his country from being taken over by the Syrian army. He has seen God cause famine, but when he has listened to prophets the Lord acted powerfully.

Now about 20 miles north of his capital – he had his eyes on a vineyard – it must have been a very good vineyard to Ahab to have wanted it. He offered to pay high price for it – but Naboth the owner was having none of it! – it was his inheritance and – the king could not demand that!

What happens next contravenes a number of our covenant laws

Firstly there is out right coveting of literally his neighbours house – he does this by what we would say – going into a great big SULK.

Then we see his wife getting involved and writing a death warrant for poor naboth and sealing it – Bearing false witness and then ultimately murdering.

So on top of all the things which went before – this king, who is meant to be ruler of God’s people has literally contravened the laws he was meant to be upholding!

That said – we see that his actions are not without consequence. He does undergo, a period of penitence, he realizes the stupidity of his actions and repents.

As we flick over to we see Paul writing to a people who are trying to make sense of a culture – not to dissimilar to our own in terms of being a polytheistic society where personal desire and ambition are ruling the minds.

Take a look at Pauls Description of the prevailing culture

v19 Having lost all sensitivity they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more.

When we look at magazines, shops, credit cards, gossip mags is this the prevailing culture. When we look at the news headlines – shootings, affairs, hate crime, under currents of distrust … do the ten commandments have any relevance to us today … surely they do … they must!

They under pin our legal system.

But what are we as Christians to do? … When I was putting the conclusion to this sermon in my study room in Dublin – it was Thursday when there was heavy wind and rain and I imagined a boat on the sea – being tossed about on the waves. Without a compass, without having a fixed point of reference it is extremely easy to loose one way, ones route through life.

Paul in this passage is reminding the Christians that they are different – they are to stand up to the culture – they are to put on the new self – a self which is not ruled by the prevailing culture, not caught up in selfish ambition nor any of the other characteristics of the world – he gives a couple of examples which are relevant to our studies into the 10 commandments

Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour – why? For we are all members of the same body

He who has been stealing must steal no longer

He goes further … Get rid of all bitterness rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice and then the new self

Be kind and compassionate to one another; forgiving each other as Christ forgive you.

That was Paul writing in the 1st Century

How about 20 Centuries later?

I am a natural rebel – if someone lays down the rules I look for away around them: in Banbridge High – we had a double A4 page of School Rules – To this day I know the first 20 of them because I had to write them out so many times – for forgetting homeworks etc.

Some were really silly – Schoolbags must be carried on the right way from the wall, some were strange and long – respect must be shown to teachers, office staff, principal, caretakers, cleaners, secretaries

A basic list of do’s and don’t

When we look at the 10 commandments it can seem like school rules, a list of dos and don’ts however I do believe that there is something beyond them, something more of a relationship.

Please turn in your prayer books to page 222

On this page we see the 10 commandments which are the basic do’s and don’ts but with the relationship through Christ who is the fulfilment of the law added – As Christians we keep the 10 Commandments not out of Duty but out of love and our personal commitment to Christ who draws us all into that relationship

As we reflect upon Ahab who directly contravened the commandments and Paul who urged the Christians in Ephesus to put on their new selves so we turn to ourselves – what changes do we need to make to be living within the spirit of the law.

As we conclude I have asked Ron to read the commandments and I will read the New Testament commentary. I would invite you to take a few moments to about your own response to them and what you need to change, or do.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sepatrick Parish Magazine article

A line from Dublin

Well, time is certainly marching on, and there is so much to do here at the Church of Ireland Theological College. Now that I am in final year and writing for the November edition of the magazine means also that the list of curacies for 2009 will soon be arriving on my desk. It is a scary but also exciting time. Literally “God Knows” where I and all the other ordinands will end up – and thankfully he does have a place for us all.

At the moment I am on Friday and Sunday placement in St. Bartholomew’s in Stranmillis, preaching, leading services and visiting individuals.

I would invite you to pray for all of us ordinands during November – January as well as the Rectors and Bishops involved in the process. Praying that all would seek the guidance and discernment of God in all decisions that have to be made.

I look forward to keeping you informed of progress in future editions of the magazine.

As ever .. news and prayer pointers can be found on my blog … or

In Christ

Robert Ferris

John 10:10 – Jesus said “A thief comes to kill and destroy – but I have come so that they may have life in all its fullness”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mission away

Below is the text of a talk given to the Retired Dublin and Glendalough Clergy group on the Topic of my mission experience 14th Oct 2008 - This was prepared but certainly not given word for word!

Before we begin let’s Pray

Heavenly father, I pray that as we look at the needs of your people around the world and take a glimpse into the Anglican Church is Zambia that you would speak and minister through me – In Jesus' Name Amen

Good afternoon and welcome to the College / Institute! – Dr Maurice Elliott approached me at the end of the summer and asked me would I speak today to you – I immediately said yes, since then I have wondered what I have got myself into.

I have entitled this talk – “Thoughts from a random final year ordinand” I did this because anyone of the ordinands from our year group could have spoken to you today. As you are aware at the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into all of the world and preach the gospel … well this summer … we as a year group took that some what literally.

2 went to Canada

1 to California

1 to Paraguay

1 to Brazil

1 to Sixmilecross

1 to Omagh

2 to Dublin

1 to New Zealand

And myself to Zambia

All on official parish placements.

As I have sat down to try and put my experiences down in a some what systematic manner, to allow me to chat about them I have also become aware that they are, like any part of parish ministry quite random – Random because they do not fit into nice and tidy boxes. One particular encounter with an individual does not fit tidily into a pastoral issue or a simple meeting on a street.

And also random because they are my thoughts which are random anyway!

My Background

I am a native of Banbridge Seapatrick Parish – Through Sunday school, confirmation, youth group. In the early days of Sunday School I became extremely interested in Mission – through the Lenten projects – the idea of people away off in far flung parts of the world working for God really did appeal to me. I suppose subconsciously It was making me think – well there must be something in this Christianity thing if people were prepared to leave everything and up sticks to serve God overseas.

It was through our diocese that I was asked to go on my first mission trip – CMSI call them META – Mission Experience Teams Abroad – we headed out to Uganda – to Kiwoko hospital. It was there that I was first exposed to extreme poverty – our first few days were spent in an old church building with what can only be described as a extreme History – the horrors of the Idi Amin era

The slums around kampala – hope in complete hopelessness – We went out with locals to spread the gospel

Then north to Luweero – in the infamous Luweero triangle – the killing fields. Amazing life changing are what I would say about that trip.

It wasn’t doing anything deep and profound – what we were asked to do was to draw alongside the local mission team and help the in their schools ministry – going around secondary and primary schools with the message of the gospel.

We also were able to experience Kiwoko hospital – set up by a doctor from Ireland who went out to saw a need and felt the call to work out there full time.

A couple of years later I came back as a leader on a similar trip – knowing somehow that what I had experienced and seen

Again went out and met more of the locals who were still there 2 years later developing their schools ministry and still doing a lot of the stuff we had done earlier.

One of the crucial things I have felt throughout all of this is the idea of partnership to be extremely important. As you know – this is a profoundly biblical concept – throughout the Pauline corpus we read that he is thankful for the partnership in the gospel.

It was this idea of partners and mission partners which really attracted me to CMSI in the first place – the fact that they have people on the ground in the places which they work, people who are – for want of a better word – Inculturated into the community – working with the locals throughout their time in the field.

Last year I went out again as a leader to Zambia – with a group from all over the church of Ireland – people from cork, down and dromore, connor, Armagh Londonderry to a different part of Africa – to do different things on the back of one of the Sunday school projects and once again I was faced with new people but the same feeling that the idea of partnership was crucial in delivering the gospel message.

In Uganda the mission partners were the Quill Family – Andrew was an architect and Joanne a nurse – using their skills and passions they set up CHE programme – Community Health Empowerment which was basically Healthcare with a special emphasis upon discipleship – Spiritual and Physical lessons coming together.

In Zambia the mission partners were the Scott Family – Keith is an ordained Priest within the Church of Ireland who is lecturing at the Zambia Anglican Seminary. He also has a parish ministry in the mining township of Chambishi in the North of Zambia

By way of Introduction – Partnership is Key to all that follows. Both at a local and international level.


I am quite aware that I am speaking to people with many, many years of experience in ministry under your belt – I wonder if I could draw on that experience for a moment and ask– What do you think the church should be focusing on ?


This year I headed out to Keith and Lynn for an extended period of 2 months which were spent at the theological college in Zambia.

Student / Teacher / Parish Placement / Computer Programmer / Encouragement /

As this was over my summer holidays it was great to be able to do a little more study. Keith being a lecturer allowed me to sit in on his classes

* Justice, Peace and the Integrity of creation – Looking a development issues into the context of theological thought
* Ethics – When I landed in on this class it was on the whole area of sexual ethics and again looking at the homosexuality debate which of course was something which, this summer was at the forefront of the minds of the Anglican church
o This in itself was good to have a bit of time to think about such questions whilst outside my normal circumstances
o Sitting in a Global south country and getting information through the internet from many sources
* Homeltics – It was great to get teaching about drawing on cultural issues in the process of crafting sermons in Africa.

As a teacher – Before coming down to CITC I trained as a Computer Scientist and then as a secondary school teacher. In Zambia I was asked to do some training for the first year students as part of their “Study Skills” this involved basic work with Microsoft Word and research techniques on the internet.

At the moment the college in Zambia is about to bring in a Degree Programme which is underwritten by Canterbury University so the computer skills will have to be of a similar standard to those of our own students here in the UK or Ireland. It was a complete challenge to talk to a class who had little or no background what so ever with computer skills.

On the computer side of things – the college had invested heavily in various pieces of hardware and it was good to be able to set up various systems to help in the management of the resources – for example – printer and file sharing systems as well as a library system to help control books within their college library.

Within this side of my work I do feel I gained a lot more knowledge by doing these things than I gave and it was great by the end of the 2 months to see how much the class had actually taken on board and learnt from the whole. Being able to do reasonable complex things – some even were able to Word process their essay from scratch – so that was a feat in itself!

The parish placement side of the trip was truly humbling and generally amazing – actually getting out and meeting people, people who are living in the most basic conditions – people who are living on the less than a dollar a day – 50p / 65 Cent Which is amazing when one considers that the price of fuel in Zambia was verging on the same price as it is in Ireland.

I did come across some of those who are totally at the bottom of society – people who saw absolutely no future – people whose only escape from poverty was drinking – day and night - When one walked around the unofficial compound in Chambishi the number of Bars selling cheap beer and their equaliviant to potchine was completely heart breaking. It was in this place that I came across the first person I had met, who was dying of HIV/Aids who had absolutely no hope of survival – she was in the last throes of life. And yes I have set at bedsides of those who are dying, and yes I know the facts and figures of aids but it is completely heart breaking to know the problems in these communities.

I do get really passionate about this – what is the church doing in these circumstances – what responsibilities does the church in Zambia and the church in Ireland have to support our brothers and sisters in the world wide church. Huge Global issues.

The Parish placement saw me in various parishes all around the town of Kitwe and beyond – doing the things that an ordinand would be doing here in Ireland

Leading services, reading, preaching, visiting houses, praying with people and going to a Bible study.

This was an exhilarating amount of diversity. One of the bible studies I participated in was looking at trauma counselling – It was equipping the locals in how to talk to people who had had the most horrific stories – It was an African based DVD which looked at some of the people who had lived through genocide and other tragedies and how one should deal with it. One of the questions asked participant if they had had any experices of such.

Here I was sitting in Zambia – one of the most peaceful countries in Africa – but in that small group of people they shared some of the deepest memories of their times in various countries, recalling terror and violence. One particular person had lived through the apartheid regime in south Africa.

My immediate thing to this question of experiencing trauma was no but as the stories came out – My thinking changed – I hadn’t lived through the Idi Amin regime or apartheid but I had lived through Northern Ireland – through bombing, shootings, sectarianism at its worse and we are still sorting these things out. There is still such a lot of trauma from all around – on both sides. It was very strange to be having this conversation in Zambia.

On a lighter note, as a staunch evangelical, brought up in the United Diocese of Down and Dromore – the liturgical side of Zambia on my first trip caused me a bit of concern – being on the extreme side of the anglo-catholic tradition. But it was a strange sort of a mix the outward trappings were of white cassock albs, bells and plenty of smells however with an evangelical zeal to the preaching which as passionate and contained the range of views that we have here in ireland.

However I did make sure that there was no photographic evidence to incriminate me as a cassock alb wearing ordinand!

Turning to the challenge of the placement – Each time I have been to Africa I have been struck by the sheer polarisation between rich and poor and how they exist in sight of each other.

A mud house with thatched room on the side of the main road which carries billions of pounds worth of machines overhead runs twenty lines of power cable on mammoth pylons to a neighbouring country.

I was sitting in one of Keith’s churches in his parish – a couple of books – in a classroom which had a blackboard and a couple of hand made posters. During the service I looked outside – a couple of kids were collecting water from a well, on the road beyond a railway line barely used was the main highway – huge caterpillar machines where being driven up for the mining industry.

Which leads me on to the mines – this is the main industry in Zambia – thousands of people are employed in getting the copper out of the ground either in closed or open pit mines – The mine owners are getting richer and richer pumping money into the business of getting copper out quicker and quicker. The problem is that the profits are not going into the economy they are Chinese and Indian so the copper is being exported and then the profits too are being exported overseas. One of the huge questions which worries me is what happens as a consequence of this action – what will be left after all the copper is extracted? When the raw material dries up?

It is a crazy situation when you find literally new mountains of Slag built up over time within the areas of Zambia.

Children, The average lifespan, I presume due to Aids and other diseases is somewhere ludicrously short – 42/43 I think. So you have masses of young orphans who have to be taken in and looked after – this is causing a huge burden on the people – I met one Vicar General (between an archdeacon and a bishop) who invited me round for dinner – on my birthday – he introduced me to his own many children for whom he was responsible who were living in a 4 bedroom house.

All because their parents had died and he was the adult that was to take care of them.

On my first visit to Africa we heard horrific stories about the problems of AID’s where people thought the way to get rid of the virus was to sleep with a virgin – so girls were being infected by men.

Huge problems – few answers.

The church in Zambia is not immune to problems affecting the world wide church – Ask anyone here in Ireland what the problems affecting the church in Ireland and you will invariably end up with

Growing Consumerism

Attracting Young people

Shift Patterns of work

Attracting Clergy / people power

The church in Zambia has exactly the same problems but does not have the same resources as we have to throw at the problems

There is a need for increased people to come forward for ministry but then there is the problem of resources. There is also a need to go to the very basics. In outlying areas which have problems with water and basic communication how does one even try to come to terms with this

So with all of this is there hope …

… There has to be hope … we are Christians after all …

The church I told you about sitting in and looking out – these are the poorest of the poor. But they are a people with vision, a people who do not want to be in a school building – they want a church building they can call their own. So that group of people at the minute there are 10 or so of them now are tying to literally BUILD THEIR CHURCH from the ground up.

1 ant hill + 10 people and a heap of grass they have started each Wednesday to make block – the blocks are made from an ant Hill – It is the whole idea of empowerment – the natural resources are there – the knowelege is there within the community all it takes is a little bit of leadership in terms of the church and encouragement and they will succeed.

In Keith’s JPIC class a true story was told of an organisation coming in an setting up a community school, they funded the teachers and the building – this was all going great until the organisation looked at it budgets and priorities – the priorities changed and the funding was withdrawn the school lasted about three months – the teachers stayed on as volunteers but the problem was that the children no longer were happy – they stayed at home.

There was a few issues with this idea of development: It was a community school but the community had no ownership of the project. It was a top down approach – you need a school – we will give you a school.

One wonders if an empowerment model might have worked. One where the local people met together and said – we need a school and how do we get one?

They may have put into place something for the parents (many of whom were illiterate)

There needs to be an income generation source – maybe a community garden where vegetables could be grown both for food for the Childrens’ dinner and to sell to buy resources for the school and to pay the salaries of the teachers

The parents could be educated along with the children.

Thinking outside of the box may have allowed that community to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.

The idea of empowerment may have been an important consideration. This case, for me is another way of thinking about what the role of community leadership is all about in Africa – it is not all about asking for handouts but teaching how to do things for themselves. The training of church leaders in these things as community leaders is so appropriate and so essential.

One of the things which I am concentrating on this year as part of my dissertation is mission and how the church of Ireland responds to mission both at home and abroad. Using my experiences overseas as well as mission teams at home and asking fundalmental questions as to our understanding of what we are doing as a church when it comes to engaging with God’s mission in the world.

How what we do on a Sunday morning is helping to fulfil the Missio Dei – the mission of God in the world around.

Looking at concluding – this year I am hoping to do a piece of research enlisting the help up CMSI, Church Army, USPG and various other people including clergy and the synod’s council for mission looking at precisely what I got you all to do – what are our priorities as a church and also asking difficult questions as to the role of the church of Ireland in world mission – looking at my experiences in the light of mission questions.

Are we simply sending young people off overseas for a holiday or is there something more going on – what is partnership anyway? Those are the sort of question I want to be asking. .

Any questions??

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reflections on the first few weeks of College

Well, final year is here with avengence!

Week 1 was a week on marriage and the care of marriage. It really is a strange thing to be thinking about taking care of marriages as a single person and preparing couples for marriage. I look forward in the next couple of months to read up on some of the courses both for marriage prep and marriage enrichment. We also had time during this week to talk about strategies which we could put in place to ensure marriages are sustained in the long term.

Week 2 was all focused on youth ministry. Once again this was a very practical and insightful look at the role of youthwork within the church of ireland. I know I was encouraged by knoweledge that CIYD and the dioceses had resources which we all could tap into.

And then... we started our main timetable on Monday

This year Is going to be a hectic time combing - lectures, essays, ser mons, curacy rounds, Seminars, Chapel, Pastoral visits, Leading Services, preaching, Travelling, blogging, praying, chatting, powerpointing ... . Having said that it is my hope and prayer that through it all God would be glorified and all of us would grow closer to him. Strengthened in the faith and ready to serve in the church.

Ease of Blog & an update Blog - Week 1 of Final Year

Well, well ... there should now not be any excuse for not blogging as I have found a google gadget which allows me to post directly from my google home page.

Term has started back in earnest... I have started in St. Bartholomew's (St. Barts) in Stranmillis under the guidance of Rev. Ron and Rev. Janice Elsdon on my final year placement.

Classes have started back and are as busy as ever
Ethics, NT, OT, History, spirituality, Ecclesiology, Exegesis are on this semester's Timetable.

This week was/is extremely busy
Mon apart from 5 hrs of class was house meeting and Late Praise which I was sorting out

This evening was College Fellowship - It was nice to be back being not responsible for it! - Pete and Simon have a really good programme of speakers this year again.

Tomorrow is comminity meal as well as preping a talk for next week - my first presentation of Zambia .

Thursday is up home and Friday is back down to dublin.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pre-term wk 1 - Confidence in Christ

Well, we are now back in college ...

Alan Barr, Curate in Bray was up in college today preaching at the Communion service tonight in college. It was very strange to see him back in the building, in collar and even stranger seeing him in the role of lecturer as he was teaching the second years in the pre-term weeks.

A couple of things struck me about his sermon - on manna, on the workers in the vineyard and Paul's Declaration of "to live is Christ and to die is gain". We as Christian's can indeed be fully confident in the message of the gospel which is sufficient for daily life. Nothing can separate us ... so we just need to get out there and do what we have been called by God to do.

This week is extremely tiring and challenging as we try to deal with the topic of marriage and the issues around this extremely important topic. One thing I suppose we are learning is about the need for communication and getting things out in the open. Looking at the difference between events and issues, pinch and crunches.

Friday, September 05, 2008

On a wet and cold september morn ...

Well its quite scary to be back at Braemor Park, sitting up in the common room with nobody else here - the wind beating against the windows, the rain beating down and the grey and dull skies of what looks like a winter's stormy day.

I really couldn't be much further away from the Anglican Seminary in Kitwe, The Victoria falls or the officer's mess in Benson or .... what else did I do this summer???

I do promise that on here will appear shortly some reports etc of the summer - but just to say at the moment I am doing the great clear out of room three in preparation of its final year of occupancy by this ordinand.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Its not over yet!

This summer has so far been an amazing experience and it isn't over yet... at the moment I am planning the way forward.

Next Saturday I head off to England for a week of chaplaincy work near oxford then its back home and some meetings and then off again to france - I hope shortly to have something written properly about Zambia and the stuff I did out there etc.

Thanks for interest in My Blog :-)



Oh yes and while you wait for the written report why not check out the photo's...

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Friday, July 25, 2008

IT Stuff ... just incase anybody might need it

This summer I am spending over in Zambia with a christian mission agency CMS Ireland

At the college there is a network of computer's connected to the internet - a few things have been needed to be done.

Printing set up so that students can be given credits and once they are used up then they have to pay for any other printing - this has been set up using a system -papercut They also have, for developing countries a special educational licence which is well worth it - it takes about 1/2 day to set up but the instructions are pretty clear and straight forward - their technical support is great- very helpful online!

My next task was to sort out the library system - my background is in computer programming and especially websites - so I naturally turned to something which has already been designed - I looked at opensource options of PHPlibrary and MyLibrary however I have opted for openbiblio which has proved to be a great choice.

One needs to install a web server - I am using xampp which has Apache server, PHP Scripting and a MySQL database inbuilt again it is simply download it and do what it says

Then I downloaded openbiblio - very simple to install - follow the instructions and you'll be fine!

There a couple of plugins again these are crucial if you want to save yourself hundreds of hours of work - there is a plugin available for openbiblio for amazon and for the library of congress these take the information and stick it into the library database straight away. sooooo good.

A couple more things still to do on the techie side of the placement

- creation of a grade book for the college admin
- Setting up a windows server and the clients
- Creation of a basic guide for theological students

more info on those when it comes

Friday, June 27, 2008

Early African Reflections


Even at this early point in my placement, coupled with previous ventures to this vast Continent this place is full of complete contrasts.

It is such a beautiful place - taking time to soak up the sun in the middle of the day or as it rises or sets - totally magnificent. On the other hand when one progresses through towns around here on the copperbelt you find mammoth piles of debris from the mining industry.

Sitting in Chapel here in college it is a place of faith, of the word of God - The students who have preached on the last couple of evenings have been so good - preaching from the Gospel of Matthew, giving timely warnings to fellow students about the fruit which leaders in the church are to produce and then the call of discipleship which appears throughout the Gospel.

Today has been great as it has given me a chance to sit down and reflect on Africa - a continent which does have its own problems - one just has to look at the BBC website and see the problems - Zimbabwe today comes to mind - I was so mindful of that country when we flew over it on the way here. Please do continue to pray for the people of that nation and also the church there which is facing massive opposition from Government.

In Zambia too the church faces many problems - with many of the people living on under a dollar a day - there are huge problems, but it is progressing - please do remember this place where I am staying - St. Johns Anglican Seminary, the place which trains Anglican priests who will serve the church as Priests and evangelists. We think in CITC, not getting home on a Friday is bad - due to the expansive nature of the country, many of the students only get home at the ends of the terms, they have families hundreds and hundreds of miles away.

I am really looking forward to getting properly stuck in this next week, into classes, Yes, classes! - Looking forward to Ethics and Homiletics as well as taking Practical IT Skills. A few other things are happening over the weekend which I am indeed looking forward to - more about them in my next update.

I am also aware of what is happening at home this weekend, namely Summer Madness - my prayers are with all those attending - especially those from Banbridge - May God speak and may you all listen to Him!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I Know I have said this before but now it is true - My CMS Ireland Blog is now taking the weight of my postings for the summer - so you had better go there if you are looking any updates and Prayer pointers. Thank you for your interest :-)

My Zambia trip is from 23rd June --> 21st August

It can be found here - My CMSIRELAND BLOG


McMURRRAAAAYYYYYY or should that be Rev. McMurray now ??? :-p

Tonight, good friend and fellow blogger Gary McMurray was ordained deacon in Dromore Cathedral. The service, I believe was a really prayerful and worshipful time when we prayed for Gary and his future ministry in the Church. The rector of St. Elizabeth's preached an extremely important message of how we were to pray for ministers based upon Timothy thinking about life and the teaching which those in Christian leadership have to carry.

It was also good to see they guys from college again along with John Deane and those who were ordained last year (James and Clare).

Deep Breath now - The next Deacon ordination I will attend will be some for our year even possibly my own D.V. which is a scary prospect :-)

Photos from the ordination tonight can be found on my flickr page

Sermon Preached in Moira Parish - Sunday 15th June 2008

Sunday Morning 10 am Service (Matthew 9:35- 10:8)
Moira Parish – Morning Praise service
Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, as we come to your word this day, we pray that you would speak to us, that you would challenge us and that you would lead us closer in our walk with you.
In your name and for your sake we pray.


When the rector, asked me to preach at this service – on Friday – my immediate reaction, without thinking yes and then once I had put the phone down I thought oh crumbs – What are the readings – what have I let myself in for?

When I got hold of the lectionary and realised it was the Matthew reading that was good – because it was talking about Discipleship – which is great because it allows me the excuse to put up my ‘L’ plates – so right from the start I want to explain that right from the youngest to the oldest we are all learners – that is what the word discipleship means. That is what we are called to do.

I am going to concentrate on the Gospel reading – It is a familiar reading I am sure to many – The themes it contains are huge in the Christian Faith – It speaks of mission, it speaks of who Jesus is and it speaks of discipleship

Before we get into the text, Let us take a look at where passage is set – it is in Matthew’s Gospel which was written from a unique perspective and to show that Jesus was the messiah that the Jews were indeed expecting, it comes after the teaching narrative of the sermon on the mount and directly after a whole passage on miracles and calling of Matthew.

I would like to take a look at the text – If you have a Bible with you may want to follow

Jesus went out teaching, preaching and healing – The three of these things go hand in hand when the gospel is spread.

I often wonder how amazing it would have been alive to have met Jesus in the flesh in Galilee. His ministry is totally key to our understanding of who he is.

The miracles he performed shows and bears witness to who he is – he is shown to have power over nature,
power over Disease
power over death
and ultimately power over sin.

When we move on to the next section when he saw the crowds he had compassion on them – why? Because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd

It is interesting to note here a strange looking word
splanch – nizo- mai – SPLANK NIZO ME

Which is used throughout the NT in regards to Jesus motivation – right in the depth of his being – in his belly –is where he felt for the people and their problems.

For us :
He is the unchangeable – It has been said so many times that I do feel that we can sometimes in our faith grow immune to it – God has compassion on those who are hurting, who are suffering, who are harassed and helpless.

As we move on in this passage – There is a recognition that there is a part for everyone to play in this mission – Jesus once again draws as he does on so many occasions on agricultural imagery – “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”
Notice what he does here – He speaks this to his disciples and the asks them to “ask the lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his field”.

It is here I would like to pause for a moment and ask if anyone has been to theme park – any favourite rides? <> I went to Alton towers last year and had a great time – my favourite rollercoaster is AIR – I managed to get a quick video of it for you taken by someone first hand. Its not that great quality by hopefully you will get the idea.

I am sure, if you haven’t been to alton towers and been on air you’ll not really get what I’m saying, you wont have experienced the same feelings I have for it. My point here is the same in the text we can hear others talking about going places, hear others testimony about what God is doing in this place, in other places but if we don’t take that step to actually say God I want to do it then we wont

This is where us as disciples are challenged – we know that there is a harvest, we know that someone has to do it, we maybe pray to God that he would send someone to work in the field. Little do we know that we might be the answer to our own prayer. If we are already working maybe we are being called to pray for others to help us.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

As we move into Chapter 10

We see the disciples being told – JUST DO IT – get out there and do the stuff I have shown you – they were given authority to heal raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, preach the message – Jesus gave them the authority.

He also makes provision in this – you will notice that the disciples are not to go alone, they are paired up. In ministry the idea of individuals I don’t think is biblical – having teamwork, another person who you relate well to is key. Someone you can pray with, someone who is ready to help you and you to help them when difficult times someone is key.

The chapter then goes on to speak of provision – and what to take and not take which in our whole idea of going does not sit easy one coat – no bag … I know I’m heading over to Africa next week and I am finding it difficult to stay under BA’s weight restrictions!!

So having said that what are we to do?

Well, I suppose this message this morning is practical
Firstly I believe God has a heart for those who are harassed and hurting this day – He is intimately concerned with the things you are concerned about, he is desiring above all the rest to heal and to restore those who are broken. He desires for that relationship to be restored.

Secondly, I believe that there are those to whom he wants to say – just do it – He is wanting you to get out there and do whatever he has called you to do – It’s not necessarily to become a Church of Ireland Clergy person but it may be to spread the gospel in your place of work, in your school, in your family circumstances wherever.

Finally, I believe he wants to say – don’t worry – I have made provision for you – especially for those who maybe over the summer are heading off overseas or doing some mission service at home – God will provide for all your needs.

We have been given so much – it is our responsibility to give – to the world around – Let’s JUST DO IT and not leave it to someone else to spread the good news – from the youngest here to the oldest we can all talk about God to our friends our work colleagues

Let’s take a moment of silence as we think about what we need to be doing this week, what resources we need to be asking our father for.

Let’s Pray
Heavenly Father, I pray that you would speak into our situations and ask that your would be provider and sustainer of us


---- Prayers of intercession ----

Let us pray,

God of gods and Lord of lords,

We come this morning as ourselves, with our faults and our failings, we come with our concerns, our doubts our worries we come before you and declare you as Lord, Lord of this place, lord of this town, lord of our lives.

Father God we come to you on this Fathers’ day and pray for all those who are father’s, we ask you to bless them with patience and love which only you can provide.

Lord God as we look around the world that you have created we see so much beauty, however you have instructed us to pray for those who are in need – we think of those in countries where there is violence, war, disaster and hardship – we pray for those places which hit our headlines on a daily basis – for Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq, Afganistan, China, Burma
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
We pray for the church,
In our readings we are challenged, regardless of age or background, problems to serve God in whatever way he has called us. We take a moment to pray that God to send workers into the harvest field. Remembering that as disciples we too are called to play our part in the body that is the church.
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer

We pray for our community of faith in this place.
Lord Jesus,
You had compassion on those who you saw were in trouble, in grief, in pain – that compassion moved you to action.

We pray for those whom we know who need a touch from the Lord this day. We pray particularly for The Rector and his family at this difficult time and others whom we name in silence.

Loving Lord, Surround those who suffer at this time.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer - Conclude with the Grace

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Fast forward again

Over the course of this summer - I hope to blog frequently whilst in Zambia - all of the posts will appear on my CMSI Blog which is available here

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer approacheth FAST!!

It really is amazing how within 24 little hours life suddenly changes - This time last night I was sitting, quite worried about exams - OT hadn't got a clue by 10 am this morning things were beginning to sink in and now on the other side of the exams one wonders what I need to do now. College at the moment hasn't actually finished - one more day to go - in another 24 hours we will have said good bye to both the third years who are heading to all arts and parts of ireland, we will also have said goodbye to the rest of our year and the first years and we will have said goodbye to the Principal and his Wife June. This year the Principal is retiring. It really is a strange time in college at the moment.

So with all that going on it is pretty intense and to think that in just 1 year we will be saying goodbye to college and hello to our new parishes - it is very strange.
Anyhow, between now and then there is a lot of stuff to happen - top of my agenda now are two things - Learning to Drive and Packing my bags for Zambia to see the Scotts. It is crazy, I know I have said it a million times but how quickly time flies. Information and prayer points will be hopefully available here as the summer progresses.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He has risen, he has risen ... Jesus is alive

Easter Day ... The Easter hope ... The empty tomb ... The resurrection of the dead

Over the course of the last few months I have been reading Tom Wrights book surprised by Hope and have been chatting to others about it. Its terrific ... if you haven't read it - read it!

It speaks of the hope we have as Christians, the empty tomb being the "first fruits" of the resurrection. John S in his sermon today referred to this hope made possible through the resurrection - the last great fear of humans - that of death has been conquered and we have complete assurance of that.

Furthermore, we do not have to worry about what life after death will be - what resurrection will mean for us. The idea of a transformed body. But what we can expect is a bodily resurrection! - if it were not, how on earth do we account for the transformation in the first disciples?, how do we explain our hope to a world looking for such hope?

Over the past while I have encountered people who are totally disillusioned with what life has given them, what can christianity provide for such people? surely what we can do is provide a glimpse of hope, hope of a plan, of a future ...

"The question of Jesus' resurrection, though it may in some senses burst the boundries of history, also remains within them; that is precisely why it is so important, so disturbing, so life and death. We could cope, the world could cope with a Jesus who ultimately remains a good idea inside the disciples hearts and minds. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God's new creation right within the middle of the old one "

What we need to do is return to the "sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead" not some vague fuzzy optimism that somehow things may work out in the end.

But then there is also the "eschatological tension" we are to be living now - this new life has started with those who are in Christ - we need to be sharing this hope, the love of God NOW, today with those around, unashamedly - mmmm ..., The gospel has to be what is on offer, through the power of the Spirit....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Zambia ....

I found out there yesterday that I'm heading back over to Zambia this summer. Which I am really looking foward to, realising of course that it is going to be very, very different - no team meetings, no team times, no Jules, no Chrissie.

Hopefully the blog will be used to keep yas up to date with what's going on - There are lots to do before then - Letters to be written, funds to be sought, prayer points to be uploaded, Exams to be studied for, Driving lessons to be had, placements for college to be sought ...

so all in all it is going to be a busy few months but I am really, really looking forward to this journey. Here's what I will be doing in a nut shell!

Summer 2008

This summer, I am hoping to embark on a parish placement with a difference, being the last summer of University Study, I have been granted a place on a CMSI STEP (Short Term Experience Placement) programme heading out to Kitwe, in the Copperbelt region of Northern Zambia. This placement will be based with CMSI Mission Partners Rev. Keith & Lynn Scott at the Anglican Seminary. The experience will be see me working and studying alongside local seminarians also training for Anglican ministry.

I will also have the chance to work with Keith in his parish duties in a local church, to work with the local diocesan Youth co-ordinator, Peter who I have already built up a good relationship with as well as, I’m sure lots of other experiences. In return for this experience, I would aim to assist with resources and computer training for the college and individuals and to get involved in other things as they rise.

This is the first time I have been out to Africa as an individual and am looking forward to the experience. I am also in consultation with a Methodist Minister who is working in a different part of the country, on a community development programme and am hoping to draw alongside him in his work towards the end of my trip.

All in all I am really looking forward to the summer.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Visualising The Bible

Last night Shane Tucker from CIYD was in college speaking on prophecy at college fellowship.

On his desktop I noticed an amazing graphic see below

This project was created by chris harrison - the whole can be found here
started after receiving an email from Christoph Römhild. He had compiled a list of cross-references found in the Bible and was looking for advice on how to visualize these connections. After several email exchanges and a copy of Christoph's data, I was able to produce the arc diagram below. Due to the extremely high number of cross-references, this lands more on the aesthetic side of the information visualization spectrum. Different colors are used for various arc lengths, creating a rainbow like effect. The bar graph running along the bottom shows every chapter in the Bible and their respective lengths (in verses). Books alternate in color between white and light gray.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oh I do Like to be beside the seaside

dun laoghaire harbour
Originally uploaded by rferris281

Being down in Dublin at the weekends is great ... one can get work done but also on the doorstep is mountains and sea, city and towns. It was such a great day today. After church I took myself off on a photo safari as well as a book read. The photos are now on flickr

The book was Paul for everyone 1 Corinthians - great book!


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Review - Mission Shaped Spirituality

It has been quite a while since I have read a book cover to cover in one go. Maybe it is because I am writting an essay on its contents, maybe it is the authors style that appeals to me, maybe its because the contents are great stuff, I suspect though that it is a comnination of all of these things.

This book goes hand in hand with the Church of England report "Mission shaped church" produced in 2004 which has had an immese impact on the church at home, looking theologically and practically at examples of how church could be changed to meet the needs of those on the outside of the doors.

When we think of spirituality - we look at the personal, the relationship with the almighty wether that be expressed in prayer, Bible reading, quietness, art, poetry ... + 101 other ways. However the Bible also speaks about that relationship impacting the world around us as well. Mission comes from the call to "Go", as Christians we are called to engage or in some ways to re-engage with the culture around. The question this book asks us is there a spirituality for mission? a spirituality which will support mission - an apostolic spirtuality?

Well, there clearly has to be! (Not least because there is a book written about it!)

Mission Shaped spirituality is something which has to span traditional church as well as fresh expressions, we are all called to be "one, holy , catholic and apostolic church". Each christian has that call on their lives to be a person who is sent - to go.

We are called and sent. In the busyness of a typical parish, there are many, many concerns, so much so that the fire and passion of mission is in danger of being extinguished. How can one keep this passion.

(p7) No one really argues that themseleves out of inertia. There is onlu one way to deal with it and that is to exert a counter force. To push through it, to pull against it. As soom as we start doing that, the inertia begins to release its grip ... (The authors experience) is that the fire of mission can re-ignite through the act of going" ...

It is this fire of love for God and the world which has to be the foundation of a spirtuality which is mission.

This mission spirituality reminds us of our lifes meaning - who and what we are, what we are doing and our life's purpose. When we live by it, when we really know what mission is then when times are tough, when all around us we see trouble, at the end of a hard and difficult day, week, month ... the sense that we are living for a purpose for which we are commissioned (Matt 28) then we can return to the central truth that we a members of a missional communuity.

The book also reminds us that there is both a general and a particular call on our lives - The general is "to go" the particular is "where to go". It could be deepest africa, it could be round the corner. We are all called to go.

.... to be continued !!!!

these are only my rambling thoughts on the book!