Restoration Ministries was formally established as a charity in 1988. Since 1977 Ruth had been parish minister in Kilmakee Presbyterian Church, Seymour Hill, Dunmurry – a large housing estate on the outskirts of Belfast. During these years, that spanned some of the toughest times of the conflict, there had been highlighted for her and others not only the desperate need for reconciliation, but also, and probably initially more important, the need for people to recognise their true identity as beloved daughters and sons of God. Those years saw at least a number of people move from a second hand religion to a living friendship/faith. From such a standpoint it was not so easy to label or dismiss others who were different from them. There also began a prayer ministry for healing, in particular the healing of some of the emotional wounds and scars that everyone carries with them, both immediate and ancestral.
This work grew so much that in 1988 a small interdenominational group got together to pray about the future. The words from Psalm 23 became central, especially the line ‘He restores my soul.’ So Restoration Ministries was born. After three years Ruth left the congregation to work full time in this fledgling ministry. Over the years we have quietly continued to be present to individuals from diverse backgrounds who need someone to listen and to pray. Running parallel to this largely hidden work we have also, through various events, lectures, group work and hospitality provided opportunities for people to meet one another and to build friendships, believing that it is through relationships that attitudes change.
In 1992 Restoration Ministries bought the manse that had been the property of Kilmakee and it became our centre. In 1994 we built an extension, providing us with an attractive conference room and more space in which to welcome people. We have operated largely through a willing band of volunteers. For twelve years until 2010, Eithne Agnew was our invaluable PA and since 2001 we have been blessed to have Rose Ozo as our current PA/secretary.
We have never been funded by any church or government agency, with the exception of grants from Community Relations for specific events and individual gifts from some parishes. In the early years we were grateful to be supported by some wonderful Trusts and in more recent times through the generosity of individuals who have been grasped by the vision of what we seek to do. That generosity is still needed and so much appreciated. Ruth remains a minister with recognised standing within the Presbyterian Church but the ministry is entirely non-denominational and our Board members are drawn from the Catholic and Presbyterian traditions.
In 2011, due to the recession, we took the reluctant decision to sell Restoration House. After a year in transit, when we availed ourselves of the generous hospitality of St Brigid’s Parish, Derryvolgie, Belfast, we are now established in a greatly downsized but already much loved property in Harmony Drive, between Belfast and Lisburn. The focus of these years seems to be in Ruth taking out to other parts of Ireland and much farther afield something of what we have lived together over the long years, in the hope that this will give others ‘food for their journey’ also. Those volunteers who still pilgrim with us provide huge prayer and practical support.
The golden thread running through our story is always prayer and, arising out of that, a continually growing awareness of the challenges that beckon as we seek to be part of the world wide family of God in all its diversity and belovedness.