2018 Autumn Newsletter

 

Dear Friends,

What a summer we have had in Ireland!  We had temperatures higher even than Spain – and how we have loved it.  But as I write it is quite cold and pouring with rain.  The hope is that the sun will come out again in all its splendour – certainly in time for me to bask in it in my beloved Donegal towards the end of August.  That’s a sort of parable, isn’t it, for those of us who are so confused by the rainclouds of uncertainty in nearly every sphere of our lives these days?

We are coming towards the end of our Thirtieth Anniversary Year and we still have some highlights up ahead, mentioned elsewhere in this Newsletter.  A special event was the day conference held at Dromantine on the Saturday of Pentecost, on our theme ‘Restoration Through Friendship.’  Meeting old friends, making new ones, difficult conversations, hospitality, and distinguished panel all served to remind us how Restoration Ministries had travelled over the years.  Dr John Dunlop was one of our speakers.  Among many memorable, inspiring ‘one-liners’ that will provoke reflection and discussion for quite some time, there were two in particular that remain with me.  The first was his comment that humankind is good at bonding (into groups) but we are not so good at bridging.  In fact, bridging is much rarer.  We certainly have no difficulty in recognising the truth of such a statement here in Northern Ireland.  In fact, we bond so well that the walls that separate us can seem to be impregnable at times.  We settle for an identity that is given to us by our particular group, rather than risking the shared future and the wide open spaces of a common humanity.  With so much stalemate on the political front, with looming Brexit and with an increasing conservatism within our religious institutions, we are in danger of being so well ‘bonded’ that there is little interest in either building bridges, or, going a step further, risking enough for individuals to be in themselves a bridge to the ‘other’, whoever that other might be.  And when we look to the rest of the world we see a similar pattern emerging. 

Where is our hope?  I find it in John’s second observation, where he said that that we normally refer to blood being thicker than water in relation to family loyalty and allegiance, but in baptism, water is thicker than blood!  We receive a whole new kinship in Christ!  This awareness is hugely liberating.  Awakening to such a truth causes previously clearly demarcated boundaries to become gloriously blurred.  The way is wide open for us to become bridges.  In fact, that is what we long to be, as we recognise people of every class and creed and language and colour as our sisters, our brothers.  And the way we begin to translate that into the action that is so desperately needed both here, and wherever in the world you, our dear friends, may be, is to start, first with contemplating such a truth as we see it in the person of Jesus, and then reaching out to the ones and twos we realise do not think the same, look the same or worship the same as we do.  Relationship is crucial.  Restoration through friendship is crucial for the future of this beloved earth.  And we can do it – through him, with him and in him.

Ruth