Keeping it local

On the way home from the school run, which I do 3 times a week, I like to tune in to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio 1. It’s a way of keeping me in touch with my roots with its mixture of news, current affairs, human interest stories and interviews. Ryan is one of RTE’s best known broadcasters and currently hosts the World’s longest running chat show on television, The Late Late Show on Friday evenings.

In recent months, on the radio show, I notice that he takes a few minutes each day to plug or promote Irish businesses on the show. Covid 19 has meant so many businesses have had to go online and, so, he tries to promote local independent booksellers, or artisan food producers, or those who make jewellery, or cards, or clothes. He has been encouraging people to think local as we choose Christmas gifts and try to keep these small local businesses afloat in these very challenging times.

On Friday night’s Late Late Show, he did a powerful interview with a multiple All Ireland Winning hurler called, Henry Sheflin who played for Kilkenny prior to his retirement. Some of Henry’s relatives invited him and his wife to accompany them on one of their regular trips to Dublin to distribute soup and sandwiches to the homeless in the city centre. He felt very nervous as he had never done anything like this before and, yet, he found an acceptance and a welcome as he took his place in the line, and the experience moved him deeply.

Like many charities Focus Ireland, a Homeless charity in Dublin, was unable to conduct its annual sleep out fundraiser. Henry was on the show to promote their activities and to encourage the public, if they were in a position to do so to support the work. I found it very moving as he described sitting his children down and telling them all his wife and he had experienced on their trip to Dublin and how, as he shared prayers with them at night, his children were praying for the people their mum and Dad had met. Sometimes people in powerful and influential positions can use those platforms they have for good and to make a positive difference.

I’ve been thinking about how the ‘Church Without Walls’ can make a difference in these challenging times. We have been very fortunate thus far to have all our needs met and, in response to that, we have been trying to follow the biblical principle of giving away 10% of our income to different local charities and mission projects. This year we will be endeavouring to do the same. We work in partnership with different agencies doing really important work like Christians against Poverty, the Bishops Appeal, Marie Curie, CMS, Open Doors which works with the persecuted church, the Leprosy Mission NI, the Cregagh Community Association , Holocaust Survivors in Haifa in Israel, the Church of Ireland Board of Education, Divine Healing Ministries, the Church’s Ministry of Healing and the St. Finnian’s Uganda project, among others.

We try to source our Sunday school materials and prizes from The Bookwell, a local Christian bookseller, our church candles from Gemma Donnelly, a local craftsperson and our Book of Remembrance is updated and inscribed by a local calligrapher, Jacqui Brackey.

We are so grateful to our local shops  and cafes and pharmacies for all they have been doing and we are very conscious that some of these businesses will be adversely affected by the new restrictions.

As we think about presents and gifts in the coming months, is there a way that we can support our local shops, either in person or if they have an online or delivery service? Earlier this year when it reopened after lockdown, we had a lovely morning at St. George’s Market where, again, there are a great variety of local artists, jewellers, fishmongers, food producers, bakers and photographers, offering beautiful things for sale that are a bit different. It’s set up in a very safe way and maybe offers that opportunity to support our local craftspeople and producers in these challenging days.

Lots of charities have been feeling the pinch with the usual fundraising events and fairs unable to take place because of the restrictions. Christian Aid and Tearfund and Fields of life have catalogues, as do other charities, if people want to buy gifts that can change lives in other places, like beehives or emergency shelters or antibiotics, or offering children an educational opportunity.

In writing all of this, I’m conscious that many, out of necessity, will be scaling back on Christmas gifts and giving this year but, if we are thinking about it, perhaps we could consider doing what we can to keep it local and help our businesses who serve us so faithfully throughout the year and need everyone’s support.

One very tangible way we can support local is by praying for all our local businesses, for our schools, surgeries and library and all those cafes and retail outlets that we depend on so much. Please pray for the staff, their safety and for business to go well in the midst of many adjustments and challenges.

We look forward this Friday to another Messy Church event online. If your children or grandchildren are off school there will be craft activities, some songs, a talk on video and some other surprises if you check out the St Finnian’s YouTube channel, Facebook page or website.

This weekend, restrictions permitting, we look forward to our Harvest Thanksgiving services at 11am and 7pm, when we hope to be able to welcome back some live music and a socially distanced choir to lead our worship.

If you are coming in person, please come in good time to allow the stewards to record your details and get you seated and, if you are shielding, the live stream will be available at the 11am service and a recording available shortly after 1pm. The audio version of the service is, as always, available after 1pm by telephoning 028 93447225 when you can listen in via your telephone or mobile phone. We would love to welcome you.

Look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,

Jono.