Showing and Sharing Vulnerability

One of my favourite TV shows is on RTE television and it’s a show called, ‘Operation Transformation.’ It usually starts in January and finishes its 8 week run at the beginning of March.

It documents the life of 5 leaders who apply to be on the show. They usually want to make some changes in their lives, or feel they have got stuck in a rut and, so, they try to embrace a programme of exercise and healthy eating and exploring their mindset and thinking about certain things that seems to be holding them back.

They are assisted in the process by a fitness expert Karl Henry, a dietician, Sophie Pratt, a GP called Dr. Sumi Dunne, and a psychologist called Dr. Eddie Murphy.

Each week, they are set goals in terms of weight loss, or one of the experts will go to visit them in their home setting to discuss both progress made and some of the challenges they are finding as they try to make a new start.

The cameras follow them in their daily activities and family lives, and they return each week to a central meeting place to be weighed and discuss how things have been with the experts.

Each leader is given a meal plan and an exercise programme, and they try to build up towards a big event, a 5km run/walk in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. The whole country joins in with the show, applying to do the 5km run, following the meal plan or exercise plan of the leader they feel they most identify with, and these 5 ordinary leaders become quite well known through their participation in the show.

They expose some of their deepest struggles and the hard things that are part of their everyday experience, and it takes a lot of courage to be that open and make yourself vulnerable in that way.

This year there’s 57 year old Noel, who has struggled with his health in recent years, being diagnosed with high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes and sleep apnoea. There’s 36 year old Michelle, whose sister died of a sudden cardiac arrest 5 years ago. There’s 37 year old Darragh, who was diagnosed with a rare cancer at the age of 16 and who was hospitalised with atrial fibrillation 2 years ago. He’s like the others seeking a better work/life balance. 55 Year old Anne Cushen suffers from osteoarthritis and has had two hip replacements, most recently last August, and 36 year old Edel, who is juggling being a mum to her one year old son with a responsible job in HR in Ashford Castle, a luxury hotel in Co. Mayo.

What I love about all these leaders is their ordinariness and willingness to share their vulnerabilities.

They have shared some of the deepest fears that haunt them since traumatic episodes in their lives. They have seen businesses collapse, struggle with fertility issues, watched grown up children emigrate and go travelling. Some are caring for elderly parents. Some find it hard to express their emotion as they have had to deal with painful losses, and are so driven by the demands of their work that they don’t have time to eat properly, or exercise, or spend quality time with their families.

I frequently find myself welling up watching the show as, with the help of the experts, they start to make serious progress on some of the issues they are working on, and the transformations they have made and achieved in a matter of weeks are remarkable.

One of the heartening things about the programme is the way local communities are getting behind these leaders as they visit schools or sports clubs or endorse activities that seek to mobilise the general public. It feels like a wave of positivity or good will that is released through the show, and there is normally a fashion show in the last episode of the series where they hear their overall results and get a makeover and a chance to sport some new clothes. The leaders and their families speak of the transformation they have experienced.

Many of us go through life putting on a mask each day. We are determined not to show our weaknesses or vulnerabilities, as we believe the world will not understand or be compassionate if we let our guard down.

Do people feel the same about the church? Is it a place for perfect people whose lives are completely together, or is it a hospital for hurting people? One of the beautiful things about the life of Jesus is that he connected with people where they were. Often it was their sickness or disease or brokenness that triggered some of these encounters. He was prepared to walk alongside people in their darkness and struggles. He never tried to sweep them under the carpet. He exposed injustice and corruption where he saw it, but he offered those who sought it a way of forgiveness and a new start.

It’s an incredibly special thing to be received and heard in our woundedness and darkness. Through his own experience he shared that our wounds can become a source of healing and hope for others.

One of my favourite writers, a Dutch priest called Henri Nouwen, wrote a powerful book on ministry called ‘The Wounded Healer.’ He spoke of how sharing our struggles and weakness can become something very healing and transformative for others.

I think these inspiring leaders on ‘Operation Transformation’ are leading the way for the church with the help of the experts and the good will and public support of the country as a whole.

Can I alert people to the special services over St. Patrick’s weekend? On Saturday 16th there are special events and services and a pilgrimage in Downpatrick. The details are on our website and the diocesan website

Source: Down and Dromore website

On Sunday 17th March, at our evening service, we will be lighting a beacon alongside every church in the Diocese as we pray for revival and for the light of the Gospel to burn bright in our land.

We are using 17th March as a gift day for our general fund, as we try to respond to the rising running costs and build up our finances again. If you can be involved through contributions, we are so grateful. If you are a UK tax payer your contribution can be enhanced by 25% at no extra cost to yourself through Gift Aid, so long as you have completed a Gift Aid form. If you need further information please contact Linda in the parish office on 02890 792793, or, or Brian, the parish treasurer, at

Look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,


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