What’s been happening in the last year!

  Let’s go all the way back to June last year, early June in fact! It was at The Bruce Jousting Festival which was held in the Marine Gardens. The Team of 8 handed out 200 small gifts on an early sunny afternoon. I certainly remember the gifts being well received.
  A month later we had planned to hand out drinks at the Siege of Carrickfergus Re-enactment at the Castle Green on July 13th, but only 1 volunteer arrived, so we had to cancel. It was disappointing and quite frustrating!
  After coming to terms with the disappointment, we had to continue. This time was really different, it was Youth Week, and Peter Mc Auley and I (along with the leaders) were tasked with demonstrating Outreach to 120 young people in 4 groups of 30, in two one hour slots, on two separate days! Heavily dependent on the weather as always. For the first group, the weather wasn’t great, so we gave them an option to stay in and prepare gifts for future teams. But they wanted to go out, so we did a litter pick. It was the slowest litter pick I’ve ever experienced! However, the kids seemed to enjoy working together and making a difference. The second group split up, one team headed towards the Play Park at Marine Gardens, the other to Legg Park to hand out small packs of sweets to the children via their parents. The Team I was with still had quite a few packs when we left the Park. My lasting memory was of a young man who was quite nervous as the group were handing out sweets.
On our way back to the hall he plucked up courage to approach a lady with her two kids to give them some packs of sweets. The lady was very appreciative of the little gifts to her family. Afterwards he came running up to me with the biggest smile you’ll ever see, and he just said, “I did it” It was absolutely priceless!

The third group handed out bottles of water. As soon as we left the hall I asked them not to wait until we got down to the Marine Gardens, but to start serving people as they went, which they did with much enthusiasm! The fourth group did another litter pick at the bottom of Sunnylands estate. We still had some bottles of water and some sweets, which we gave out to the people coming off the trains at the station. Talking to some of the participants, they seem to really enjoy the experience.
 In late August it was Impact Carrick, a 3-day Outreach initiative, when folks from other churches serve together. We had our “Hub” in the Decourcy Centre, where we were based. The first morning some of us did a Carpark Outreach beside the Thursday market. Some of the volunteers had never done anything like this before, so it was a good experience, and the great reactions of the motorists topped it off. The final day we had an impromptu BBQ at the top of North St. which went really well, many people stayed and chatted.

 In September I started visiting other churches in the town to see what other Outreach was taking place. This was with a view to developing stronger links and to promote and support each other’s Outreaches. What I found didn’t overly surprise
me. There isn’t much regular Outreach (getting out on the streets) going on, however ma
ny churches are supporting The Storehouse & the Trussell Trust’s Foodbanks. There is also a lot of good courses going on, like Christians Against Poverty and Grief Share. This is not an exhaustive list though.
  In late October we did our 6th A.Q.E. Outreach at Carrick Grammar School, were we hand out 250 packs to the kids at the Familiarisation morning. We also had first timers Emily Smiley from North St. Presbyterian and Alannah Moore from the Congregational Church serving with us.
   In November we very sadly lost Bill Polley, who was a very strong supporter and a regular participant at Outreach events. Bill greatly encouraged me personally, as I sought out his counsel on many occasions.
For our Big Christmas Outreach, a Team of 20 volunteers handed out 750 seasonal chocolates to people all around the centre of Carrick, the general public, shop and business workers alike. Thankfully once again we had some new volunteers, Gemma Moore from the Congregational Church, also Jonathan and Lucy Hanna from North St. Presbyterian.
  Right at the end of December, our Leadership Team members, Judith and Peter Mc Auley were blessed with the arrival of Beth’s little sister, Hannah.
  With the start of most New Years, we like to get out early and do an Outreach. It was decided to do a litter pick around Rodgers Quay. A very small Team of Andrew Beattie, Colin Picken and myself donned our hi-vis tops and armed with our litter pickers went about our work. We spent two enjoyable hours lifting rubbish. It’s important that we “The Church” make a positive contribution to our town!

When you put yourself in the firing line as a Christian, you will be asked all manner of questions. This is certainly the case with Outreach, and this drives you to seek the answers to questions and challenges alike. Recently I came across a fantastic book that answers many of these. It’s called “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist” – Frank Turek. And now certainly a lot more knowledgeable, I feel that my faith is stronger. Armed with the knowledge, then comes the next phase, how to engage in those conversations. Required reading for this phase is “Tactics” – Greg Koukl. It gives you the tools to be able to stand your ground in conversations and be able to ask questions in return. I have also benefitted greatly by listening to Frank Turek, Cliffe Knechtle and Ravi Zacharias on You Tube. May the Church arise and fulfil 1 Peter Ch.3 vs 15-16. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
  Another good evangelistic tool is the “God’s Not Dead” movies. I would encourage you to watch these films and share the stories with family, friends and work colleagues. A natural way to talk about your faith.
  After that little insight, it’s now February and it’s Valentine’s! And once again we had three new volunteers, they were Robyn Alexander and Erin Mac Quarrie from North St. Pres. Girls Brigade, also Jay Dick from North St. Pres. Giving out packs of Love Hearts sounds really cheesy, but again we had some great conversations with people, and continue to meet people from all over Northern Ireland and beyond. We never know the impact our serving will have on others! Maybe they might start doing some form of Outreach in their church, were people needs are met and the Gospel is proclaimed and demonstrated.
  The day after the Outreach, the Ministers in our town swapped pulpits, which we in the Outreach Team wholeheartedly endorsed, because unity of the churches is a fundamental necessity, and we hope and pray for other forms of sharing.
  In March we had planned to do a Car Park Outreach, but once again we had to cancel due to the lack of volunteers. We use these disappointments as growing experiences, and to see what we can do better!
  Our Easter Outreach always seems to be well attended. This was helped with having three nights of youth meetings during Holy Week. On the last evening we asked all who attended to put our Outreach cards with 750 MaltEaster Bunnies. This was done as part of the promotion for the Outreach. On Easter Saturday a Team of 25 volunteers from 6 different churches in our town, went about handing out the gifts to the general public, and wishing everyone “A Happy Easter”. Joel and Ben from Carrick Baptist Church joined us for the first time, they enjoyed their experience.

In May, the annual Learning Disability Pride event was to be held in Carrick, and we wanted to serve the participants and onlookers of this fun event in some small way. We decided to hand out bottles of water and packs of sweets. The weather forecast wasn’t promising, but we set up anyway at the Marine Gardens. We gave out 300 gifts to those in the parade and those watching, on a glorious Saturday afternoon.
  In handing out all of these small gifts with the little cards, our prayer is that further discussions about faith in Jesus will take place, and that many people will come to know Him as Lord of their lives.
  We want and desire to be part of something bigger that will have a major impact on our town for Christ. And that is why we continue to seek unity! Because one Church can’t do it on their own!
  We have many things we give thanks to God for, and trust that He will guide us in the way forward.

February 2017

Yesterday 15 volunteers from different Churches, gave away 400 packets of Love Hearts to the people of Carrickfergus as part of our Valentine's Outreach. In the continuing demonstration of God's amazing love for all those in our town. During the afternoon some of the volunteers had spoken to other Christians from Larne & Bangor who were supportive of our efforts in Carrick. There were many other encouraging comments from the public.

Saturday 7th Jan

A very small Team did a Clear-up at Rodgers Quay on Saturday 7th Jan. During the 90 mins. we lifted 5 bags of litter & recyclables, as a small act of service from "The Church" in our town.


On Saturday 17th Dec. our Team of 20 volunteers handed out one thousand small gifts to shoppers, shop workers, dog walkers, families, people in the pubs, all manner of people, as our demonstration of God's love. We all had such a fun time as we chatted to the public! A very positive experience indeed. It was great to have some first timers with us on this Outreach, many thanks to Gemma Moore, Jonathan & Lucy Hanna.

St Nicholas Sketch