We recently got to participate in our first district assembly ever! It was in Belfast and was for the British Isles North District which includes Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, and the north part of England. Friday evening was a celebration service and the praise band from Millbrook led worship. They did an amazing job and the music was definitely celebratory! Philip MacAllister spoke about what we should celebrate in the church, such as people coming to know God and the freedom we experience in Christ. Hosea and Moses sat with us during the service and they were very well behaved! After enjoying the music, Hosea occupied himself with our iPad, and Moses smiled at everyone around us before falling asleep.
Saturday morning we woke up and joined everyone for a big breakfast. We got to chat with and meet some great people! We were reunited with others in our 365m cohort who are currently serving in Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. We also met some wonderful new friends from other Nazarene churches in our district. We gathered together for worship and then split off into groups to participate in different sessions. I stayed with the boys in the creche while John attended a session on counseling by Ivan Miles.
John was reminded in this session that Jesus was not only a brilliant storyteller but also a wonderful listener. John was also challenged to be an active, attentive, and diligent listener. We drove home to Larne for the afternoon so we could all rest (and so John could watch the rugby match with friends), and then headed back to Belfast for the evening portion. I really wanted to hear Rod Green, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Coordinator for the Eastern Mediterranean Field. I took detailed notes of this because several from church weren’t able to attend. He spoke of Syrian refugees finding peace and Jesus in Lebanon. He spoke of what the Nazarene church is doing to help, and he reminded us that God has committed to us a message of reconciliation. Instead of thinking of all the difficulties of church development in the Middle East, he challenged us to think about all the opportunities. He shared with us that a ministry of reconciliation is vital to sustaining the church, and that the best way to love Christ is to love others.
Sunday morning we worshipped at Millbrook and, besides wonderful music, we heard an encouraging sermon of hope from pastor Ian Wills from Parkhead Church in Glasgow. He shared about walking through times of darkness, despair and hopelessness and how it can be like a shadow hanging over us. He then reminded us of Psalm 57:1 where the writer seeks refuge “in the shadow of [God’s] wing”. He asked us, “Are you going to lament in the shadow of hopelessness? Or are you going to sing in the shadow of God’s wing?” I would like to note that, because of the word ‘shadow’, both of these situations might look like darkness at times. Let’s be encouraged, for we have hope!
Sunday evening I went back to Belfast with a friend and we heard a message on commitment from Jim Ritchie who pastors at Trinity Church in Perth, Scotland. He encouraged us to be committed to passion and to compassion. We should have passion for God and for healing, and for our neighbor. He challenged us to pray and ask God what breaks His heart in our city. Then we must participate in what He shows us and have compassion on His people. In this way, we are committed to faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Monday was a day of fellowship for us. Our group of 365m students had the opportunity to introduce ourselves publicly at Assembly and then we had lunch with them to share encouragement together. We’ve made friends with a family serving in the Republic of Ireland and we spent the afternoon with them and shared dinner together. Hosea enjoys playing with their kids, although he was pretty cranky due to late nights, early mornings, and a messed up routine. He was able to get his wits about him for a hug goodbye 🙂
We even had a new friend stay with us from the Nazarene church in Ardrossan, Scotland. Hosea was very taken with him and loved having a guest in our home!
What a wonderful weekend of encouragement! We thoroughly enjoyed our first Nazarene District Assembly.