Early on the morning of April 27, 2010, Becky and I glimpsed Ireland for the first time. As the plane traversed the countryside, we could see below the patchwork of hedgerows, narrow winding roads, brilliant shades of green dotted with sheep and cattle, and quaint hamlets, appearing to have somehow avoided the onslaught of the 21st century . . . quite a contrast to what greeted us upon landing in Dublin!
Met by our host, The Rev. Steve Clark, we were quickly whisked back in time to the town of Belturbet in County Cavan, Republic of Ireland. There his wife Hillary welcomed us to their Rectory and settled us into what would be our home for the next week. Two days later I spoke to the clergy of the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh; among the many friends made during that gathering was The Rev. Alison Calvin (Ali), Rector of the Killeshandra Parish Group.
Relationships established during those first days of my sabbatical have blossomed into a strong mutual ministry between The Church of the Cross, three dioceses in the Church of Ireland and New Wine Ireland. Over the years, teams of clergy and lay people have made several week-long visits to us (another group of fourteen will be with us in October) as have adults and teens from this parish; I've traveled there on numerous occasions to work with clusters of leaders, just as Irish leaders have come to share their expertise with us; we've invested in building and technology upgrades in several locations; and in each instance the goal has been simply to further strengthen and grow the Body of Christ.
Ali arrived yesterday for two weeks in the parish. Aside from preaching this weekend on the Historic Campus and next Sunday on the Cross Schools Campus, she plans to spend much of her time enjoying the beautiful days in the Lowcountry and Becky's cooking - she'll be staying in the Rectory. Please watch for Ali's glowing smile, enjoy her bouncy disposition, and help her to feel welcome amongst us . . . you'll find her to be a delightful colleen!