In July of 2021, Rosemonde Adamson was appointed to the role of Pioneer Evangelist, to work alongside Marian Edwards who was appointed as Lead Evangelist. Rosemonde is a native of Ballina where she attends the local Presbyterian Church. For several years, she was a volunteer with Ballina Churches Together and it was an important development to see a local person take up a leadership role in the project. The continuing pandemic, caused a considerable number of people to reflect on their lives and several key people/volunteers have (9) moved away from the area. This was a challenge, but it also brought into clear focus, the importance of training and equipping local people for ministry and service in the community. Rose had previously participated in Church Army’s Xplore Course and this September, Rosemonde begins training with Church Army to become a commissioned Evangelist. This training with Church Army will enable the sustainability of Kingdom work in the area, in the long term.
As Marian and Rosemonde began working together in the summer of 2021, much of their work focused on a Ministry of Presence on the streets of Ballina. This involved us doing Prayer Walks in various areas and housing estates of the town. As we went, we called to the homes of those we knew – the elderly and the medically vulnerable. We gave practical care, by taking people for appointments to the hospital, the doctor or shopping. On Ballina’s main street, we also continued to meet with many of the people who used to visit the Big Blue Bus. Many of these people are dependent on social welfare and live on the margins of society. Here we encounter many people whose lives are ravaged by addictions to alcohol, drugs, prescription drugs and gambling. Many people also struggle with mental ill-health issues such as depression. This entails practical support, a listening ear and friendship. We also travel to rural areas to visit people living alone and in isolation. At times, we have assisted women and their families who are experiencing domestic violence. We continued our work with women in the Traveller Community, giving spiritual help and support to widows and their families whose lives have been blighted by violence and poverty. We also visited women and their children, who came as refugees to Ireland from the Ukraine. We seek to support people in the community, through prolonged difficulty or immediate need. We have worked in partnership with the local charity, the St. Vincent de Paul to provide practical assistance where it is needed.
Through the Autumn/Winter of 2021, we continued with our Bible Study via Zoom. This worked well for us as the pandemic continued. Elderly people could join us from the safety of their own homes on winter nights. We read the Gospel of John, using the Lectio Divina approach to scripture. It involved reflecting prayerfully on the words of scripture with an open mind and an open heart.
In the Spring of 2022, we began the explore what it means for each one of us to be a disciple of Jesus. The focus on Discipleship was intentional. It is essential that believers here see themselves as Disciples of Jesus and what this means for their lives. Up to this time, people had come to Ballina, stayed a while (a few years) and then move on. Now, I (Marian) felt that it was crucial that local people were less dependent on ‘blow-ins’ and that they began to see that God had a role for them to play in furthering his Kingdom. We studied the Great Commission, servant leadership, the role of women in leadership, along with how we can be ‘Salt and Light’ where we live. With the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, we began a monthly meeting in Rosemonde’s home – gathering together for worship and sharing the Word. We also began a series of ‘Round Table Conversations’ on various topics. All voices can speak equally and we also acknowledge that we can learn from each other. Our first topic was about ‘personal faith’ or the lack of it. Other topics have included forgiveness, vision and justice. Such an approach to engaging with others has proven to be both enjoyable and enlightening as we listen to other’s stories and experiences.
We continue every Sunday evening with an online Prayer Meeting for the needs of individuals and the work of Ballina Churches Together.
In July 2021, we ran ‘Kids Clubs’ in Greenhills and Milly View Estates. The clubs involved games, bible story-telling, a quiz and dancing to ‘Jerusalema’. The theme of our club was the Parables of the Lost Things – the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son (Luke 15). One boy of the Traveller community created art as he listened to the story of the Prodigal Son. This simple drawing depicts the lost son, the Fathers heart of love and the joy that all experienced when he returned home. Throughout the Autumn/Winter we continued to distribute gifts bags to children and each month, we had a different theme. September was Autumn colours and Gods creation. Following Halloween, the focus was Jesus the Light of the World.
Thanks to generous donations at Christmastime, we were able to purchase and distribute forty of the ‘Jesus Storybook Bibles’ (Sian Lloyd Jones) to children. We also gave bible to adults and gift bags to the elderly and their carer’s. We also had an impromptu Carol Service in one of the housing estates, which was attended by volunteers and local families.
In February, we gave gift bags to the children at Valentine’s Day to remember Gods love. In March we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and in April we focused on Easter and the Resurrection. Every month provided a different opportunity to share the ‘Good New’. In June, our theme was Prayer. During Autumn/Winter of 2021/2022, we also met with a small Youth Group. We used Scripture Union Ireland film series – NUA, to explore and discuss faith. The videos encourage questions, acknowledge doubt and offer an engaging perspective on the Christian faith.
On Saturday 28th of May, we hosted a retreat at Holy Hill Hermitage in Sligo. The retreat provided an opportunity for come away from the busyness of our everyday lives and the theme of the day was – the ‘Goodness of God’. It was a day for spiritual reflection … a quiet day for Christian community, art, music, journaling, creativity, round-table conversations and sharing, story-telling, good food, friendship and fun (laughter is good for the soul). Artists produced beautiful installations on the day. We celebrated all that is good in life! There was also a tour of one of the hermitages … The world we live in frantic … chaotic … and similar to Jesus time, we ‘need to come away to a quiet place by ourselves. Quote – “An exhausted culture needs an alternative to itself – and not an echo chamber”! (Carey Nieuwhof). The church can offer people an alternative. We learnt from the day at Holy Hill, that a retreat is a very effective way of inspiring and encouraging people in their faith. We plan to do more retreats going forward to deepen peoples’ faith and further develop a Worshiping Community through the arts.
We deeply appreciate and value the support which the Tuam, Killala and Aconry Diocese has made to the Ballina Centre of Mission. We feel very privileged to serve God in this part of God’s mission field. We are sent to serve the least and the lost. It has also been a privilege to serve people in the recent difficult time of Covid – 19. We were here for ‘such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14) – to bring God’s message of hope and light to many people in a dark and difficult time . We have clearly seen God’s provision and continuous providence. We will continue the work, equipping and enabling people from this community to be disciples of Jesus and to serve God in this town.
Ms Marian Edwards
Ballina Churches Together