The fields of Ireland are green for a reason. Clouds roll in most days from the Atlantic and if you leave the house without an umbrella, you usually regret it. Yet spiritually this country has been a desert for 150 years, with religious culture hindering people from finding a living faith in Jesus. Talking to Irish people about Jesus can be very confusing. Most people are comfortable with religious, even biblical, language, and the Bible can often be taught freely in schools. However, if the subject turns to the free offer of grace, there is often suspicion (nothing comes for free). And once the challenge of Jesus becomes clear, there is a strong resistance to change comfortable lifestyles.
I remember the day last year when I realised that the ongoing pandemic restrictions would end up scrapping every one of our carefully crafted plans for outreach events in our community, where we have been working for the last three years towards starting a new church.
Ireland can be a confusing place: one island, but two jurisdictions (with an invisible border); Irish (Gaelic) is the first official language yet almost no-one speaks it regularly; we are fiercely proud of our native sports (Gaelic football and hurling) but you may see more teenagers wearing Premier League football shirts.
The Wild Atlantic Way is (in the words of the tourist board) an “unforgettable coastal touring route” that takes tourists along the West Coast of Ireland “to enjoy breathtaking scenery and exceptional experiences”.
Imagine a growing town with schools, shops, industries, clubs, sports and everything else a modern town ought to have, except for one thing: a church that faithfully proclaims the gospel. Imagine a town that has in fact never had an evangelical church in it, even though it has a very long history.