The first meeting of the Causeway Coast Peace Group, under the new managerial team of Eleanor Duff and Ann Irvine, took place on September 18th 2012 in Bushmills Presbyterian Church Hall.
The Group were privileged to have as guest speaker Alice McAlary from Alliance Youth Works, and, with this in mind, the Rev. Don Irvine’s theme for the opening worship was the importance of young people to the church, reflected in his reading from 1Timothy. In her talk Alice explained how 15 years before, with Alan Long, she founded Alliance Youth Works with the aim of reaching out to young people.
They felt the there was a particular need to co-ordinate and share what was happening in Christian youth work across the Coleraine Triangle area and they have worked alongside churches, schools and local authorities, offering talks, workshops and school assemblies throughout Ireland to enthuse, inspire and help empower young people with the Christian message.
What way do you fold your arms? Can you identify which product is “as clear as your conscience”? Alice uses such exercises to develop in children a sense of both their uniqueness and their role in a wider community where they must learn to avoid brain-washing and false stereotypes. She quoted Bishop Ken Clarke, “I don’t know what I’ve said until I hear what you’ve heard.” Do not hear only what you want to. In one of her workshops a group of Protestant boys, for example, could not believe the historical fact that William of Orange was partly funded by a Pope!
Alice recalled how she once had 185 children attend a Catholic Holiday Bible Club which she was asked to run. There is an enthusiasm for Christ’s message as long, she stressed, as churches are child friendly. Children need to know about God at two years old, not sixteen. Prejudice, she warned, comes from the adult world and there is a need to see that it is evil which tears communities apart Using as a template popular songs, Alice charted the desired progress of cross-community relationships from “Getting to know you” through “United we stand” to finally “I get by with a little help from my Friends”. She felt that every chance should be taken to bring people together. “Big things happen when you do little things.”
Causeway Coast Peace Group wish to thank Alice for her stimulating and challenging talk and wish her well for the future, especially in her work in Poland. Thanks, too, to Bushmills Presbyterian Church for the use of the Hall. It was good to see so many old friends and it is great to welcome new ones so come along to the next meeting in Billy Parish Hall on November 20th when the speaker will be Tony McAuley, author of “Paper Boy”.