This week Fr Martin Magill visited Shankill Methodist Church, where he was treated to the first public performance of the Together Stronger choir. The service centred on Psalm 23 and was marked by special prayers for the Philippines.
Together Stronger – The Global village on the Shankill Road
I worshipped tonight with Shankill Methodist Church. Rev Margaret Ferguson greeted us with a special welcome to the “Together Stronger” Choir. The Service began with the choir signing “come and see”. We then joined together in “Hosanna, blessed be the name of The Lord”. Margaret then prayed, including an acknowledgement of our sinfulness. We all then prayed together the “Lord’s Prayer”.
This was the first time the “Together Stronger” Choir sang together in public.
First they sang an Arabic hymn which literally meant – “Peace be with you”. Diane Holt, the musical director, explained about the background of the choir which came about as part of the “Together Stronger” project in the 174 Trust. The choir then sang a song in Indian.
David, Margaret’s husband, read Psalm 23 in English and I read it in Irish. Margaret in her sermon then preached on the psalm. She explained it was about what it means to be a “child of God”. God wants to be in control of our lives yet sometimes what we want and need are two separate things. Margaret acknowledged how we all have experienced brokenness in our lives, She referred to the situation in the Philippines and the suffering of the people including a reference to the faith and trust of some of the people there. God wants to restore our souls, restoring us to wholeness. God shows something of his heart to all his people.
Margaret referred to “our President”, Rev Heather Morris and her theme of “getting our feet wet.” God wants us to be involved in Kingdom purposes, we are part of bringing in that kingdom.
We live in the valley of the shadow of death. Hell can be on earth for some people, but God does not want this for his people. He wants us to enjoy life in this world. God prepares a feast for us – Margaret painted a picture of God’s blessing overflowing. As we live in God’s blessing, this will have an effect on others. She reminded us that our time on earth is over in the blink of an eye. Psalm 23 is about what it means to be alive – God asks us to use our hands and our feet to serve others and to share his blessing with others – whoever he or she might be. It is a psalm of God’s love and a psalm of God’s call to serve.
We then sang a modern setting of the 23rd psalm followed by “It’s all about you Jesus”. Then the choir sang again, and Diane spoke about the gifts and talents of the choir. Every one of us has a special skill – we then were invited/told that we would be joining the choir in singing . This was followed by a hymn “We are marching in the light of God,” this time in Swahili. The global theme of the service continued with a Powerpoint presentation of the destruction in the Philippines including prayer points. We then prayed for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines – those working in the Aid agencies, for the churches, challenging us with plenty that we would give generously. We also prayed for family and loved ones who need God’s help. For anyone wanting to give, there was a plate at the back of the church on the way out of the service. Our service concluded with “In Christ Alone”.