THIS WAS ARMAGH | See my Full 66 City Tour List by Clicking HERE
THE CONTENTS OF MY HEAD AND HEART
SO DO CHECK BACK-MEANWHILE :
I was up at 3:30am. I was just awake. The internet had still lost its connection. Still, I got myself a cup of coffee, and settled down to type up the previous day. I needed a bath, I needed to iron some clothes, and I need to repack the car, gather some contact details for Armagh, find the computer down stairs which was hard wired to the internet, get some breakfast at around 9:00am and then get on the road. Somewhere I had to share from the prophet Jonah.
About 6:00am I tried to run a bath and there was no hot water. Sigh. I needed to stretch my legs so I got a cup of tea and started to load up the car. The owner of the establishment was downstairs a nice man in his sixties. “Are you the man who can’t get onto the internet?” I had rung down last night and asked them to reboot the router. “Yes that’s me.”
“Oh sure, my wife’s been on it all night? Look I’m on it now” I tried to explain the whole router wireless and hardwire connection thing but he says “Look, I could never understand the Trinity and I certainly can’t get my head round the internet.”
I laugh and I say to him “I don’t have any hot water either” and his big bushy eyebrows goes up and he says “Sure we’re not hotel you know. The water will come on later, you said you weren’t going to be up for breakfast until 9:00am”
So, he brings up the troubles, tells me some history, blames the English for everything (him and my Dad would have got on real well) and declares himself to be an Irishman caught up in limbo land, apologies for the noisy drunks that rolled in at 3:00am singing and offers to make be breakfast at 8:00am seeing that I am up already and he is going to give my noisy neighbours a piece of his mind when they all come down for breakfast at 9:00am. It sounds good to me. Maybe that’s why I was awake at 3:30am. I have a faint memory of something?
So at 8:00am I am down stairs getting breakfast. It’s OK. Across the hall from the dining room is another guest room. It’s a big one and the owner tells me there are dozen people it? The drunken mob from last night. “A dozen?”
Just then a barefoot, shorts and vest guy walks in. He is stinking and obviously suffering from the night before. I understood the owner when he said “You can’t come in here dressed like that!” But I did not understand one single word that was mumbled back at him. Just then another family walks in, a woman a guy with a gigantic wart on his head and they make their way across the dining room to the room for the 12 apostles. The owner tries to head them “hey you can’t go in that room, there’s too many people in there already”, again I did not understand the reply, but somehow they got past him and in the room. The barefooted gentleman now left. The owner comes over to me and says “I have to watch my language when there’s a Reverend around.” It was going to kick off sometime, I had no doubt about it.
Meanwhile, the vest wearing short sleeved and still stinking guy comes back in the dining room. This time though, he’s wearing black pointed ankle boots. Sorted.
He knocked on the door to get the attention of the owner. It was time for me go to as I suspected the owner might want to decorate the dining room a new shade of blue.
So, by now the water was hot and I treated myself to a bath, then packed up and began to make some calls.
- I called the Mayor’s office but the PA was not answering. I left a message on her cell phone to see if she would call back. She never did.
- I called Armagh Baptist church and left a message. No response
- I called Terry Laverty, the Presbyterian minister I would be staying with tonight up near Londonderry and he gave me the contact of a Presbyterian Minister in Armagh. I rang and left a message.
- I rang St Patricks Cathedral but they had just lost the man in charge and as yet he had not been replaced. He listened to my request and then told me that he would get back to me. Man it would be such a blessing to be able to do something in there.
- I rang the Roman Catholic Cathedral and left a message for the priest in charge but they were very busy.
Joy! Not much good fortune here then. So, I decided it was best to get now get on in there.
Regarding Armagh Wikipedia says
Although classed as a medium-sized town, Armagh was granted city status by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. Its population of 14,590 (2001 Census) makes it the least-populated city in both Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland and the fourth smallest in the United Kingdom. Eamhain Mhacha (or Navan Fort) at the city’s edge, is believed to have been used as an ancient pagan ritual or ceremonial site. According to Irish mythology it was once the capital of Ulster, until it was abandoned during the 1st century. The site was named after the goddess Macha, and as the settlement grew on the hills nearby, it was also named after the goddess — Ard Mhacha means “Macha’s height”. This name was later anglicised as Ardmagh, which eventually became Armagh. When Christianity spread to Ireland during the mid-400s, Armagh became the island’s “ecclesiastical capital”, as Saint Patrick established his principal church there.
The road to Armagh winds its way through the most beautiful of countryside, it is idyllic until all of a sudden you come across a Police station which looks as though it’s been translated from the borders of Israel and the Gaza strip. Lamp posts are marked with protests signs asking for Republican prisoners to be ‘granted political status’ or ‘stop being strip searched’ and so many different flags that I did not know what were celebratory and what were territorial declarations. You got the sense that the possibility of trouble was never far away.
Armagh really is a tiny place. I spent a few minutes driving around and looking for the city centre, only to find out that I was in it!
I was speaking from Jonah today and honestly did not know what I was going to do or where I was going to do it. There is a large theatre in the city which had an open space in front of it. You know, I reckon Jonah got people’s attention because he was bleached white by the stomach acid of the great fish. Can’t prove it of course, but three days dead inside the belly of this beast can’t have been good for the skin. I went into an art shop and got the price for copious amounts of white face paint and then bought a large white sheet for a £1 from a charity shop.
I was ready for the dramatic proclamation of the message of Jonah. The problem was, I don’t think Armagh was. There was sleepiness about the City which I suspect was maybe a constant presence. However, I remember from my teenage years how the names of Crossmaglen and Armagh were always on my television screen and how this city had been greatly scarred by the troubles. It wasn’t sleepy then. Maybe this accounted for the under development of the city centre? Maybe it was just like that anyway? In any event, me parading around the streets dressed as Jonah and declaring the message of Jonah was not what these few people visible in the city needed. So….what to do and where to do it?
I visited St Patricks Cathedral, Armaghs oldest Cathedral, and spoke with the Head verger who was an exceptionally nice bloke, though He made it very clear that no recording could be done inside or on the grounds of the Cathedral. Fair enough. He suggested I visit the largest and newest Roman Catholic Cathedral and especially take in the internal Mosaics. I did.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral is a magnificent and imposing structure, dominating the skyline of Armagh. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to meet with any of the clergy as they are exceptionally busy with an incredibly large Parish. Though numbers are declining, the lovely lady in the Cathedral shop told me that they still get about 800 along for Saturday night mass.
Although I recorded some thoughts from the steps of this magnificent building, I knew God had more for me to do here.
I am sure the apostle Paul wandered around a lot just looking, praying and listening. I am no apostle, but I did the same thing in Armagh and was delighted to literally fall upon the Faith Mission Bookshop. If anyone could help me out in Armagh, they could. I was real privileged to also be able to do a couple of interviews there. I hope you are blessed.
Everyone pointed me to the Presbyterian Minister who could help me and as he had not gotten back to me, I decided to go and track him down. Interestingly enough I had parked my car across from his church building and there had been a large funeral going on, to which the Police were also present. Now all Police are armed in Northern Ireland, but you know, like all Police in the UK, they are incredibly approachable. Indeed, I had already spoken to them about preaching in the open air and they had given me some advice about where to do it. It wasn’t a problem, of and by the by, they had already seen my car and seemed to know what I was about there in Armagh.
It was not long after this and in this area, where I came across Marty. I was getting something from my car when he passed me and asked “What’s all the crack then?” He was young, it was lunchtime, and he had already been binge drinking.
His story is typical of the problems we are facing in all of our cities. The young man had fallen out with his father over house rules which he did not keep to which in the end had resulted in fisticuffs. He had been binge drinking probably since the age of 13. No wonder there were problems in the house. This is an increasing common occurrence, where young people have to leave the family home because they are unwilling to keep the rules, where their behaviour is unacceptable to parents. The stress this puts on families and local authorities alike is phenomenal. Marty was sleeping in his car for now, but was confident of being housed by the authorities when he was 18.
I met with the minister at 3pm and he most wonderfully invited me to attend his Bible study tonight. He was speaking on the subject of forgiveness and wondered if I could make that my sure my sharing from Jonah was a good segue way. Of course I could!
I got some food in Burger King and then retired to the free Wi Fi and coffee of KFC to catch up one mails, ring Bridget and prepare for tonight. I thought about Armagh, its ancient and most recent history. It is going to take some time, there would no doubt always be people who resorted to madness, but I winder that despite there being a long, long way to go, the people of Ireland were writing themselves a far better story. I think so. I think they will do it.
I was at the church on time and the minister graciously allowed me to share from Jonah. Hope you are blessed.
I didn’t stay for the rest of the meeting as my journey up towards Derry, Londonderry, Legendary was going to take a wee while.
I arrived at Terry’s house quite late, but the welcome was warm and very wonderful. Everything I had heard about this man was true. He was as mad as a box of frogs and full of Jesus to go with it.
Hot tea, a wee piece of toast and bed. I was shattered.
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