Monday, 31 August 2009


Worshippers at Punches Hotel
As I am not part of a fellowship at this time (I know , I should be) every so often I get it into my head to visit a group and keep in touch with what’s going on here in Limerick city. Sunday morning I fellowshipped with the Limerick New Testament Church and these are my observations. Who knows maybe I will make this a regular feature as I explore the rich and varied world of evangelical Christianity as it finds expression here in my own native place.
The Limerick New Testament fellowship meet at Punches hotel on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. in a large function room. On my visit there were about a dozen or so adults in attendance and lots of children who streamed in and out of the main meeting as they attended ‘Sunday School’ in a different room.

The meeting commenced with a welcome and introduction from the pulpit by one of the leaders, after which the ‘worship’ took on the familiar format of communal singing, the words of the songs projected onto a screen at the front of the room. The hymns were old favourites like ‘I will Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving…’ and some new ones that I, at least had not heard before. The songs were on the meatier side of the Christian spectrum with meaningful lyrics and not the modern trend of inane choruses repeated over and over. The singing was interrupted by occasional prayer and the reading of selections of Scripture, one lady prayed powerfully in appreciation of Jesus’ love and protection over her life. After about an hour the bread and wine were shared , unusually people had to go to the top of the room to take the little glass of wine and a piece of bread. After the offering collection the fellowship announcements were made and the last hour was taken up with a message from the pulpit.
The overriding impression I got of this small group is one of absolute commitment and patent sincerity and an obvious desire to see God move in this area. Their emphasis is hugely on evangelism and personal holiness as prerequisites to Revival. The great Scottish revivalist Duncan Campbell was quoted a couple of times in conjunction with the exhortation in Psalm 24... Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Saviour. This group really are serious about seeking God and devote a half night of prayer to the task on a regular basis. The closing message was a stirring call to ‘sincerity before God’ by believers, and a reminder that we are to be subject to the truth of Gods Word and not replace its authority with our own conceits or entertainments, such as teaching the gift of ‘tongues’ by imitation as distinct from receiving it supernaturally from the Holy Spirit. These Pentecostals seem to me to be like a cross between the old Puritans and Calvinists with lots of seasoning by the Holy Ghost.
The positives that I observed in my brief encounter with Limerick New Testament Church were their patent sincerity and zeal, their carefulness in applying the Word of God to their lives, their passion for evangelism and the fact that the leader (or one of them) is an Irishman. My last positive probably needs some explanation for those readers outside of Ireland, a number of Christian fellowships do not have many local people in leadership roles in this country. For too long we have embraced a hybrid Anglo-American structure to Christian groups which the majority of Irish people still find quite alien.
On the negative side it was still sad to see the ‘men in suits’ in charge as this seems to me to be aping the worldly uniform of ‘hierarchy’ a la businessmen etc,. Also it never ceases to amaze me that a simple thing like the seating formation at a meeting can be so out of kilter with the New Testament teaching on the priesthood of all believers. This fellowship, like the majority of others in the city has the chairs facing the pulpit at the front of the room in a traditional meeting format, rather than a circular arrangement which facilitates the unity and equality of believers both in the practise of contributing at a meeting and in the symbolic representation of our position together before God. I remember some years ago visiting a group in Ennis where the ‘radical’ brother through whom I got saved was a leader, and being horrified at the ‘suits’ and ‘chairs’ which just imitated the other nominal churches that he had once so fearlessly railed against. The only groups that I know of who consistently meet in circular formation are the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Brethren. My other tiny gripe is the overhead projector which becomes the focal point for all the meeting and literally takes ones eyes off the Lord, I know hymn books can be awkward but I think they are far less intrusive than the big screen.
I hope to return to this meeting as the preaching there was exceptional and these people clearly mean business with God. The challenge of the Word shared remains with me and has caused me to reflect deeply in my own heart.
Gerard O'Shea
The LNTC website is

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Clutching a single red rose,
Jennifer Hannigan walks behind
the coffin of her boyfriend Seb Creane

Sadly it seems the problem of youth crime is endemic in this country and the latest outrage saw 22 year old Sebastian Creane being stabbed to death at his home in County Wicklow before his killer turned the knife on himself, also dying. That his killer Shane Clancy was a theology student at Trinity College in Dublin underlines the fact that the culture of violent crime amongst young men transcends all social classes. Often such crimes are drug related but in this case it seems that this tragedy emerged out of one young man’s disappointment at breaking up with his girlfriend, Jennifer Hannigan wreaking a terrible revenge on her (she was wounded in the incident) and her new boyfriend, Sebastian. The pictures of the white wicker coffin being carried into the church with a distraught train of family and friends behind, graphically showed the waste of a young life and the legacy of pain for those left behind. During the funeral mass Sebastian’s mother delivered a remarkable and passionate eulogy , responding to the heartbreak of her loss in a most tender and considered way. Mrs. Creane explained that she had tried to make sense of “ this tragic incident which caused mayhem in all our lives and robbed D [Dylan] of a younger brother he was so proud of ”. She noted the similarities between the two ‘boys’ who died that morning, “They were both 22; both had the same initials; both were entering their final year in college and looked set, even in these recessionary times, to have fruitful careers. So many similarities.” Recalling the tragedy she went on, “Yet on the morning of August 16th, my God of Small Things said to me, one boy represented the light, the other the darkness, as they both played their parts in the unfolding of God’s divine plan. And as a result, we – my beloved J [her husband James] and I – and all of you are faced with a choice.” She then asks the question that each one of us will at some stage have to answer as we encounter pain and evil in our world, “ Do we continue in darkness, seeing only fear, anger, bitterness, resentment, blaming, bemoaning our loss, always looking backwards, blaming, blaming, blaming, or are we ready to transmute this negativity? We can rise to the challenge with unconditional love, knowing that we were born on to this earth to grow.”
I don’t know what faith this woman holds but it is obvious that she is a lady who considers what life unfolds and is not just overcome by it. To the follower of Jesus there is the incomparable help of facing up to incomprehensible evil, as He did. The pain and desolation of His Friday crucifixion is seen through faith’s eyes in the light of the empty tomb of the following Sunday, or as someone put it more succinctly, ‘It’s Friday…but Sunday’s comin
Gerard O'Shea

Saturday, 15 August 2009



"Open the window, and let the air
Freshly blow upon face and hair,
And fill the room, as it fills the night,
With the breath of the rain's sweet might.
Hark! the burthen, swift and prone!
And how the odorous limes are blown!
Stormy Love's abroad, and keeps
Hopeful coil for gentle sleeps.
Not a blink shall burn to-night
In my chamber, of sordid light;
Nought will I have, not a window-pane,
'Twixt me and the air and the great good rain,
Which ever shall sing me sharp lullabies;
And God's own darkness shall close mine eyes;
And I will sleep, with all things blest,
In the pure earth-shadow of natural rest."-
James Henry Leigh Hunt

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Ain't they sweet !


Today I harvested the first crop of potatoes at Ardhu for over 30 years ! As Dew devotees have been there for the planting I thought it only fair to include you in the harvest. This afternoon I fetched the fork from the garden shed and delicately uprooted my first potato stalk, and the feeling of discovering the subterranean crop is really invigorating. Admittedly I have seen bigger spuds in a day’s walk but never dug from my own little patch and caked in the rich black earth of my own back garden ! This is something that transcends gardening and horticultural routine, this is , hear ye, hear ye the very stuff of our life on this planet as the Scripture reminds us, "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis8:22)

Now that is a Sweet Pea !

And as if the vegetable crop is not enough my Sweet Pea has grown to the extent that I fear very soon it will be demanding human sacrifice to maintain its food requirements ! I can just see those snap-dragon floral heads snapping at some tasty morsel of flesh to satisfy its insatiable appetite as it cascades over the garden fence. I may soon have to erect a sign saying BEWARE OF THE MAN-EATING SWEET PEA !

Flowering explosion !

The one blight in my ‘growing’ experience has been the virtual annihilation of my brasicas by flying insects and butterflies. Due to my recent indisposition I did not protect them from these aerial onslaughts and sadly have paid a heavy price. Next year I will know better and take greater care.
Gerard O'Shea

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Today I listened to Focus on the Family, a radio broadcast in which Dr. Dobson was interviewing a Christian minister about his experience of depression. He shared many valuable insights into his battle against this illness and was fortunate enough to find a good psychiatrist who helped him back on the road to recovery. At their first meeting the psychiatrist spoke very matter of factly to him assuring him that his ailment was quite common and that many notable persons through history such as Charlotte Bronte and Charles Spurgeon suffered from it. I did a Google search for 'Spurgeon on depression' and arrived at an excellent summary of Spurgeon’s thoughts on the subject in a blog by Christian psychologist and Biblical counselor, Phil Monroe.( ) All of us have experienced the ‘black dog’ either in our own lives or through someone we know, but it still seems to carry a taboo in ’Christian’ circles being regarded as some sort of personal failure or weakness. Some evangelical Christians have a medieval attitude to this condition and often dispense such useless advice as ' Memorise Scripture' and 'renounce the devil' more in the spirit of Job's 'comforters' than out of a sympathetic and understanding heart. I had the heartbreaking experience of witnessing my good friend Aidan sink deeper and deeper beneath the weight of his ‘despair’ until at last, it seems he could no longer bear it. These situations confront us with our paucity of compassion not to mention our lack of ability in addressing issues with workable solutions.
Always I will ask , was there more that I could have done, could I have listened more attentively, should I have spent more time encouraging my brother ? These words of Spurgeon are helpful I believe not only because he was a great man of God but because he wrote out of his own painful experience.


Gerard O'Shea



1. Why do we get depressed?
Duh, we’re human. No, he didn’t say, “duh” but we are sons and daughters of Adam and so we know suffering and brokenness.
We all have physical and mental infirmities.
“Certain bodily maladies, especially those connected with the digestive organs…Are the fruitful fountains of despondency….As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane?
The work of christian ministry encourages us to despair when we see sinners sinning all the more boldly
The Christian leader is somewhat lonely by position
“Sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions.” Studying, reading, etc. He suggests “stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”
2. When are we likely to get depressed?
Right after a great success, after a “cherished desire is fulfilled.”
Before a great achievement (when we may be tempted to give up)
“In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labour…” we wear out and despair
When we are betrayed by a beloved
When troubles abound
For unknown reasons. This must not be forgotten. Many depressions may not have a discernible cause. What we do with them is more of the issue.
“Causeless depression is not to be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings….One affords himself no pity when in this case, because it seems so unreasonable, and even sinful to be troubled without manifest cause; and yet troubled the man is…”
3. The Lesson:“be not dismayed by soul-trouble.”
“Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saint. Live by the day–ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement….Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world….Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head….Come fair or come foul…be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under the shadow of his wings.”

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Doolin breakers
Even though on holiday I’m aware of the insatiable appetite of all true blue Hermonites for the latest blog update, and here in my hotel room in Ballyvaughaun I have taken a night in to chill and write a blog. Since blogging on the dampness of our Irish summer the weather has more or less been brought to heel and has delivered so far, three really nice days with oodles of sunshine and not even a drop of rain. As ever the scenery down these parts is spectacular and with blue skies all round, the Burren has her best foot forward and is glowing in this late wardrobe change courtesy of the delayed summer. Today we spent time at Doolin Pier which seemed busier than Shannon airport with people queuing for the boats to the Aran islands. The crossing is always a rocky one , more especially on windy days as the Atlantic swell pounds against the boats while they plough onwards towards Innis Mor or Innisheer. We had planned to do a day trip but I thought yesterday was a bit ‘stormy’ and today we had a late start so the prolonged stop at the Pier as we made the trip by proxy and voyeuristically watched the hordes set sail for the islands. Doolin began life as the birth place of Mikko and Pakie Russell, two traditional musicians who became celeberities in the sixties as European folk fans flocked to the tiny Clare village to hear them perform in O’Connors' pub. The pub is still there although the brothers are gone and the village of Doolin has been transformed into a mini version of Killarney where the tourist and his or her dollar/deutchmark etc,. is king. Hotels, hostels and b and b’s dot this once pastoral landscape, but despite the vulgar encroachments of commercialism nothing can take away from the grandeur and the majesty of the panoramic ocean view from the Pier. As I watched the foaming waves dash against the rocky coastline some remembered words from a Shakespearean sonnet learned at school came to mind…” Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end, Each changing place with that which goes before, in sequent toil all forwards do contend.” The sea certainly enthrals as its vast waters heave and flow in perpetual rhythm, the heartbeat of our planet , an assuring fixed waltz in our increasingly uncertain world. Anyway enough of this global contemplation I think if we hurry we can slake our immediate thirst with a draught from the bar…
Gerard O'Shea

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—
I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)
You road I enter upon and look around! I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.
Walt Whitman

Crossroad of the world !
It’s that time of the year again when for a few days there is a respite from the daily grind (yes, even the Dew is not immune from that mundane reality !) and so, wielding my bucket and spade and fighting through ‘scattered showers’ your faithful correspondent is outta’ here ! Away to the wild Atlantic coastline, the Clare hills, the Burren stones and the urban delights of Galway city, gateway to the West. In geographical terms I may not be crossing any borders or hopping continents but in terms of mind landscape believe me this terrain is a world and a half away. At the first sight of ocean coming out of Lisdoonvarna there is a sense of entering an altogether different country, a place set apart where the ‘other’ is the everyday currency and ones very breath is taken in lieu of a passport and is only returned on leaving this hallowed ground. In the presence of beloved, with a few carefully selected volumes and a writing pad, the next week or so will be spent in a state of suspended animation between earth and heaven with sometimes the two blending into a seamless one. The blogs will be scarce for that time (an added bonus I hear some say!”) but allowing for the wonder of broadband and the technology of Wi fi who knows ?

Gerard O'Shea

Sunday, 2 August 2009


This summer after a promising start is fast going the way of our typical Irish summer with rain making an almost daily appearance. In traditional fashion we face this predicament as we have faced many throughout our history, with a hearty laugh ! What can you do ? S here to lighten the seasonal melancholy is a potpourri of wet, wet, wet humour !

Probably the last completely accurate forecast was when God told Noah there was a 100 percent chance of precipitation
Q: What do you call a sunny day that follows two days of rain?
A: Monday

Q: How can you tell if it is going to rain in Kerry
A: If you can see the mountains its about to rain,. If you can’t see the mountains, it is already raining.
"I can't believe it," said the tourist. "I've been here an entire week and it's done nothing but rain. When do you have summer here?""Well, that's hard to say," replied the local. "Last year, it was on a Wednesday."