May 2007 - Vol. 8

Walk on Water - all photos for this article were taken in Belfast by Voyteck

Walk on Water

a student reflects on the European Kairos Weekend in Belfast

by Sean David O'Neill

It was a dark and stormy night as the European region’s Kairos Weekend began in a draughty upper room in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The room, filled with more than 100 young people from communities and outreaches in Europe and the Middle East, was imbued with a palpable buzz - a positive energy that defied the miserable weather. Expectation for weekends of this sort is always high: the worship, the fellowship, the friendship. Expectation, as always, was to be fulfilled.

The call to step out in faith
After the necessary introductions and some fascinating ice-breakers, Paul Jordan leapt on stage to present the theme of the weekend: “Walking on Water” (Matthew 14). The call, he said, was to step out in faith, and he explained the passage with admirable clarity, and Glaswegian Eileen Rafferty, arriving directly from the airport, followed up Paul’s words by challenging participants to recognise their fears. What, she asked, stopped us from stepping out in faith?

With the theme firmly fixed in their minds, participants retired for the evening: native Belfasters to their homes, and visitors from foreign lands to a cosy hostel in a pleasant area of Belfast close to the weekend’s main venues. In the morning, there was animated conversation at the breakfast tables. Many of the European and Middle East region’s youth appear to be morning people.

An impassioned call to "slay our giants" and to realism in the Christian life
Back in the hall, master of oratio recta (straight talking) Dave “Q” Quintana, Servant of the Word, delved into the story of Caleb and Joshua, unearthing an exhortation to “slay our giants” – the personal obstacles that stand in the way of our following Christ with faith and courage. Explaining what these giants might be, he rallied those present with an impassioned call to battle. The undercurrent of the weekend’s message began to show as he encouraged us to get on with the life of faith even if our emotions aren’t quite there: “Do it scared”, he urged.

Martin Steinbereithner, the regional mission director, and Elaine Roub of Belfast then talked on the nature of intergenerational community, taking as their example the story of Elijah passing on his mantle to Elisha. The driving challenge thus far in the weekend was the call to realism, to acceptance of the torch of Christian life, to take up the individual cross that we all must bear.

"Siloam" inter-unity prayer event in Belfast
In the evening, after Lord’s Day meals at the homes of the generous Charis Community members, Sword of the Spirit participants joined many other Christian groups in a prayer event called “Siloam” (after the healing pool in Jerusalem). Over 300 people, including the Kairos participants, gathered together to worship and to intercede for unity amongst Christians – a key theme for Belfast life. The event was lead with admirable aplomb and grace by brother and sister John and Claire Robinson from Belfast.

The next morning, after church, Dominic Perrem of Antioch (née Dublin) expounded upon the ubiquitous problem: applying the fruits of a retreat to one’s normal life. In a short time Dominic dispelled ambiguity and outlined how best to proceed – move with faith in every area of life and work. Be led by the Holy Spirit, feet firmly in reality. Despite time-constraints, he managed to give a thoroughly decent and practical talk.

The retreat ended with a time of prayer, especially for individual needs, which many participants said was deeply moving and powerful.

Taking up the banner of Christ
The European Kairos Weekend was groundbreaking and exceedingly inspirational. This, more than any other retreat I had previously attended, seemed to grab the key issue: the realism that a Christian must possess. The redemptive suffering that awaits us is an essential part of the call to discipleship and to community. Rather than focusing on the merely uplifting, enjoyable, exciting parts of Christian life, the speakers also explained the sacrifices and challenges that such a life must entail. To see so many young people actively embracing a realistic call to lay down their lives was nothing short of beautiful. For it is a beautiful journey, after all, and the true disciple takes up the cross in full knowledge that it means pain and suffering, yet ultimately redemption. Let no-one be discouraged by the dark times we live in, for as long as these true disciples come forward to take up the banner, we will remain the salt of the earth, and a light to the world.

[Sean David O'Neill is a student at the University of Glasgow. He is actively involved in Kairos and its local outreach to university students in Glasgow, and with the Community of the Risen Christ in Glasgow, Scotland.]

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