The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, told a congregation in Londonderry on Wednesday evening that some people were being affected far worse than others by the coronavirus pandemic and that, for some, the fear and anxiety had been overwhelming. He was speaking at a Service of Thanksgiving in Glendermott Parish Church to mark five years of witness and outreach by the parish’s Another Chance charity shop and outreach centre in Tullyally.
Earlier, the Rector of Glendermott and Newbuildings, Rev Canon Robert Boyd, welcomed Bishop Andrew and the socially-distanced congregation of around 50 people to the Service of Thanksgiving. The Rector said he was very proud of Another Chance’s achievements and extremely excited about its future plans. “It has been great,” Canon Boyd said, “that the parish has taken the lead in such a venture. Another Chance is not just about making money. We see it as a service to the community and I intend for it to stay that way.”
Canon Boyd said he enjoyed hearing from customers and volunteers about the difference Another Chance had made in their lives. “That’s what it’s all about,” he said, “making a difference in people’s lives.”
In his sermon, Bishop Andrew described Another Chance as a vision that had been borne into reality. “You had the seed of a vision here, in that year of opportunity in the diocese, the seed of a vision for how we could reach out into the community, how we could be church in a different way, and you weren’t content just to leave it with the seed of a vision, you wanted to see the reality – and there the reality is in all its splendour. And floods wouldn’t put you off, floods wouldn’t knock you off course; you got back, and you got going again and I honour you for that.”
The Bishop praised the volunteers in Another Chance for the way in which they had responded to the 2017 flood – which had brought devastation to the local community – and, more recently, to the coronavirus crisis. “People say we’re all in the same boat, at the moment,” Bishop Andrew said. “I don’t think we are in the same boat. I think we’re all in the same storm but we’re not all in the same boat. We’re in very different boats, actually.”
For some it was like being in an ocean liner, he said. We just keep on going. We’ve been able to look after ourselves. It doesn’t affect our income. Everything’s been okay. For others – worrying about jobs, and finances, and health – it was like being in a rowing boat. Nobody wants to be in a rowing boat in the middle of a storm, because you’re going to feel every wave and all the fear that that storm brings.
“And yet for others in this storm, it’s as if they’ve just about been hanging on to a little bit of driftwood, and fear and uncertainly has felt overwhelming at times – the storm has been so strong. I don’t know what boat you’re in in this storm, but what I do know is that we follow a God who specialises in calming storms – that’s what we read about in scripture – and tonight, whether it’s been in the coronavirus or the five years before that, tonight I want to honour you as a parish, honour all of you as volunteers for how you have been the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears of God as you’ve sought to calm the storms in people’s lives through Another Chance.”
Bishop Andrew felt that – “really significant” as the past five years had been – it was only the beginning for Another Chance. “Do you know, Another Chance is an inspired name, isn’t it, because we can use it in all sorts of ways? But the thing that I delight in, tonight, is that our God is the God of another chance: whenever we get it wrong, whenever we mess up, whenever we feel useless at times – God is the God of another chance.”
The Bishop’s hopes for the future look set to be realised. During the prayers of thanksgiving, the coordinator of Another Chance, Joanne Miller, revealed that the outreach centre had plans to develop a men’s shed and support hub, including a social supermarket, employment training and other initiatives.