The torrential rain relented in Portglenone, early this afternoon, and the heavy clouds above Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey parted just in time for the Derry and Raphoe BBQ to proceed as planned at this year’s Summer Madness festival in County Antrim.

Bishop Andrew Forster was ‘mine host’ for the occasion, which brought back happy memories for him and his wife, Heather, of past Summer Madness festivals they’d visited with their children years before they came to Derry and Raphoe.

Summer Madness is described by its organisers as Ireland’s “premier Christian youth festival”. Around two dozen young people from the diocese made their way to this year’s event to celebrate, connect and explore the significance of faith in their culture and community. They were accompanied by a raft of adult leaders who were there to ensure that their charges remained safe and got the maximum possible enjoyment from the experience.

The Diocesan Youth Officer, Claire Hinchliff, was on barbecue duty with Bishop Andrew, along with Pauline Beadle, whose husband was recently appointed as the new Rector of Donagheady. Pauline said after the appointment that she loved cooking and that her happy place could be any kitchen. Today she had to make do with a tent and a grill.

For the Bishop, it was a chance to show off the culinary skills he’d first revealed at the ‘Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook’ event in Macosquin a couple of months earlier. He was assisted by Claire, who looked after the technical side of the barbecue; the chairman of Derry and Raphoe Youth, Rev Peter Ferguson; and the Diocesan Children’s Officer, Kirsty McCartney, who brought her niece in tow.  

The smoke from the grills wafted above nearby tents drawing the hungry Derry and Raphoe contingent, and assorted visitors from other dioceses, to the Derry and Raphoe tents in short order. There were no complaints as the young people feasted on burgers, chicken kebabs and sausages – even Simon Henry, the Church of Ireland’s National Youth Officer, fetched up to sample the fare and pronounce the barbecue a big success.