Garvagh’s annual cross-community SPARK Week is in full swing, and once again this year the organisers of the week-long programme have had to cap the number of participants because the scheme has proved so popular.
“We can scarcely keep up with demand,” said the Rector of Errigal and Desertoghill, Rev Canon Paul Whittaker, whose brainchild the programme is. “This is our sixth year and every year since we started, our SPARK Week has grown in popularity. 2018 has been no exception. We’ve had far more applications than we could cope with, so we’ve had to limit the number of young people registered to take part to 40. Sadly that means that some young people have been disappointed.”
SPARK (Servants Pursuing a Radical Kingdom) is part-funded by the Church of Ireland Priorities Fund and supported by businesses in the Garvagh area. It’s based at St Paul’s Church of Ireland and brings young people from across the community together to build new friendships and help their local communities in Garvagh and Glenullin.
“The event is cross-community,” Canon Whittaker said, “and we look forward to seeing our young people building relationships with those of different faith backgrounds in Garvagh and the surrounding area. Although the event is very much Christian-focused, we’re delighted to have two Muslim teenagers taking part this year. That, for me, is a measure of the impact SPARK’s having in Garvagh, and of how the programme is appreciated right across our community.”
The week-long event begins each day with breakfast in the parish hall at 10am. Afterwards, the young people walk to the adjoining church for worship and teaching. “Our theme this year is on the Apostle Peter,” Canon Whittaker says, “and how he followed Jesus. After church, we return to the hall for arts and crafts. We have lunch. Then we go out into the community, doing litter-picks, painting fences and sheds, and weeding and cleaning public areas around the village. There’s an evening fun programme on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and we’ll finish with a Thanksgiving Service on Sunday morning.
“Our Diocesan vision in Derry and Raphoe is ‘Transforming community, radiating Christ’. SPARK is our way of sharing in that mission. We are transforming. We are radiating Christ’s love. Hopefully, as a result of this, many more people will come to experience the transforming power of Jesus Christ.”