4 weeks ago my wife Jenn, our 2 kids and 2 other families began the process of moving into Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Ireland’s newest centre. Of course its not any old centre. It is “the Renewal Centre” in Rostrevor, which was given this year to YWAM. The CRC Trust wished to hand the centre over to a ministry which would carry on it’s calling and legacy. They unanimously chose YWAM as the organisation to take up the reins of this incredible ministry. We are profoundly humbled but also excited about the potential for us here in the coming decade. For those of you who don’t know, YWAM is an international mission of ordinary people called to share and live out the Kingdom message of Jesus. We come from a multitude of denominations and cultures committed to being inter-denominational, and ecumenical.
From 1974 The Christian Renewal Centre in Rostrevor was a beacon of light for Protestants and Catholics from all over Ireland. In the midst of one of the darkest periods in Ireland’s history, the centre became synonymous with reconciliation, prayer, and spiritual renewal. Nestled in Northern Ireland beneath Slieve Martin and the Mourne Mountains, it overlooks Carlingford Lough and the Irish Republic to the South. It’s meeting area holds up to 180, as well as cafe space, prayer rooms, seminar rooms, 5 self contained apartments, and 16 other rooms for guests and community members. But most importantly it has an incredible legacy of spiritual life, known by all Christian traditions in Ireland.
As we begin to move in we are acutely aware of standing on the shoulders of giants. Most notably Cecil and Myrtle Kerr who courageously founded the centre, and Harry and Dorothy Smith who have been leading the work for the last 10 years. As we initially build our work here we want to emphasise 4 areas of ministry; reconciliation, renewal, mission, and community.
Reconciliation: When the centre was bought in 1974 it was in a time when “the Troubles” were wrecking havoc and bloodshed up and down Northern Ireland. Yet in spite of that history the centre became a place of encounter and reconciliation for people who had been enemies, or at least had been brought up on opposite sides of the tracks. We dream of this continuing to be a place where enemies meet each other and are reconciled, not only from Ireland, but from divided tribes and countries all over the world.
“He himself is our peace who has made the two ONE.” Eph 2
Renewal: We hope to see many groups of people from all ages continue to come for retreats, weekends, day conferences, and camps. We want to be a gathering place for people from all over the country, seeing them renewed in body, mind and spirit as they soak in the surroundings and are nourished by teaching and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The doors of the centre are open now. Already we’ve had a group of 56 for a week-long camp, and for the next 2 months we will have a fairly steady stream of groups and visitors.
Community: For the last 2 years we’ve been reflecting on what it means be a Christian in Europe in a time when churches are experiencing a form of “exile”. Europe is increasingly a post-Christian continent where God and church seem like fads from the distant past. In short, “how do we sing the Lord’s song while in a strange land?” We know one of the timeless forms in impacting societal brokenness, is for communities to form around the commitment to love God and love our neighbours. We intend to live here as an open, embracing community of YWAM missionaries, serving each other, and serving the people of the area we live in.
Mission: For the last 8 years we’ve have been working to build community in the Shankill and Falls areas of North and West Belfast, following the principle that holiness and being like Jesus meant “moving towards darkness”. As the incarnation brought God in the flesh onto the streets of Nazareth, we believe that our primary calling as followers of Jesus is to incarnate God on the streets of the darkest places on earth: To be “Jesus with skin on” to places like Delhi, Bethlehem, Beirut, Durban, Serbia, Burundi, and Rwanda. We are also called to be light in the cities of Ireland, and we are determined that this new property will provide a resource for a whole new generation of urban teams. We want to see people discipled here, to see leaders trained and released to multiply incarnational work wherever God leads them. Of course if we want to train people to start new missional communities, we want to model it here first. We are praying about the idea of a community café in the centre as a place for locals to gather- whether they are single Mums, artists, or retirees. We also see the need to engage with local youth, the ones who feel unattached and who need belonging and mentoring.
In this new season for YWAM Ireland we are praying for new YWAM staff and leaders to come and be developed with vision and capacity to build vital new communities all over this island. God is calling us to join many churches and organisations that are seeking to humbly reintegrate spiritual life into the heart of the culture of this island, and to take that life from this island to the world.
We are calling the centre “An Cuan” (pronounced “on koo-in”) which is the Irish word for a harbour: A place where ships are welcomed and sent, are patched up, re-fueled, and then allowed to set sail. That is what we hope for.
Jonny and Jenn Clark