Another year has passed, but unlike last year, I’m not waiting until after midnight to write this letter. Is that new as well?
This year saw a lot of changes in my life. The first one was that after a lot of prayer, www.theweeprayerroomthing.org moved into social action, and we now spend Tuesday evenings walking round the City Centre and the Golden Mile praying for the streets, feeding homeless people and just spending time with them and praying for them. This has been an eye-opener – some of the highlights have included meeting some of the polish immigrants and seeing their eyes light up whenever they see us – people they know will treat them well, spend time, and pray, not rejecting them. It’s amazing, especially as I learn from the others in how they serve.
New team 1
I changed team at Spring Harvest this year, and joined the Venue Security Team for Minehead Week 3 (but without my bicycle). Four of us rotated on night duty between the Skyline pavilion (stands and merchandising) and the Big Top, which meant we were able to sleep through the day, eat in the guests’ diner as we had missed lunch, and enjoy evening worship in the Big Top before going on duty – which was very good for me as it gave me a lot of time to spend with God which I wouldn’t have done on the Stewarding Team. I’m currently waiting for confirmation that I’m doing Venue Security again next year, although I’m very much keeping in touch with (and on the same week and site as) my friends on the Stewarding Team.
New bike 1
Speaking of my bicycle, I cycled into the back of a Peugeot 307 which had stopped suddenly in June. I only had scratches, and the driver was in rather more shock than I was. I left it in with Brian Marshall in Bangor, who had sold it to me a few years ago – unfortunately he was killed while out for a cycle ride that night, and in the end I was advised to get a new bike, so I became the owner of a Giant Boulder MTB. More on that in a moment.
New team 2
That bike was good for 60 miles at Summer Madness, which I spent doing powerpoint for the late night worship venue, editing mainstage and seminar talks for CD-ROMs of m4as (replacement for mp3s!), which are still available from the Summer Madness office, and cycling 60 miles in three days around Belfast for the last year of Streetreach. The fruits of my labours are on my relaunched site at www.andyboal.co.uk, to which I need to add some real content. I’ve been told I know enough random information to write AndyB’s miscellany, but that might be just too much jumping on the bandwagon.
New bike 2 (not kidding unfortunately)
Unfortunately, my brand new £200 bike got stolen in Dublin on 12 July. I had locked it up in the middle of O’Connell Street, but it was gone when I came back less than an hour later. Its replacement, which I take into work every day from my new house in Donnybrook Street off the Lisburn Road, is insured and has a rather stronger lock. Not making that mistake again.
Yes, I finally moved out of home at the grand old age of 34. I was asked in the late spring by one of my housemates if I’d help make up the house, and after some prayer, I went for it, and I now share a house with three young ladies. I had partly moved out as usual for Summer Madness, so it was simplicity to move from the King’s Hall down the Lisburn Road on the Tuesday afternoon of Summer Madness – a couple of bike trips and I was done, plus a quick trip into town to get something other than a sleeping bag to sleep in. I moved the rest of my stuff over the following months, so it’s going to be fun moving back to Bangor or anywhere else – my room’s fairly full with books, my keyboard, my bass guitar and my MacBook which I bought from a friend in May. Yes, I’ve been converted.
It was ironic that I should start living in South Belfast, because at the start of June I said farewell to the Church of the Resurrection. I joined it in late 2001 for some respite care after burning out in my previous church, and those of you who’ve been getting these letters for a while will know I was deeply involved in the worship in the evenings in particular, and also playing bass in the morning. In early April I learned that Strand Presbyterian Church in Connsbrook Avenue, literally round the corner from my grandma’s old house in Park Avenue (she finally moved to Bangor in May!), needed a new pianist, and so I met David Thompson, played a couple of services in April, came back and played the first couple of weeks of May, and was formally offered the job. We gathered at the Res on 3rd June to send me on my way in a very long service with probably more music than we had ever had on a Sunday morning, but I kept my focus on God, and played a spot of bass as well as piano, besides introducing a couple of songs to the morning congregation.
Strand has brought new challenges – including learning to play kids’ praise songs, which I had managed to avoid for years, not overloading the congregation with new songs (we’ve agreed that two new songs a month is the limit for that, and also to make sure that songs don’t get forgotten). Believe it or not, I miss the liturgical year and a few bits and pieces, but as David has found, I have ways of sneaking things in. Working with David has worked very well – we bounce stuff off each other, broadly take turns to pick music and then edit each others’ choices, cumulating in yesterday morning’s Carol Service which by the end was a true collaboration – starting from two subtly different visions, we ended up with largely a mixture of each other’s visions, and we had a theological journey through the Incarnation in six largely traditional readings, focussing on Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Things settled down in the end in Local Government Division, building good relationships with my colleagues and earning their respect, but I got a considerable surprise in October, when I got my promotion! I’m now an EOII in Pensions Branch, Windsor House, slowly learning the Clerks’ job (always a good move – it is so much easier to supervise a job when you know what it really involves!) – by the end of this spring, I should be fully trained in my own job as well, and will know whether they’re going to let me loose to terrorise, sorry supervise my own staff.
New prayer needs
All these changes have brought many challenges for me, and a lot of responsibility – the two new jobs in particular are very weighty, and I need a lot of God’s help and grace to be the man God wants me to be in all these areas, giving him glory in how I work with others.
So, to summarise:
• Please pray for The Wee Prayer Room Thing and our Beautiful Feet mission
• My safety as I cycle up and down the Lisburn Road every day(!)
• For me, Lizzy, Gillian and Rosalynd as we live together, not just that we’ll deal with any difficulties, but that we’ll grow closer as friends and as good housmates
• For Strand and my responsibilities, especially as the search for more musicians goes on (we have an excellent flautist, but I’d love more than just us and the singers!)
• For the new job, for grace for me to represent Jesus in me as a Christian in a way that glorifies God
• And the usual one, the missing piece in all this: my hunt for my wife and life partner is going on as ever. There are real challenges there which I need to pick up with God, including the old challenge of laying down all possibilities of getting married to God and saying it’s genuinely up to him – but inevitably I’m still not ready to do that.
Keep praying folks.
Meantime, this is my prayer for you: This Christmas, may you know the love of the Father who sent his Son in human form to be our Saviour, and how amazing the grace that Jesus has showed us is, and may you know the strength of the Holy Spirit as you live out that love and grace, showing it to others.