Page 2 - Moravian Messenger October 2019
P. 2

On Friday 13th September I was privileged to be the guest preacher at the 250th anniversary celebrations of Gracefield Church. Gracefield Church, like Gracehill is a product of the preaching of John Cennick around the north of Ireland and it is situated outside the small town of Magherafelt in Co Londonderry. The first service was held there on 13th September 1769 and its first minister was Joseph Brown.
Gracefield was intended to be the Moravian centre on the west of the River Bann and Lough Neagh. A Single Sisters House and a Single Brothers House and a boarding school for girls were established there. In the 1880s there were 32 houses in the settlement and at least 176 members of the Church, but by the 1900s numbers attending had started to decrease and the Moravian Church began to sell the land and properties around Gracefield. By 1919, there was no resident Moravian minister although services were maintained by the minister of Gracehill when possible and clergy from other denominations around the area helped out. In 1934 the Provincial Board proposed the discontinuation of Gracefield as a 'out-preaching' place in connection with Gracehill. However, the Church itself was not closed because the Church of Ireland leased it and assimilated it into the Parish of Woodschapel. Eventually, it was sold to the Church of Ireland in 1947.
In all that time it has remained open and Christian worship has continued. It has had two major renovations, the latter in 2018, which was made possible by a very generous bequest in a will of a past member. It is only a small church in a farming area and will probably never again have the number of members it did in the 1880s. However, just because it is
small does not mean that it has failed in its mission. It still preaches the good news of Jesus Christ and folks still faithfully meet there to worship God. It provides a sense of community in an area of scattered housing.
At the anniversary I preached on the text that John Cennick is most identified with, from 1 Corinthians 1:23a: 'but we preach Christ crucified'. Paul is developing a line of thought that shows God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and that he chooses the foolish things in the world to shame the wise and the weak things to shame the strong. He wants to reassure the small Christian community in Corinth that the wisdom of the local Greek philosophical culture and the strength of the Roman empire is not the last word. God's purpose is achieved through a broken body on a cross in what the world considers defeat. Of course, what was true then should be true now: God's measure of success is very different to much of the culture around us.
So, a small church is not necessarily a failed Church, it may be exactly what God wants in that community and fulfil his plans. The test of a Church is not in numbers but in faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in hopefulness of God's plan of salvation and in love towards God, our fellow
Christians and to his world. May that be true for us as individual small congregations and as a small denomination in this country.
Sr Sarah Groves
Editorial Team
Greenbelt 2019 was my first ever time camping and going to a festival and I would say that it is the best introduction to a festival rookie. I was anxious heading to Greenbelt as I did not know what to expect: I knew it would be slightly different to other conventional festivals and had had a look at acts on the Greenbelt App, but still I did not know how well I would manage camping for three nights and being out of my comfort zone. As soon as we arrived and met James, Claire and Phoebe I felt at ease. We put up our tents as other Moravians arrived and then headed into the main festival site. A few of my concerns were food, water and portable loos. The food was amazing, every night we had great hot meals with loads of flavour, there were taps for drinking water everywhere meaning we were always hydrated in the heat and the portaloos were kept so clean by festival goers and volunteers who were a God send when you had no idea where you were and where you needed to be!
We began our Greenbelt experience by listening to a talk by John Bell 'The hidden humour in scripture' and a play titled 'A super happy story (about being super sad)' which told a story that touched upon mental health, thoughts of suicide, support systems, love and friendships with the use of humour and songs. The first day set the tone for the rest of the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, we listened to speakers Russel Brand in conversation with Paul Northup who discussed 'life, death, consciousness and dimensions', Lutheren Pastor Nadia Bolz- Webber who touched upon her book 'Shameless' and dived into discussions about human sexuality. All together I attended 20 acts over the weekend which included spoken word events by a Young Identity (a spoken word collective from Manchester) and a young man called Matt Sowerby; musical acts/events such as Beers and Hymns, Lucy Spraggan, Josh Okeefe, Frank Turner and many more; as well as plays, talks and conversations.
I could not define my favourite part of the weekend by one thing as my Greenbelt experience was made amazing by the fellowship with other Moravians, new friendships made, the atmosphere, the acts and the food!

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