I’m just home from an absolutely fabulous, packed-out New Years Eve Dock Walk – what a fantastic way to conclude the year! As we walked along, using the long stretch of the Queens Road as a timeline to recall our memories of the ups and downs of 2010, it struck me just what an incredible year it’s been – and how much there is to give thanks for. So, in the spirit of New Years Eve nostalgia, here are the Twelve Days Of Dock – 12 memorable days in the past 12 months of building church in the Titanic Quarter.
This is the first photo I took in 2010 – stumbling out the door at Ridiculously Early O’Clock to catch the train to film a video snapshot of the ‘state of the nation’ in the TQ at the start of 2010. I found a place full of scaffolding and building work, but also full of vision and hope and energy. The plan is to take another snapshot on the first working day of 2011 (and every year after) to catch the sense of just how much forward momentum is in this brilliant part of Belfast.
(see the movie here)
Well hopefully not literally the last day, but by good fortune I had the great honour, along with Heather The Official Dock Photographer and Colin The Titanic Tour Guide, to be the last member of the public allowed on board the Nomadic before she was closed and covered in scaffolding for her still-ongoing restoration. And I’m sure the ship will look fantastic once it’s restored, and it’s important to preserve such an incredibly iconic and historically-significant ship – but something within me loves the rusty, faded, mournful grandeur of the Nomadic in her current state – and I’m very glad to have had the chance to see it like that.
(see it for yourself here)
18th March 2010 was a red-letter day in Dock-World: the day when months of planning, brainstorming, dreaming and scribbling lots of diagrams on scrap paper culminated in a definite vision: the Shared Medley, a new, unified expression of church for a new area and a new era in Northern Ireland. On that day in March I presented the vision to an assembled group of leading lights from all the main denominations – kick-starting conversations which have been moving forward in exciting ways ever since. While few things are yet definite, I still remain extremely hopeful that the vision which was shared that day will become reality.
(here’s the link)
Not such a cheerful day – but one I can’t ignore in any retrospective of 2010. 27th March was the day on which the Dock came scarily close to losing 50% of its congregation, as Susan was rushed into hospital. While some of the effects of that horrible day still linger, she is doing hugely better now – thanks to many, many people who prayed, supported, loved and encouraged us through the experience. Easter 2010 had special significance for both of us, as we found God in the midst of the rubble of worry, fear and panic.
(the full story here)
Yes, yes – the day of 2010 which will probably be the most memorable for many people in Dock World, certainly if the messages in this year’s Christmas cards are anything to go by! Being thankful for small mercies, nobody died, the black eye healed, the parsnip got eaten, and it gave me a story to tell at dinner parties…
(the full confession)
At today’s epic-sized Dock Walk, I was just remembering how it all began – 4 people in the pouring rain on 13th June 2010. Obviously still channelling the slick professionalism of the Parsnip Incident, it was an opening day where nothing worked: the rain fell, the tech failed, the speaker battery ran out mid-way through a song, a drop of rain on the iphone caused a spoken meditation to suddenly playback at double-speed, and as the crowning cowpat on the dungheap, I asked everybody to look out over a section of waste ground, thinking meditative thoughts, without noticing that a huge rotting carcass of a dead bird was right in everyone’s line of sight! But sometimes, if at first you don’t succeed, it is worth trying again – as today’s walk affirmed.
(the story begins here)
On 19th June, after many postponements and re-schedulings, I leapt – not into the Thompson Dock as originally planned, but across the Lagan on a zip wire. In the event it proved to be very massively good fun, which wasn’t really the point – these things are supposed to be torturous, aren’t they? – that’s why people sponsor you! Speaking of sponsorship, I don’t think I told you that the event made £821 towards Habitat For Humanity – not bad going for a church with no congregation – thank you to everyone who donated!
(here’s the proof)
It’s been a year of many encounters with forms of worship which have brought me outside my comfort zone (in a good way!), as I’ve tried to ‘live the Shared Medley’ and put my money where my mouth is, visiting different churches, denominations and groups and building links and relationships outside my cosy Church of Ireland circle. The service at Mass Rock on 1st July possibly gets the prize for being the most unexpected – not just to attend my first-ever Mass, but to do so in the open air, in a forest clearing deep, deep in the woods above Belfast with a mixture of parishioners, travellers and a few stray dogs! Out-there but tremendously inspiring and warmly welcoming – a Shared Medley highlight.
It was back in August that all the authority figures in my new world – both in church terms (the Bish) and in TQ terms (some of the top bods from Titanic Quarter Ltd) – finally got together in the same room at the same time. A hugely encouraging meeting, which confirmed from all perspectives that The Dock project was heading in the right direction, and also introduced the next practical step: the Business Plan. This plan has been a labour of love for me and for the Dock core team now for the past few months, and is tantalisingly close to completion – a researched, costed, thought-through presentation of how The Dock concept might work in daily practice – and a pitch for the purchase of the boat. Watch this space!
15th November 2010, and incredibly it’s been a year since the champagne bottle smashed off the capstan and launched the Good Ship Dock. Friends, supporters and new contacts joined together at the Pump House Cafe to celebrate and help eat the cake – but it was also a great chance to share the vision and tell the story – which created further momentum in making the Shared Medley a reality.
The tagline for the TQ Ltd development is ‘Where once we built ships, now we build community’. A vision which took a step forward on 16th December, when Harvey the campervan beckoned new residents of the TQ apartments into our deckchair cafe for mulled wine, surprisingly-good fruit punch, and a bit of real-life social networking. It turned out to be the first time many of the TQ residents had met each other, apart from chance meetings at the lift or in the stairwell. A mighty night’s craic, made extra-Christmassy by the arrival of bucketloads of snow (which then stayed – and stayed – and stayed…) Special thanks to Chris H, who kept a brazier blazing through the evening in sub-zero temperatures!
And so to today! From the 4 bedraggled-but-faithful souls looking at the dead bird carcass back in June, the Dock Walk has become a weekly highlight for me and for Susan. We’ve met new friends, genuinely lived the Shared Medley with groups of people from all sorts of backgrounds, worshipped, prayed, walked and laughed. Highlights include the walk where we stumbled across the unveiling of the new Titanic hull section, the day when a sunset and a fly-past from a massive flock of birds made an unforgettable setting for our worship time, and today – a 40-strong crowd of adults and kids, walking the entire length of the Titanic Quarter, giving thanks together for this incredible year.
So there you go – 12 days from 12 eventful months! And I haven’t even mentioned Minion, Book Group, adventures on the radio, and hundreds of other meetings, conversations and blessings…
I’ll leave you with the Dock Prayer for 2011 – may it be another exciting, unexpected, God-drenched year for us all.
Dear Lord, please give me
A few friends who understand me and remain my friends;
A work to do which has real value,
without which the world would be the poorer;
A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed;
An understanding heart;
A sense of humour;
Time for quiet, silent meditation;
A feeling of the presence of God;
The patience to wait for the coming of these things,
With the wisdom to recognize them when they come.