The last time I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) to update this blog, Susan and I were right at the start of our Big Trip: a year-long odyssey around the campsites, cities, coasts, castles and coffee-shops of Europe. And (it still feels surreal to say this) – we did it! A year on the road. A lifetime’s ambition realised. Two people, one campervan, seventeen countries, sixteen thousand miles, three hundred and sixty-odd days. Days of breathing and blessing, of exploring and unwinding, of meetings and partings, of wonders. Something new around every single corner. And then, after a year of driving unexplored roads, back to the familiar streets of Belfast. All good things come to an end.
Some of you might want to know a bit more about where our wanderings took us, what we saw, who we met, whether the sun shone – in which case you can click here to see our photos, maps and stories. (It’s a bit of a work in progress, so feel free to keep calling back.)
Now that we’re home, it feels a bit unreal. Did it all really happen? I think it’ll take us a while to get a bit of perspective and to process all the marvels we saw on our journey. Conversely, while we were travelling, we had the time and space (and relative dimensions) to process the Dock’s journey – the last ten years (ten years!) of Life in the Titanic Quarter.
A wasteland becomes a city. A masterplan becomes reality. Where once we built ships, today we build community. Prayer walks, late-night talks, visions, disappointments, dock-umentaries, dreams, teams, the hunt for a boat. A meanwhile lease, a whirlwind week, an eruption of creativity, Eamonn’s cuppa, a cosy community cafe is born. An Honesty Box. A risk – rewarded. The word spreads, the team grows, the place glows with welcome and laughter and warmth. New neighbours, pop-up markets, abseiling Santas, pilgrimage walks, monarch meetings, chat buddies, Sunday nights, wee trams, world maps, wheaten baps. Even the toilet tells a story. Even a burglary leads to a miracle. What an adventure.
We’ll never, ever forget the thrill of being there for the birth of this revolution. But, just as parents can’t micromanage every detail as their children grow, Susan and I have come to realise that while we were on our journey, the story of The Dock kept developing. New faces, new ideas, new directions. And now that we’re home from our travels, we’re still trying to discern if there’s a place for us in the next chapter of this incredible story.
It’s a biggie. Chaplain to the Titanic Quarter hasn’t just been a job or a title – it’s been a privilege. To witness community thriving where once was emptiness. To work together across differences and denominations to build something authentically shared. To be part of an Honesty Revolution, a space where the usual dog-eat-dog rules of modern life are supplanted by trust, delight, hope, the glimpse of a better world. We’ve never been part of anything like The Dock. And, for all the wonders and wow-moments of our travels, we didn’t find anything to match it in the length and breadth of Europe…
So for now, I’m writing this to complete the circle of my ten years of blog posts from the coalface of Life in the Titanic Quarter. Rather than popping up on the main page of the Dock website, these blogs will have their own little sub-site here, where you will be able to click on some of my favourite stories from the journey.
It’s my record of the genesis of the Dock, and of ten unforgettable years of my life. The story of a man who went looking for a boat – but found something so much better instead.