Easter Sunrise Service in Hillsborough Forest Park, Lisburn,
The service was sponsored by the Seymour
Street Methodist Church but was open for other church
groups to attend.
Hillsborough Forest Park is one of Northern Ireland's most
beautiful and peaceful places. It is around 150 acres of woodland
enclosing a lake that is home to more than a dozen swans as
well as several other types of waterfowl. The service took
place in a spot between the lake on one side and the walls
of Hillsborough castle on the other, with the tall steeple
of St Malachy's church prominent in the background.
The Seymour Street Methodist congregation have been present
in the city of Lisburn since 1875. In recent years they became
too big for their building, necessitating another church plant
nearby. Both congregations continue to thrive, bucking the
general downward trend of Methodism elsewhere in Great Britain.
On a Sunday there is morning worship at 11.30, an evening
service at 6.30 a couple of times a month, and other regular
initiatives such as cafe church and youth fellowship. The
church also hosts Bible study groups, children's activities,
and social and sports groups.
Hillsborough is a very pretty village south of Lisburn with
lots of old listed buildings and houses (many of which have
been left unoccupied for some time) and some nice pubs and
restaurants, including The Parson's Nose, which is run by
celebrity chef Danny Millar.
The Revd Brian Anderson, minister of Seymour Street Methodist
Church, presided. A gentleman named Wilson set everything
up while "the two Stevens" played guitar.
The date & time:
Easter Sunday, 24 April 2011,
What was the name of
How full was the building?
There were well over 100 people in attendance by the end.
I know this because I overheard the welcomer say he had printed
100 service sheets and later announced they had run out so
please could everyone share with the latecomers.
Did anyone welcome you
A man handed me a service sheet and said, "Good morning."
Was your pew comfortable?
There were no seats but I was glad to stand because I needed
to move around a bit to keep warm.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
When I arrived it was fairly empty. There was just a guy setting
up some amps and repeating "1, 2, 1, 2" over and over. People
began to arrive in large clumps and generally kept to their
individual groups. There was some good banter about being
up so early and joking about one man in particular who turned
up in shorts.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning. I was going to tell you it was bright
and breezy but you would probably hate me."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
What musical instruments
Two acoustic guitars.
Did anything distract
Despite the bright sun it was still quite chilly and my hand
became so stiff that it was difficult to keep taking sermon
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
There were a few hymns and a liturgical prayer. A few people
sang out but mostly the worship was rather quiet. Call me
crazy, but the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn
and traipsing out to a chilly field just to stand and mumble
through the words doesn't quite make sense!
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
8 The Revd Anderson was quite good. What impressed
me most was his boldness and clarity. He had a warm and pastoral
manner, and his message was succinct and easy to understand.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
"Easter Transformation" was the title. The resurrection
is "hard to get your head around." All four accounts are slightly
different. This is because each writer struggled to find appropriate
words to describe the enormity of what happened. Just as a
caterpillar turns into "gook" and then produces a butterfly,
Jesus was transformed for us from death into life. Is the
power of the resurrection noticeable in our daily lives? Is
it ongoing and transforming us each and every day? In order
for resurrection to take place there must be death, and sometimes
we must be prepared to let go of stuff and allow it to die
in order that resurrection transformation may take place in
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
When the preacher boldly and loudly proclaimed that "Christ
is risen, alleluia" in the broad open public space away from
the protection of a church building, this struck me as particularly
powerful. How often does this happen nowadays? Also, near
the end the sun hit me just right and sent a very welcome
shaft of warmth all over my cold skin. That was divine!
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
There was an awkward moment when we were directed to exchange
the peace and everyone around me seemed reluctant to speak
to me. I received a few handshakes, however.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I milled around for a few minutes, but as soon as we broke
everyone fell back to their standard positions and formed
their in-group clusters once more. They didn't seem interested
in talking to anyone else.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
None. Although if ever I could have done with a lovely cup
of hot, fairly traded ground coffee and a fresh, moist chocolate
doughnut, it was right then!
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
5 Not enough information gleaned today to make the
decision, but based on the limited data I have I didn't feel
they were open or welcoming enough.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Sure, the preacher in particular really impressed.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sudden feeling of warmth when the sun finally hit me.