Eileen Regan

Eileen Regan

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My Donate

Thursday, 20 March 2014 21:04

Restoration Ministries came together in 1988 as an interdenominational faith organisation responding to the suffering in Northern Ireland caused by our cycle of violence, fear and division. We had turned our brothers and sisters into strangers as hurt upon hurt had blinded us to the realisation that we are all one in Christ. In these circumstances it is impossible to love the other, so the cycle continues.

Quite apart from the consequences of our community divisions, many individuals for a variety of reasons feel the absence of love and belonging, so they suffer greatly.

Restoration Ministries seeks to release us, as individuals and community, from hurt and from our broken relationship with love and belonging, by hospitality, by listening, by prayer and by spiritual guidance, promoting understanding.

In pursuit of this we also give support to Faith & Friendship, a movement in Northern Ireland that provides space for people from different traditions to meet one another and to share their faith in an atmosphere of friendship.

Rev Dr Ruth Patterson, our spiritual director and retreat and conference leader, leads us in this, and has spoken at various events in Ireland and overseas about reconciliation, healing and peace.

We exist almost entirely by means of donations from other individuals who share this vision of peace and reconciliation.

Please support our work through MyDonate (by clicking on the link below) OR contact us directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 028 9267 5783.

Charity No: XN80860

Summer Newsletter

Thursday, 04 July 2013 23:28

The Summer Newsletter is now online

October

Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:40

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

Reading: John 16: 16-24

This beatitude is about goodbyes. But it is not about a fatalistic resignation, rather a lived experience. We mourn over goodbyes of any sort; goodbye to home, to health, to youth, to livelihood, to peace, to people. We mourn especially over having to say goodbye to those we have loved – the broken relationships either through death, or misunderstanding, or deliberate severance. How can there be anything of blessing in such pain? The first and necessary step is not to repress or deny the pain, but rather to have the courage to acknowledge and then explore the ache at the source of such grief. The challenge is to risk embarking on such a journey, not as victim, but as one who chooses to survive by walking with the reality of what is happening, realising the losses, weeping for the little dyings as well as the big. It is something about being open enough and vulnerable enough to be present to the pain in order to give it voice. It is when we face it, when we speak it out instead of locking it up inside ourselves that, in some strange and unexpected way, a stark comfort comes. It is the first step in being able to move on. It is the doorway to an inner freedom that leads eventually to a letting go. This is not about forgetting but about remembering with a gratitude that may be tinged with poignancy but is also the first stage in the restoration of hope. Long ago the Israelites in exile in Babylon, far from all they held dear, were mourning and weeping. Their captors taunted them, commanding them to sing. They felt they couldn’t. “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” They couldn’t explore at any depth the pain of their exile. They were locked in by the wrong done to them and by their hatred of the perpetrators. What a challenge – to recognise that God was not confined to Jerusalem but could be praised anywhere – even in Babylon!

There is a strange mystery here. When we live the experience of sorrowing, when we have the courage to plumb the depths, we can be surprised by joy. The Bible is full of references to the broken hearted and the God of comfort, to times of sadness and mourning being replaced not only by consolation but by celebration.

There is a vital key here to do with memory (the past) and with promise (the future) which enables us in this present darkness to trust the faithfulness of God in yesterday, today and tomorrow. Goodbye really means ‘God be with you.’ Farewell really means ‘May you go well into the future.’ And the promise of comfort in this beatitude implies that with every goodbye there is, for those who dare to look, a new beginning, a welcome into a greater awareness of the God of all comfort whose word to such courageous souls is always, ‘You are well come. It is good that you are here.’

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • We have all experienced losses in our lives. Can you share one such experience with the group and how you reached the promise of comfort?
  • Is there something in yourself or your tradition you feel you need to say goodbye to?

May

Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:38

You are the salt of the earth – you are light for all the world.

Reading: James 1: 19-27; 1 John 2: 7-11

There is a postscript to these eight beatitudes and, in a sense, without this they would be incomplete. Jesus is saying that if we seek to live our lives by the charter of the kingdom that he has just outlined in this teaching, then we will be what we were created to be, namely beatitude people, in the company of the One who does not ask us to make this journey alone but who does call us to show, to reveal him to the world.

These are two powerful images – salt and light. “What good is salt if it has lost its flavour?” asks Jesus. No matter how hard we try we can’t restore its ‘saltiness.’ It simply is worthless and is thrown away. The function of salt is to bring zest, life, taste. Our calling as friends of Jesus is to bring a whole new dimension to living. Sadly a blandness and lack of vitality characterizes much of the so-called witness of today’s church, certainly in the West. Paradoxically, in places where it is extremely difficult to be Christian, we find courageous, vibrant communities of resurrection, signs of outrageous hope for a weary, warring, anguished world. Here is precious salt, bringing out the full flavour of what it means to be citizens of the kingdom. It is possible for all of us – even here where we are right now. We may feel very small, as if our stance or our ‘witness’ couldn’t make a difference. But history is peopled with such ‘little ones’ who changed its course. The biggest ‘little one’ is Jesus himself and, after him, a long line of followers.

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket,” says Jesus. “No – a lamp is placed on a stand where it can give light to everyone.” We are challenged to be such lights, in fact to be so visible, so public that we are like a city on a hill that just cannot be hidden. This is what happened to the friends of Jesus at Pentecost. They were set on fire with a whole new energy and power to show Jesus to the world. They were so effective that they were accused of turning the world upside down. Sometimes we may feel as if the light has gone out and that nothing can hold back the dark that seems to be creeping over the world. It only takes a pinprick of light to change everything. A single candle flame is all it takes to let the darkness know it cannot win. And as we begin again, as we allow the tiny candle of our life to bravely burn for all to see, then the promise is that everyone will pour out their praise to God, will acknowledge him. And isn’t that the nub of it all? Isn’t that why we began this journey in the first place? Alleluia!

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • What character would the Christian community in your area need to portray in order to be described as salt?
  • Do I ever hide my ‘little flame’ out of a false humility or a refusal to recognise that God has gifted me with ‘light’ that could enable someone else to ‘see’?

January

Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:36

Blessed are the merciful for mercy will be shown to them

Reading: Matthew 19: 21-35

Mercy is one of the great words of the Bible. It is perhaps one of the most used and least practised within the institutional church. Throughout the ages and daily around the globe the words, “Lord, have mercy” form an integral part of worship. The word used in the Old Testament is hesed. It is usually translated ‘mercy’ but actually means so much more. It incorporates healing and freedom, forgiveness and compassion. It’s sometimes translated ‘loving kindness’ and sometimes ‘steadfast love.’ It describes the character of God’s dealings with his people throughout history - the compassionate God who sees the affliction of his people in Egypt and comes to liberate them; the faithful God who sticks with them through their rebellious wilderness wanderings; the righteous God who allows them to suffer defeat but brings them back from exile and restores them, the steadfastly loving God who, in the ultimate act of mercy sends his Son because we could not cure our own wounded condition. In Jesus we recognise the true nature of the Father’s heart, and from the cross a tidal wave of mercy flows for all people for all time.

All of us without exception, whether we are conscious of it or not, have been blessed by mercy. God has answered this cry from our hearts even when we could not put words to the pleading. Why then are we often so slow to be mercy givers? Why are our lives not bent towards mercy as God’s heart is bent towards us? At the heart of this beatitude lies the challenge to be generous of spirit, compassionate, to identify with those who are defenceless, who are victims of their own or others’ wrongdoing. It’s an attitude that implies decision as well as feeling. It is a call to passionately care – even for those who have wronged us or those whom we don’t naturally like. It is also a challenge to be merciful towards ourselves. Often we reserve the harshest judgement for our own confused and troubled beings.

The cry from the heart of God is that we respond to his great mercy to us by offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to him, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him, that we let him transform us inwardly by a complete change of mind and heart. If we open ourselves up, through the practice of mercy, to such a journey of transformation then both our inner and outer worlds will manifest the hall marks of the kingdom. A new community of mercy givers and receivers can change the church, this island and the world.

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • Is mercy the hallmark of my Christian community?
  • What opportunities are there in my church, my life, my community to be compassionate, to be a mercy-giver?

April

Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:34

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Acts 6: 8-15; 7: 54-60

We come to the holy ground of this eighth beatitude, the one that perhaps is the most difficult to take on board. In fact, the temptation would be to say, “All the others, maybe yes, Lord, but not this!” It seems to be no accident that we reach this one in the season of Lent and Easter. Our doubts and questions fall into the vibrant, overwhelming silence filled with the presence of a God who is not remote but chose to be so near, knowing what it would cost him. This is the God who sweated blood in a garden and earnestly prayed that he would not have to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake that far. This is the God who willingly ‘climbed a hill’ and found there, not acclamation but a cross. This is the God who not only submitted but actually embraced such a way, all for righteousness’ sake, that is for the restoration of right relationships. This is the Blessed One.

And if we are his companions on the way, then we are called to enter the struggle against all those things that seek to damage or destroy right relationships. That is hard. Jesus never said “You’re blessed when you are persecuted.” To be so would be to encourage a masochism that has nothing to do with the Good News. Rather he said, “If your commitment to God provokes persecution, if you are living your belief out loud, no matter what the cost or pain, if you stand for the righteousness that is rooted in the very being of God, then blessed, blessed are you.”

The first and last beatitude carry with them the same promise, “The kingdom of heaven is yours.” The kingdom of heaven is not so much a place as that state of being where we have moved beyond our defensive/offensive ego into a flow of relationship that is characterised by a mutuality of belovedness. And it’s only a shadow of what is up ahead for those who, all else stripped away, have stumbled upon the treasure. In the interim we may find ourselves bonded with companions not necessarily of our natural choosing who along with us have made the decision to be committed to the God of right relationships to such an extent that we are tried like gold in the furnace. It is along this road that Jesus calls us to rejoice – not because of persecution and not when the journey is done, but right now through him, with him and in him. And already the angels and saints, the people of God in every age rejoice, celebrate and urge us on.

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • Stephen was the first martyr of the early church. What were some of the direct consequences flowing from his ‘persecution for righteousness’ sake’?
  • Can you think of some people in our day who have walked such a road? Is it possible that we could pick up such a mantle?

June

Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:33

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had

Reading: Philippians 2: 1-11

As we draw this year of blessings to a close, I’d like to return to what seems to me to be an essential component of each beatitude, one that was incarnated most fully in Jesus himself, and that is humility. It runs like a golden thread through all we have been reflecting upon. There are more beatitudes hidden in Scripture than those we find spelled out so clearly in Matthew 5 and Luke 6. Sometime you might enjoy searching for them. The two that touch me deeply are where, firstly, Jesus is teaching through word and, secondly, by example about humility. Both concern a meal, the first about who should be invited when we throw a dinner party, the second is Jesus’ mind blowing action at the last supper with his friends before he dies when he washes their feet. In the first Jesus says that if we invite those who cannot ask us back – the poor, the lame, the blind – then we will be blessed. In the second he says that if he, their Lord and Master has washed their feet then they should wash one another’s feet. “This is the path of blessing,” he says.

Both of these are an exhortation to follow his example, a plea that is picked up by Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi urging them to have the same attitude as Jesus had. In fact the only way we can become beatitude people is if we go the way of self emptying – which is not the same as self abasement. Knowing our need of God, able to let go, embracing meekness, focussing our desire on right relationship, inclining our entire being toward mercy, cultivating a purity of heart, choosing to be makers of that peace for which the whole earth yearns and being willing to pay the price for such a journey – none of these are possible without that humility that comes from knowing that the God whose greatness and goodness we cannot find words to articulate holds you and me in his steadfast love, is for us, alongside us and within us. Our only response to such immeasurable love is to seek to be, however stumblingly, beatitude people who are salt for the earth and light for the world.

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • Throughout the year which beatitude spoke most to you? Why?
  • Which one did you find the most difficult? Why?
  • Which one have you resolved you will ‘pick up’ and seek to live out?

February

Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:30

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God

Reading: John 15:1-17

One of the deepest wounds or gaps we encounter within ourselves and others is a lack of identity, of not knowing who we are and, therefore, not knowing how to truly relate to God and others. There is the gap between how other people see us or who we would like to believe we are and how we think or perceive ourselves to be. And the more we are wounded by life, or go by the route of ‘self or other-destruct’ in order to protect or defend our elusive ego, the wider the gap becomes. We feel alienated deep within from ourselves, from others and from God.

The trap that catches most of us is to ‘up’ the activity, striving harder to be a ‘better person.’ But it’s never enough and such a course leads only to exhaustion and greater lostness; our often unacknowledged shadow side is still there. Instead of opening ourselves to its invitation to be embraced as part of the complexity of who we are and a resulting letting go of pretending, we repress what we either don’t understand or don’t like. We have equated purity of heart with an either/or mentality – we either get ‘it’ all right by observing all the commandments or else we’re a failure and settle back in our cage believing that second best is all we’ll ever experience, that we’ll never have the freedom to soar.

What freedom comes from the realisation that it’s not about ‘doing’ more but simply about being, about letting go or maybe even simply’ letting be.’ When such a still point is reached, barely perceptibly there grows within us a unity that transcends the menacing either/or. It stems from the flow or the communion between ourselves and the One who loves us. It has something to do with a mutual abiding. In such a sacred space striving withers up and dies and, in its place, there emerges in all its gently refined beauty what Jesus calls purity of heart.

Confidence in who we are comes from really knowing, as opposed to protesting, that we are the beloved of Jesus. As the mutuality of belovedness deepens, we ‘see’ more clearly. In knowing who we are in him, we begin to see him in others also. We start to trust in a whole new way. As we let go of things and attitudes that have trapped and cluttered us, we become more aware, we detect deeper meaning – and we receive the promise. We ‘see’ God. And there’s more! One day we shall see him clearly with our own eyes and, because we have travelled this road here and now, when that day comes, he will not be a stranger.

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • What are the difficulties you encounter, if any, when you simply try to ‘be’?
  • In the gospels many people came to Jesus just as they were – with no pretence. In pairs think of one such, for example, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, Peter, the man at the pool of Bethesda. If you were that person, what is it that you wish you didn’t have to bring with you? Why?

March

Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:18

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God

Reading: Colossians 3: 12-17

Peace is perhaps the most sought after state in the world and, at the same time, the most elusive. And the word itself, like those of the other beatitudes, conjures up so many different interpretations. It is not merely the absence of conflict nor does it have any lasting value if it is merely imposed by force. In fact, it is not so much a thing to be obtained as a movement, a journey, a way of life that is constantly in the process of becoming.

This beatitude talks about the makers of peace, not peace lovers. There is a vast difference between the two. We can love and yearn for peace from the security of our own ‘camp’ or tribe or culture. To be a peacemaker demands that we get involved, that we risk, that we cross unknown boundaries, that we make some tough decisions which will involve misunderstanding, rejection, even alienation, especially from those who assumed we were on their ‘side.’ To step out into such unknown territory, to keep on building relationships, finding common ground, refusing to label or write people off, always seeking to find something that unites rather than seizing upon that which divides, allowing ourselves to be stretched beyond where we feel we can be stretched, consistently pointing to windows of hope in places of despair – all of this can be a costly, messy lonely business. Who would choose to travel such a road?

There is a sense in which we have no option if we are Christian and have opted to follow the Prince of Peace. To walk with him on such a road will mean a ‘setting of the face’ to go, a making up our minds, knowing that the journey could involve a cross. Where will the strength, the endurance come from? First and foremost we need to become within ourselves people of peace. We find such peace by taking the time to nurture our relationship with Jesus, by discovering the secret of the mutual abiding that we reflected on in John 15. When we experience that then we are well on our way to becoming channels of peace and have a peace that remains with us, no matter what storms we have to face out of having responded to the call to be peacemakers.

And the promise, the blessing that comes from this beatitude is way beyond our wildest imagination. We are called, accepted, known as children of God, God’s friends. And one of the wonderful things about such a calling is that we are welcomed into a huge united yet very diverse family and are awakened to the fact that unity is really diversity embraced by love.

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • What are some of the things that create barriers or walls between us?
  • What are some of the things that build bridges?
  • How have we experienced Jesus breaking down the walls between us?
  • How can we become peacemakers instead of peace lovers?

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