Teenagers from Ballyholme parish in Bangor, Co Down, gave up a week of their holidays to run a programme of activities for children in Ballysillan, north Belfast.
The new Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, dropped in on July 25 to join the fun and meet a few old friends. The Bishop was rector of Ballyholme parish for 17 years before his consecration in Connor Diocese in June.
The Rev Canon Trevor Williams, rector of Holy Trinity and St Silas with Immanuel, Ardoyne, where the project was centred, said a partnership had existed between the two parishes for some time.
“One of the benefits of the partnership is we are on opposite sides of Belfast, in different dioceses and in the very different contexts of Bangor and north Belfast. The Bishop and I have known each other for many years and saw that this partnership would benefit both parishes. Both have things to give to the other.
“For people living in Bangor it gives a wider experience of the church, while we benefit from the help of the youth leaders from Ballyholme.”
Canon Williams said the project was great for children in the area. “One of our priorities is diversionary activities. Over the summer rioting has become a pastime of many youngsters. It starts off as a game and a bit of a laugh. Children have even been known to send texts into the other community to see if they can meet up for a riot.
“This scheme keeps children away from that and so benefits the whole community. It also gives the kids a bit of fun during the summer. With the extra leaders from Ballyholme we can do things we could not do ourselves.”
He added: “The young leaders also gain a lot, especially the experience of meeting a person’s need.”
Around 25 young people, aged from 13 upwards, stayed in Ballysillan for the week, camping out in the parish hall. During the day they provided activities including games, songs, dances, quizzes and football, and in the evenings operated a drop-in facility.
Volunteer leader Sherry Hazlett, 17, said “It is really great, the team is very united. The week is all about showing God’s love and Jesus’s love.”
The Blue House, a nearby Youth for Christ centre, was also involved in the week’s programme, providing activities for post primary children.
Paying tribute to Ballyholme’s youth worker, David Cavan, who co-ordinated the week, Bishop Abernethy said the project was fantastic, adding: “The children in north Belfast and the young people from Ballyholme all benefit hugely from this partnership.”