The grouped parishes of Ballintoy and Dunseverick are holding a mission with a difference from September 12–15.
The Sunflower Mission is the first hosted by the parishes in the last 40 years, and it will build and nurture connections with groups and organisations in the local community on the scenic north Antrim coast.
“We wanted to focus on healing and reconciliation,” said the rector of Ballintoy, the Rev Patrick Barton. “We were talking to Connor Parish Development Officer Trevor Douglas about things that capture a young person’s imagination and we thought about the sunflower and how it grows from a tiny seed to a flower taller than most people.
“That evening, at the Bishop of Connor’s Lent Healing Service in Dunluce, Bishop Alan spoke about moments when God’s healing breaks through and called these sunflower moments.”
Since early spring, parishioners and youth groups associated with the parishes have planted sunflower seeds. “They are at their peak at the moment,” said Patrick.
“We hope that this mission will touch people’s lives. Our tagline is ‘Growing, Healing and Reconciliation.’ We want to bring people together and help them understand that we are all employed in mission. It is reaching out to people and sharing God’s good news.”
Ballymoney Parish is partnering Ballintoy and Dunseverick in this mission which gets underway on Thursday September 12 with a visit to Dunseverick Church by pupils from Dunseverick Primary School. The Rev Andrew Sweeney, rector of Ballymoney, will speak and lead the children, teachers and parents in songs and prayers.
Later that morning, members of the Parish Mission team will visit the local Mount Druid Parent and Toddler group which meets in Ballintoy Church Hall. The Rev Brian Howe will talk to adults while the mission team members will entertain the children.
That evening, beginning at 7.30pm, there will be a Songs of Praise service in Ballintoy Hall, where parishioners will share the stories behind their favourite hymns. There will also be input from the Ballymoney team, and Bishop Alan, who hopes to attend most events, will give a short talk.
On the Friday morning in Ballintoy Church there will be a Prayer for Healing Service from 10am–12.30pm at which Bishop Alan and the parish team will pray with groups and individuals and there will also be a time for private prayer and reflection.
On the Friday evening the Scouts will be hosting a fun night at Ballintoy Harbour with a camp fire, barbecue and all sorts of games, and this will be another opportunity to hear Bishop Alan speak. The fun begins at 7.30pm.
Saturday’s events get off to an energetic start with a walk around Ballintoy hosted by the Mothers’ Union and the Shore Ramblers taking place between 10.30am and 1pm. The walk will take in the Ballintoy Cliff Path and is suitable for all abilities including pushchairs so the whole family is welcome to take part.
There will be a Family Night in the parish hall on Saturday from 6pm–8pm, organised by the Sunday School, Youth Club and Brownies and this will take the form of a Ceili night. Bishop Alan will not only preach the Epilogue, but will also be demonstrating some African dancing!
The Sunflower Mission reaches its finale on Sunday September 15 with a service getting underway in Dunseverick at the usual time of 10am, but breaking and then continuing in Ballintoy. Parishioners from both churches will take part in each service, and everyone who attends in Dunseverick will be given a special sunflower badge which they will then wear to Ballintoy for the second part of the service which will be followed by soup and sandwiches. Bishop Alan will again preach at this linked service and everyone is very welcome.