Representatives of 126 charities gathered at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on Sunday February 5 for the annual Good Samaritans Service and the distribution of £130,000 raised by the 2022 Black Santa Sit-out.
They came from all over Northern Ireland to give thanks for the work they do collectively and to thank those who so generously donated to the Dean of Belfast’s Christmas appeal.
Although the grants are now paid directly into each charity’s bank, the service acknowledged each recipient, who in turn acknowledged the work of the other groups and organisations being supported by the appeal.
In his words of welcome, Black Santa himself, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast, paid tribute to the Canons of the Cathedral and clergy and Cathedral staff without whom, he said, ‘there would be no Good Samaritans service and we would not be giving away £130,000 today.’ He also thanked sponsors Price Waterhouse Cooper for the work they do promoting the appeal online.
“But this service is not about us,” Dean Forde told the congregation. “It is about you. It is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the work that every one of the 126 charities here today carries out across our community. You are the people with the passion, the care and the self-giving dedication.
“Thank you for who you are, for all that you do, and for all the care that you give.”
Music at the service was led by the Cantemus choir directed by Tony Morrison, with Stephen Hamill at the organ. The lessons were read by Bishop Alan Abernethy, former Bishop of Connor, and by Rosamond Bennett, Chief Executive of Christian Aid Ireland, which received a grant from Black Santa for its work on the ground around the world.
In conversation with Dean Forde during the service, Bishop Alan shared some reflections on the Black Santa Appeal and its enduring place in Belfast at Christmas.
The names of each of the charities awarded funding in different fields: Serving refugee communities; serving communities in financial need; serving the community; and working internationally, were read aloud, with regular pauses for applause and acknowledgement of the work each of the charities carries out and the difference they make.
Prayers, read by the Rev Chris Bennett, had been written to specifically focus on the work, challenges and rewards the charities had outlined in their Black Santa application forms, and a collection was taken for the ongoing life and ministry of Belfast Cathedral and to start off the 2023 appeal as Black Santa enters his 47th year.
For further information on Belfast Cathedral’s Black Santa, visit the dedicated website at www.belfastblacksanta.org.