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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Free Day in Derry

By: Kathryn Vernon
My Sunday in Derry was started with three laps around the wall – three miles to start the day. Then, following a hearty breakfast, I set off for church at St. Augustine’s, a wee chapel within the walls of the old city that is excited their rector has been elected the first female bishop of the Irish Anglican Church.

The church is rich with history and beautiful stained glass, but it was the service that really kept my attention. Traditional and contemporary songs sung with heartfelt gusto – each having their own rhythm and timing – always with the next to last verse sung with little or no accompaniment – so the voices in the church soared with their own melody. 

The priest was an older gentlemen with a lovely accent and a delivery that let his jokes sneak up on you – always having a point and treating you to a laugh shared by all.  The homily wrapped around three main points – for 2014, we should not pretend to be someone we are not; for 2014, we should be people who intend to make a difference; and for 2014, we should extend ourselves to help others, make a change in the world, and share the Word of Christ.

One of his stories about pretending to be someone we are not and knowing others will see through our façade went like this: Two boys were trying to figure out who would get to keep the little puppy dog playing at their feet. Whomever could tell the biggest lie would get the dog. A priest came along and asked them what they were doing. Upon hearing their story, he said: Oh, I’ve never told a lie in my life. The boys looked at one another and said: He gets the dog.

Later in the day, two classmates and I walked across the Peace Bridge in blustery wind and viewed the Turner Exhibit of contemporary art. We then shared tea and tarts at the Café Du Monde in the Derry Craft Village.  A saying painted on the wall in the Café went like this: If you cannot be a poet, be the poem; if not the singer, the song; if not the author, the words; if not the lover, the love; but above all, be the person you say you are. I had to marvel at how this tied in so well with the priest’s homily of the morning – of not pretending, but intending and extending ourselves.

Finally, the day was capped with a lovely meal at the Sooty Olive on Spencer Street. We were joined by two other classmates who had spent the day traveling by train to and from the Bushmill’s Distillery. It was a lovely way to spend a free day in Derry – enjoying the culture, the sights, the sounds, and the weather of Northern Ireland.

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