, a retired Dublin-born pastor who participated in Dublin City of Hope
See related news feature, “How Adventists Made Inroads in One of Europe’s Toughest Cities”
The Dublin City of Hope project is a watermark in the history of the church in Ireland.
Last year, 45 people were baptized, including several native Irish people, after church leaders teamed up with evangelist Mark Finley for a series of evangelistic initiatives.
The number of baptisms is significant. Dublin—which has a population of about half a million, of whom 20 percent are non-Irish—now has a church membership of 315.
Members and ministers had high hopes to make significant in-roads with the Irish people last year. What happened may not have measured up to expectations. God’s ways are sometimes difficult to interpret. But the effect on the Dublin members has been positive and inspiring.
“We have prayed to God for years that something might happen in Dublin to move the work forward,” one church member told me. “We have what God has given us. It is our duty and responsibility to support it as best we can and trust Him to lead us forward.”
A little jog down memory lane may give some perspective to the Irish situation.
My wife and I were baptized in the then-new Dublin Church in the 1950s. The baptistery was capacious and made baptisms high spiritual occasions. It was different when Pastor Desmond Murtagh and others were baptized years earlier before the church was built. Baptism took place in a zinc tub, an experience lacking dignity but not significance.
At my baptism, total church membership in Dublin stood at around 30, with another half dozen members scattered around the country. At the time, Ireland had less than 40 members in total.
Seventh-day Adventists commonly met hostility and abuse from other Christian denominations, which resented our emphasis on the Second Coming, the Sabbath, and man’s condition in death. In 1990, the membership was 29, and in 2000 it was less than 25. Many efforts were made to reach out to people, but with little success.
Things began to change with the arrival of Ethna Amos, an Irish woman who returned home from the United States. She took up colporteur work and led members of her family and others to accept Christ and join the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Initially her work was in Galway, a city in the county’s west.
Over the past 25 years, a wave of immigration has enabled the Adventist Church to grow. Today, 770 Seventh-day Adventists worship on the Lord’s holy Sabbath day in Ireland. They are found in Cork in the south, Drogheda in the north, Dublin in the east, and Galway in the west.
God is doing wonderful things in Ireland, things that we once only dreamed about. Dublin now has four churches: On Sabbath, the Dublin Church cannot hold all who come to worship. In the Castleknock neighborhood, more than 100 members worship in a hotel. Brazilians worship in a community center at Drumcondra. A large group of Romanian believers worship in Tallaght.
With the help of Mark Finley, the church not only gained new members in 2014 but it also got an interest list of 250 persons, all of whom attended his presentation.
The urgent task is to make contact with all of these people, a significant number of whom are native Irish. It is a big job for the ministerial force of four pastors who have the responsibilities of caring for and developing existing churches and groups.
An urgent need exists to obtain an adequate place of worship for the north side of Dublin. It may appear an impossible task to obtain such facilities, but it is not impossible. The Irish Mission president, David Neal, has done herculean work, but one man can only do so much. He has the vision and leadership to power the work forward, but he needs help.
There is a Macedonian call going out from Ireland to the world church. Come over and help us. Help us with your resources. Help us with your prayers. Help us with encouragement. Help us bodily if you can.
Ireland is an island, but its sons and daughters have left its shores to serve in lands distant and near. God has opened a door of opportunity to extend the Advent message to the Irish people. It would be a tragedy if we failed to enter it. Today is a day of opportunity.
Pastor Bill Nicholson, who oversaw the building of the first Belfast and Dublin churches, observed in the 1950s, “The work will never be finished in the world until it is finished in Ireland.”
Today the possibility of finishing it is before us.
Adventist Review, Jan. 9, 2015: “How Adventists Made Inroads in One of Europe’s Toughest Cities”