Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
his soj
ourn in Northern Ireland'

Thoughts about comparative social
services, and a trip to a historic suburb

Jon Kennedy  

JONAL ENTRY 1289 | May 17 2013

You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.

— from John 5,
from today's Orthodox
lectionary readings

Diary: One big difference I've noticed between life here in Northern Ireland and in the USA is the increased emphasis on social programs and bringing social programs like "the arts" to the communities and to senior citizens like myself. I worded that sentence carefully because I'm not sure whether there actually is a big difference between the two cultures or it's more a matter of my noticing these programs here and having ignored such things back "home" in San Jose. San Jose probably has as many museums and other public agencies that conduct lots of programs that I've never heard of because I've been too distracted by the busy-ness of my personal pursuits. Here, one of the emphases of my mission is on getting to know as many people as possible, so I've been looking for opportunities to get out and make new acquaintances, and my colleagues Marda and Ward have also been looking for (and taking advantage of) such opportunities to get to know lots of people and they have been widening my horizons.

The UK (of which Northern Ireland is a "province") is more socialized than the States, which is most noticeable by long-term visitors by way of its medical program, the National Health Service, which provides medical services without charge even to visiting noncitizens. England introduced socialized medicine just after World War II (when the country was virtually bankrupt, ironically), and even though the Conservatives (especially the late former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) have tried to push back on the costs, expenditures, and the taxes required to make the program possible, socialized medicine has survived and seems as generally accepted by both parties here as Social Security is accepted by everyone in the States now.

But one social service area in which the United States seems (but again, I may be under-informed) to have a more comprehensive program than the UK is "senior nutrition." I know from my frequent visits to my brother Bob (who attends the senior lunch program in his town every day) and my time living in Pennsylvania last summer that such programs are common around the country, five days a week, year round. Here, I have not heard of any comparable senior nutrition program. I have been invited to a once-a-week lunch program put on by a Belfast church which runs from fall into spring but is suspended for the summer. Both the one my brother attends and the one here charge a fee for the meals, but the fee is less than lunch in a restaurant and, at least theoretically, it is more nutritious than a fast-food lunch. The Belfast church lunches cost three pounds (compared with $2.50, I believe, in Willows, Bob's town). But though the charge here is approximately twice that in Willows, at the end of the church lunch "season," the program provides a field trip by tour bus to a fancy restaurant out of the city (subsidized, I've been told, by the "profit" on the three-pound lunches and a five-pound charge for the trip and final lunch).

This year's "field trip" took place this Tuesday, when a luxurious tour bus took us about twelve miles northeast of the city to Carrickfergus, which is also on the Belfast Lough (the huge "bay" that connects Belfast to the Irish Sea), but Carrickfergus is much older than Belfast, having been a medieval castle and monastery town. "Carrick" is Irish for "rock," and Fergus, presumably, was the name of an early king or warlord. Below is a photo and a video taken on that trip.

The castle in Carrickfergus was built by the Normans (residents of Normandy, a province in what is now France) in the twelfth century, and is one of the best preserved ancient castles in Ireland. This view of it was just outside the restaurant where we had our lunch on Tuesday.

Click the > on the video above to play it. After the video launches, you can double-click the screen to enlarge it to full-screen. If your browser cannot open the video in Windows Media format, you can try it on YouTube, here.

The video, which runs under six minutes, was taken at the beginning of our return from Carrickfergus, taking a scenic route on back roads through several suburbs and over the countryside. It was a beautiful afternoon. Most of the footage above is within the town of Carrickfergus.

Scripture: Though Jesus was speaking to Jewish temple leaders of his time in this passage, except for its reference to His hearers "searching the Scriptures," I think it applies as well to most people in the Western world today. Most people in the Americas and in Europe know that the church preaches Jesus and teaches His way to eternal life, but because they have been turned off by some superficial exposure to "the church" or Christianity (or because they are unwilling to consider changing their ways, in many cases), they are unwilling to listen and hear the Good News He wants them to hear.

§     §     §

Please support my mission to Northern Ireland in your prayers, especially for my second talk this Sunday on C.S. Lewis and his impact on the world through his Christian writing.

You can read my overview of this undertaking here. My residence/postal address is 227 Crumlin Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT14 7DY, UK. NEW Mobile: 44 7455 980890.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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A man said to his wife one day, "I don't know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time." The wife replied, "Let me explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; He made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!"


God has never had a brain, and has never missed it.

— Dallas Williard

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