The Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist churches in the western Irish town of Ballina have joined forces with Church Army to take their mission on the road – with a Big Blue Bus. The churches will use it to travel to housing estates around Ballina to deliver social outreach and mission activities.
“The four churches here in the Ballina area have a very good relationship and all agreed that we should have social outreach together in this area as a sign of our common Christian commitment and of our common Christian purpose,” the Roman Catholic Bishop of Killala, John Flemming, said. After years of surveys, research, meetings, and the forming and re-forming of committees, “we finally got to the stage – which is great – of the launch of the Big Blue Bus.”
Bishop John praised the role of Church Army – a Anglican society of lay evangelists – saying that they not only provided funding for the scheme, but also acted as the “catalyst” which got the project going.
“We talked about having a drop-in centre, but then we began to look at the costings and the properties available; and whether people would come from the estates around Ballina to a drop-in centre,” the Anglican Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achnonry, Patrick Rooke, said. “We thought, really, it would be more practical and more sensible to have a vehicle . . . that would go out to where the people are who might avail of what we are offering in terms of someone and somewhere that people might be listened to, and they can articulate their particular situation and we can offer the kind of support we think they might value.”
A team of volunteers from the four churches will work with Church Army worker Emma Rodrigues to deliver educational courses, training, shows and concerts, and Gospel outreach. The work involves “reaching into the community like a community worker, but also being a Christian witness,” Emma Rodrigues said. “It is like social action, but also in ways I am reaching out into the community – how can we reach out as churches, how can we reach out as Christians in today’s world in the 21st century.
The Big Blue Bus was commissioned this week by the two bishops in Ballina.