Today was a remarkable day in Coleraine, County Londonderry, in that Queen Elizabeth II and her husband -93 year old Prince Philip – came to lay a wreath outside the town hall.
Following much excitement and anticipation for the past week, (thanks to relaxed security measures, in light of the currently remarkably amiable Anglo-Irish relations) – the public were in place several hours beforehand to wait for the all important royal sighting of Queen Elizabeth. This was the Queen’s first visit back to Coleraine since coming to the University of Ulster Coleraine campus in 2007.
Thousands of people turned out to see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, as the royal engagement schedule today, as part of the their three day visit to Northern Ireland, led them to come and remember the fallen heroes of the First World War. They commemorated the 100th anniversary of WW1 beginning, and lay a red poppy wreath at the town centre cenotaph, in conjunction with the Royal British Legion’s marked commemoration.
The royal couple arrived at shortly after 11.30am, together with not less than 7 bullet-proofed and tinted glassed, armoured Range Rovers. They were gone by a minute or two after midday. The crowds were not disappointed, and seemed thrilled to have seen a glimpse of ‘Her Majesty’ despite the visit being so short, though many would say, “sweet”. Even the rain was kind to the morning gatherers, threatening to come on heavily around 11.15 am, but dutifully behaving itself until around 1 hour later, when the heavens opened heavily, after the event and excitement was diminishing.
The day Queen Elizabeth came town shall live long in the memories, I am sure, of many people in Coleraine and beyond who turned out to see her today. This is a town, afterall, which had seen the horrors of not less than two IRA bombings in its town centre in past decades during what is now being called, ‘The Troubles’ era.
I myself remember the town centre’s horrific obliteration after the 1992 bombing by the IRA, which left it’s etch upon my 9 year-old-memory, as I remember we heard the bomb blast at our house – no less than 10 miles from Coleraine “as the crow flies,” and after our Dad (together with many in the local area) took us to see the aftermath the following day– (when I remember seeing my Primary 1 teacher, also. In typical Northern Ireland rugged, stubborn style, it was like a day out for everyone!)– Many in the local community gathered together to see the bomb’s aftermath, as the burnt buildings still smouldered and the smoky smell even lingered.
That was 1992. This is now. Twenty two years later. A life time later. The Queen and Duke were able to walk around the very area, inches from the very area the 1992 bombing occurred, outside the current day ‘Next’ shop. A level of progress, for certain, even if justice was never done in relation to finding or punishing the people who carried out such ugly atrocities in Northern Ireland’s horrific recent past. Peace without dealing with the roots can be a very shaky peace indeed.
Tonight, the Queen has gone. The police barricades are, probably, too. The crowds have dispersed and normal life for Coleraine town centre will now have resumed.
I am thrilled to say, however, in faith in conjunction with many others, that despite the Queen’s departure, the ‘King’ still remains. This King, is the ‘King of Kings’, and Jesus and his angels still remain in Coleraine, and is very much alive and active in this vibrant Christian community, as literally hundreds of people have been asking Jesus into their lives to become their King, Lord and Saviour, under the guidance of the local Vineyard church and others, who have been sending some of their staff onto the streets to do direct evangelism and co-labour with what they would say is the Holy Spirit’s work and labour.
This is no ‘church program,’ however, (thankfully). This is much bigger than that, many believe. This is what many would term, ‘a move of the Holy Spirit’, or at least the beginnings of the stirrings of one, as over 1000 people have prayed a prayer and given their lives to Jesus, the King of Kings, in the past four months, even and often in the very spot where the Queen and Duke stood today, by the town hall. Regardless of your faith or beliefs, with that level and sheer numbers, there is undoubtedly something going on, and like it or loathe it, the church is growing rapidly to cope with the increased demand for its vibrant, modern style of public worship.
A ‘miracle question’ has been being used by staff such as Mark Marx, who established the ‘Healing on the Street’s’ prayer initiative, (which has now started up in many other towns and cities across the UK and beyond, having been pioneered in Coleraine). Now Marx has pioneered the, ‘miracle question’ method of evangelising – which is being used to provoke the public’s thoughts and stir the conversation to open up to ask eventually if the person(s) would like to receive Jesus to become Lord and Saviour, and many have been accepting and saying ‘yes’ to receiving Jesus and entering into relationship with him. Much of which, (many would say not coincidentally), has been taking place on the very spot where the Queen and Duke stood today.
Like it or loathe the sound of it, ‘the miracle question’ is around to stay.
It is important that the ‘miracle question’ and stirrings of the Spirit are not diminishing the full gospel reality, and, for example, a clear explanation of the cost of following Jesus, and that this is not facilitated to be some simple little fad for a season, but that this is a decision for LIFE, and is conveyed as such, with a clear explanation of the need for repentance (and a modern day explanation of what the heck that old-fashioned word is, of turning away from ones “sins” – or all wrong doings) – and trusting in Jesus’ blood shed for us on the cross at Calvary, to receive his forgiveness and grace to save us, and allow us access into relationship with God the Father, through Jesus, to receive now the Holy Spirit. That said, the miracle question is a fabulous start, and the fruit will be seen in decades to come. My prayer, belief and hope is that it is the beginnings of many true disciples being made, who will thrive in the demands of post-modern living which are rapidly coming to these shores, having already come to England. I have laboured long in prayer for the stirrings we are today seeing in Coleraine and now beyond, and I shall continue to believe for the more that is to come.
The King has come and remains, even as tonight the Queen has left after Coleraine, and Northern Ireland as a whole, bade a fond farewell to her and the Duke early afternoon today. The Queen came in all her glory, now the King and all is glory is set to come in power and fullness in the weeks and months and years to come.