Area Fellowship News: History of the Irish Fellowship
I still remember the September evening in 1990 when I called to see Mary Walsh in her home near Dublin. We chatted over just about everything we could think of before I finally got round to saying, "Mary, I need to know more about whatever it is you know."
The Irish fellowship had its earliest beginnings in 1978 when Mary Walsh accepted an invitation to attend an Easter conference in England. There she met with Page Prewitt, Sanda Cooper, Brian Coatney and many others who introduced her to the truth of Jesus Christ living out His life through His people, as expounded in the teaching of Norman Grubb. Mary joyfully grasped the truth she saw and continued to attend conferences every Easter in England.
I had known Mary for some years, and we had at one time been part of a fellowship group that no longer met. Although we were now attending different fellowships, we kept in touch from time to time. When we met, May talked enthusiastically to me and others about what she had come to see. We listened to what she had to say, but never went beyond that. But, God has His ways! Mary decided to move to England in 1990. At that time I felt like I was in a sort of vacuum, and I was looking for direction. It dawned on me that Mary was the only person I knew who was saying she had found answers, and she was about to move away. This could be my only chance to find out what she was really saying. I knew I couldn’t let it pass. That was when I visited Mary and told her what I was thinking. We kept in touch after she moved.
During Easter 1992 three of us from Ireland attended our first Zerubbabel conference in England. We heard testimony, listened to teaching and had personal discussions. We were impressed by the level of honesty and openness we met with. Above all, the truth that was being taught was shown to come straight from Scripture and made sense of many gaps in our Christian experience to date. Two of us, Marian Kinahan and myself, were excited by what we had seen. We began attending English conferences twice a year.
After the 1993 Easter conference, Tom and Page Prewitt and Sanda Cooper visited us in Ireland for a few days, staying with Marian. They shared further with us, encouraging us to believe the truth about ourselves. In July 1993 I attended my first Summer Camp in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Marian and I continued to see each other regularly and to have daily telephone conversations. We began to open up to each other about real nitty-gritty issues. This took courage at first, but we soon experienced the benefits. We were also encouraging each other to believe that, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). We knew that Christ in us could handle any situation-however difficult it felt to us.
Shortly after this we met Richard Gilsenan, and the three of us began sharing together and meeting weekly for Bible study and fellowship. Since July 1994 we have been attending Summer Camp in Blowing Rock each year as well as the twice yearly English conferences. (Blowing Rock has come to mean so much to us, in fact, that when Richard and I chose to marry some years later, our wedding took place in Blowing Rock at the end of Summer Camp 1996.)
We began to think it might be time for an Irish conference. We were very grateful to have had people share the truth with us–now maybe it was time to share the full gospel more widely in Ireland. God opened the way, and June 1995 was the first of our now annual Irish conferences. These conferences are opportunities to reach out to others with God’s message of "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). A number of people have attended these conferences and some have recognised the truth of what they have heard. God has provided us with a wonderful venue for our conferences-an old seminary just a few minutes from Dublin airport.
1995 was also the year when our fellowship began to grow numerically. Breda Sunderland started to attend our Bible studies late that year, and she soon came to know Jesus Christ as Saviour. It is thrilling to see the life of Christ being formed in her, and in the lives of her two children, Maria and Niall. We wait in faith to see God do a similar work in the life of her husband, Robert.
From our earliest conferences our lives began to change radically. We took hold of the fact that we are merely the containers and that Jesus Christ is the life within. In John 15:5 Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." We also learned that in order to live the abundant life which the Bible promises, we must walk in the light (1 John 1:7). As we openly shared our trials and temptations, and confessed our sins one to another, Satan’s stronghold was broken. Many deeply personal and previously secret areas of our lives were brought to the light for forgiveness and cleansing. This resulted in a new freedom and the opportunity to experience victory where before there had been defeat.
As we fellowship together and walk in the truth, many practical areas of our lives are touched. For instance, we frequently discuss our various work situations and difficulties, and as we choose to see ourselves and the situation from God’s perspective, there is a new-found confidence to believe that it really is Jesus Christ in us doing our jobs. Where before there was uncertainty and lack, we are now in our work places trusting God in a new way and seeing the results. In the early days life-long eating disorders were brought to the light–and what joy to walk in health and sanity where previously there had been struggle, failure and condemnation.
Unhealthy family ties have been, and continue to be, exposed as holding us back from being free to be fully God’s people. As the are dealt with, we become free to love our families in a way that was truly for their benefit since now it was Jesus Christ loving them through us, rather than our old unhealthy hook-up.
Through the years God has continued to work in and through us. As we meet together, both in our small local fellowship and at larger conferences, He is constantly working towards His goal of "presenting every man perfect in Christ" (Col.1:28). We see more and more that God’s calling is a high one and knowing it is Jesus Christ living through us carries with it tremendous responsibility as well as tremendous blessing. Recently, God has been rooting out areas of sin in my life–He wants clean, clear vessels through whom He can manifest Himself. Hebrews 12:11 tells us, "No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening-it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way." I am grateful to God that, through His body, He continues to hone and shape me into the living stone that fits perfectly into His spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5). His word tells us, "You must be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16), and He is continuing that process in each of our lives.
No history of the Irish fellowship would be complete without mentioning the fact that Norman Grubb was half Irish! His father came from Cahir in County Tipperary, and later moved to England, where Norman grew up. Norman eventually settled in America. The circle has now been completed. The truth Norman first shared in America was later brought to England and then back to Ireland.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 15 No 2
- The Deep Things of God
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- In His Completeness
- Straight with God by 30
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- Full Assurance of Faith
- The Age of Miracles Past?
- Questions & Answers
- Letter to a Friend
- A Look at a Book
- The Mailbox
- Zerubbabel Focus: Total Living Center
- Faith Action
- The Faith Process
- To Think About
- Bible Study: Philemon
- Living Water: British Easter Conference Spring 1999
- Tape Talk
- Area Fellowship News: History of the Irish Fellowship
- The Real Problem: Satan’s Lie
- Words to Live By…