A Testimonial by Susan Kirwan

I wish to thank Pastors Solomon and Patricia for affording me this opportunity to deliver my testimony on the eve of my 60th birthday and to mark my first year as a member of this Church.

Last Sunday Solomon outlined four basic needs of human beings…. Acceptance, Security, Identity and Purpose.  I have to say as a child of the 50’s born in North East County Galway none of those needs were met in my young life.  To illustrate this I have picked out a few examples which demonstrates the culture of hardship and often cruelty which prevailed in 50’s Ireland.  I only do so to give the backdrop to what formed me as the person I am today and the influences which affected me and do not wish to criticise any individual in any way by doing so.  I have made my peace with the fact that I lived in a society which often lacked enlightenment and empathy.

I started school at the age of 4 and each child had to carry turf to school for heating purposes – so I would leave home to walk the two miles complete with school bag on my back and turf in each hand. I was 4.  Quite often I would arrive late and if it was raining the turf would be wet and my elderly teacher would chastise me and if she was having a particularly  bad day she would slap me on both my hands for turning up with wet turf. I do remember feeling a strong sense of injustice at my treatment but dare not share it with anybody as I was only 4.

On my way home from school I passed a local landmark which was called ‘Tinker’s Hill’ and that was where the tinkers of the day (the travelling people of the time, so called because they worked with tin) would set up camp for weeks at a time. I recall passing one day and saw a doll lying outside which I stole and brought home.  I knew I had the capacity to love within me but love wasn’t encouraged.  I desperately wanted something to love – so I took the doll home, washed her and gave her a name.  I had big plans for us both and the fact that she had only one leg and hair like straw mattered little to me.  However, I was found out and the following day I had to make the walk of shame and return the doll to the camp where the tinker woman told me I was very bold to have done what I did and I agreed with her in my 6 year old head.

I was taken to church each Sunday and would be told to sit up straight, join my hands, say my prayers and not to fidget.  The priest was always distant and unapproachable as he reminded us constantly how we were sinners and I soon learned the many shades of sin …venial sins, mortal sins, sins of the flesh and the 7 deadly sins. There was always a big emphasis on pomp and ritual and repetition.  I would describe my introduction to Christianity as colourless – a faith practiced out of a sense of duty, fear and unworthiness. As a Christian, as with children of that time, we were meant to be seen but never heard.

Fast forward to last year and my arrival into  Christian Community Church Arklow courtesy of promptings from Margaret Egan and the Holy Spirit (in that order!) where I was met with a warm welcome.  Over the year I have heard Solomon tell me ‘I am the apple of God’s eye’ … ‘I am set apart’ … ‘I am righteous’… ‘My name is written in the book of Life’ …’I am the light of the world’ …’I am beautifully and wonderfully made’ …’I am excellence personified’.  These words, these truths, were like balm to my soul and my spirit and offered me a new and dynamic relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  While I grew up with a strong sense of my own unimportance from society at the time, this church has restored my esteem and handed me back a sense of my own importance.  I feel like all my life I have been dancing to the sound of silence.  Solomon, Patricia and this church have added music to my dance – and not any old music but an entire orchestra! I have been transported from the shadows into the light – from confusion to certainty and to a safe place where I can now claim my Acceptance and Security, my Identity and Purpose.

I wish to end by thanking God the Father for what He has revealed to me over the past year and by calling down blessings on Pastors Solomon and Patricia and our church giving us power that is endless, strength that is staggering and possibilities that are limitless in Jesus holy and precious name.  Amen.