The Dock - Sep15

Wednesday, 9 September, 2015

Chaplain Chris Bennett gives the latest news on The Dock, Belfast.

We have seen amazing growth in many ways but there's no doubt that The Tall Ships festival in Belfast in July certainly put us to the test. It was, in every way, a big event. Fifty ships, 50,000 visitors and, over four days, the Dock Café served 5,510 customers!

We've also just celebrated another milestone in that we have filled a complete Visitors' Book in Dock Café. It may not sound like much but, when we opened in 2012, we commissioned some lovely leather-bound visitors' - books though it seemed impossible that we would ever run out of space. Hundreds of pages, eight entries per page... there would never be that many customers through our doors, would there?

The first entries are back in the days when the amount of customers in an entire day might be less than we now have waiting outside when we open the door in the morning! But looking through the completed book now – it does the heart good to see the multinational, multicultural, multiplicity of people who have signed their name and home and comment on every page of the book.

The Dock - visitors' book

Page after page after page tells a story of visitors finding a welcome, wanderers finding a home, individuals finding friendship, busy people finding peace, stressed people finding space, sorrowful people finding a smile, sceptical people finding faith (or sometimes just some experience of God, or grace, or something divine that they can't quite put their finger on...)

The Dock charity is made up of a number of things: café, art gallery, museum and, of course, church – a church which continues to involve a team of dedicated volunteers and chaplains from across all church backgrounds, both Protestant and Catholic, who are committed to sharing every step of the journey of building community in this new part of Belfast.

We also have a prayer garden where people can rest and reflect, or talk to one of our Prayer Team. It's a little oasis of greenery and peace in the corner of The Dock Café and is open during Café hours; providing a space to reflect, read from our library of books, and maybe write a prayer and post it on the wall or in the prayer journal.

The Dock - tea

Our Sunday Nights at The Dock church gatherings are an opportunity to meet The Dock team, neighbours, supporters and newcomers; to worship, share new insights, celebrate good news and to pray for Belfast and each another. Taking place in The Dock Café on the first Sunday of every month from 6pm, there's plenty of time to chat, enjoy a drink of tea or coffee and receive prayer. These services do not 'belong' to any one denomination and we welcome everyone, of every tradition and background – which was the Dock vision from the very start.

Reflecting on what has happened in The Dock so far makes me realise what a tremendous journey we've been on... including Dock Walks, Titanic commemorations, opening Titanic Belfast, the formation of café itself in the early days with just a handful of volunteers and customers, and then the explosive growth of our beloved cafe/church/community home-away-from-home.

The Dock - outdoor seating

It is breath-taking to realise how much life and joy and transformation have been packed into a few short years in this wonderful place.

The Dock is an ethos, a momentum, a vision to build life in the Titanic Quarter. Under that umbrella, countless expressions of that life can grow, flourish, multiply, propagate. Some (most?) will be temporary, in the right place at the right time. But through it all, we’ll try to stay light on our feet; we’re not here to build a cathedral, an edifice or institution. We’re here to live.

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