RevMel’s SOMA Mission to Northern Ireland

What can I say? The opportunity to serve on team at the Northern Ireland International SOMA Mission was truly inspiring and encouraging.

It is now time to recount some of the highlights:

What is SOMA and how does it contribute to the worldwide Anglican Communion?

SOMA stands for Sharing of Ministries Abroad and was established around 1978.  During an Anglican international conference on spiritual renewal in 1978, a prophetic word given in Canterbury Cathedral formed the basis of Sharing of Ministries Abroad.

SOMA was formed to encourage, envision, empower, enable and equip the Anglican church, throughout the entire worldwide Anglican communion.  Interestingly, at our orientation day, Bishop David McClay added “evangelising” into the mix.  Some years ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called SOMA “the nervous system of the body of Christ as it functions to connect us to the world and break down barriers.”  And this is done with a strong emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit, and through using this Spiritual gifts.

The Mission Orientation day started on 1st June with 59 Anglican team members from a diverse range of nations gathering for praise, worship, Holy Communion and Commissioning.  Bishop David McClay commissioned us before embarking on uplifting and encouraging about 30 parishes in Northern Ireland who had indicated their desire for a SOMA team to visit.

Which parishes did you visit?

I was allocated to visit three parishes over the two and a half week period.

LRathfriland –  The first parish was Drumgath and Drumgooland
at Rathfriland, ( drumgath-st-john-rathfriland) a rural parish with two congregations meeting in two separate church buildings.  Together with Jen, another female team member from Scotland, I stayed with Allan and Catherine, who opened their home and even lending me some of their daughter’s clothes when my baggage failed to arrive.

Our team at Rathfriland was headed up by Rev Henry Blaire, the Team leader for the entire SOMA mission in Northern Ireland.  Although currently the minister of Parish of Clogher in Northern Ireland, Henry is hoping to step into leading SOMA fulltime, raising awareness about SOMA throughout the region.  Another team member was Joshua from Kenya.

We had many ministry opportunities at Rathfriland and worked closely with Rev Ian Linton and his wife.  Ministry ranged from leading a Praise and Worship evening for those who wanted to experience the Spirit of God in a fresh way, breakfast with the teens of the parish, and I was allocated to preach at both services on Sunday.  We finished our time with Rathfriland by gathering with all the parishioners for a huge BBQ at the Rectory, complete with a wedding sized markee and jumping castle for the kids.

After Rathfriland, all the team headed to the parish of Kilkeel.

Kilkeel – Kilkeel was a vibrant parish with extensive facilities and a strong heritage of moving in the Spirit. (  Having been pastored by Bishop David for 15 years, this Anglican community were well taught and welcoming to receive more teaching on moving in the gifts of the Spirit and ministering in the Spirit during their services and outreach events.

The parish is now led by Reverend Canon Alison Calvin, a Spirit-filled woman with extensive pastoral experience.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon and met our new team members: Kevin Roberts who was a newly retired archdeacon from England, and Michelle, the wife of an Anglican minister from Fort Worth, Texas.

Immediately we began to get to know each other and then started planning how we would be involved in the parish’s evening “Encounter” service. This monthly service was designed to welcome people who wanted to experience a fresh encounter of God.  Joshua, our team member from Kenya, preached on moving in faith, and Jen from Scotland shared her testimony about struggling with insecurity and striving.  Remarkably, although Jen doubted the content of her testimony, she discovered there was a girl present, who hadn’t originally planned to attend the service, who was greatly touched by what she said.   Many others were open receive prayer ministry, the anointing with oil, and others received words of knowledge and prophecy during the ministry time.

On Monday evening the team lead a Spiritual Gifts exploration evening, and many were activated to move in new areas not only within the church community but also using these gifts in the marketplace when combined with evangelism.

As the week continued the team was involved in all kinds of ministry including door-to-door evangelism, chatting with people in the town square at a coffee and cake morning, and finished with a “pudding and praise” evening for people from the community to drop in to experience the newly built annex.

One experience that really moved me was when Rev Ally had invited members of the Kilkeel parish to participate in door-to-door evangelism either in the afternoon or in the evening.  This meant that three different groups of people were going out, in pairs, to visit their neighbours surrounding the church.

What I found incredibly encouraging was that more than 15 people turned up (some more than once) to embark on this adventure, even though many were extremely nervous about undertaking this new style of evangelism.

It didn’t matter where we went, we were usually accompanied by David, a warden in the church who was also a very powerful evangelist.  David took us on a drive up to the mountains overlooking Kilkeel and we prayed over the region.

It was wonderful to discover that Jen and I were to stay with Rev Alison, who preferred being called “Ally”, in the Rectory.  This opened the space for lots of chats about church leadership, especially in the realm of moving in the Spirit.  The Diocese of Down and Dromore are considerably further along in confidence in moving in the Spirit, demonstrated by the fact that at last year’s Synod there was a public message given in tongues, with Rev Ally providing the interpretation!

As we finished our time at Kilkeel, we farewelled each other as our next parishes involved working with new team members from other nations.

Seagoe – On Friday morning I was driven to my new location, arriving at the parish of Seagoe (  We were introduced to the Associate Minister, Stuart Moles and church planting pastor, Jim Fleming.  We also met our new SOMA team members: Justin, who although having been raised by Japanese missionaries, was now ministering as worship leader in Kings Church, London. 

Also, arriving the same day was Princy, who was the daughter of Archbishop Abraham, a pioneering missionary who founded Hope India Mission ( in North India.

Princy and I were welcomed into the home of Beth and Jim, who were wardens of the parish in Seagoe, who lived a convenient 5 minutes from the church.

As the Rector, Rev. Canon Terence Cadden had a wedding to attend on the day of our arrival, we spent the afternoon with Jim, the pioneering church planter who had bought a townhouse on ‘G Street’ in Killicamaine, a low socio-economic area of Seagoe.  We spent the afternoon with Jim, talking about how we could assist him, and went to pray with Anna, a drug addict who attended his newly formed Community Church.

The next day our first gathering was to meet with Rev. Terence and his wife Alison, and other members of the Seagoe parish who were interested in mission.  This meeting was an important occasion and we gathered to pray in the church for these church leaders later that afternoon.

Being so close to Sunday, I was scheduled to preach at both services in Seagoe, the traditional Holy Communion service and the more contemporary family service.  Being a gifted prophetic worship leader, Justin lead worship and praise in both services, which paved the way for prayer ministry to occur in both services.

On Sunday afternoon we meet with the rest of the church family for a picnic.  It was here that we were joined by Bishop Praises from Nigeria.

In the afternoon the team attended the evening service held at St Patrick’s Hall, while I went to lead the Bible Study in the Community Church plant which met in another hall in a different location.

As our time drew to a close, we said our farewells, some moving onto new locations, while others, including myself, headed home.

And then the long-haul journey home began!  What began as a 23-hour trip home from Belfast to Sydney – turned into a four day journey due to a rain storm blowing across Heathrow, grounding every plane for an hour.  Finally, on Thursday, 15th June I arrived home – unfortunately my plane had left my bag back in Singapore, and it took four days to get to my home on Monday, 19th.

Reflections on how the SOMA Mission will impact my ministry at Southlakes

The mission was indeed a whirlwind of activities, events and ministry opportunities. Nevertheless, it was an inspiring and uplifting time.  The opportunity to hear and experience how the Spirit of God is moving throughout the worldwide Anglican communion was both refreshing and energising.  Also receiving and sharing the ministries from Anglicans in different parts of the world gave me opportunity to see how diverse Anglicanism is, and how open the worldwide Anglican communion is to the moving and revival of the Spirit of God.  Come Holy Spirit Come!