Black Santa's Diary
Yesterday was one of the mildest and most pleasant days I have experienced as Black Santa. The cloud was high, the air still and smiles were on people's faces as they walked up and down Donegall Street, going about their business.
Ours was to receive money on behalf of charity and play our part in the life of the community that seeks to support those in need, from the newest arrivals from Syria to the most elderly in our society; those who have spent a lifetime in this city and experienced its many changes.
Let me give you a flavour of the scene. We lift out the barrel and some wooden boards that keep our feet off the pavement; there is a table for cups, leaflets and phones; a sandwich board announces that the sit-out has begun. All very traditional - and this has been part of a Belfast Christmas for nearly 40 years.
Cars stop and people call over; walkers drop in a coin, or a note, with a 'Happy Christmas'. The media were fascinated by our new gadget - a card reader - so we can take donations from debit and credit cards. So, the tradition moves on.
It is always lovely to see friends old and new. We sometimes talk about 'the cathedral community' as if it is just those who attend services week by week, but I like to think of a community in a much broader sense of embracing everyone who is sharing in an endeavour together at one time.
So, our cathedral community yesterday included Hazelwood Integrated College, which held its carol service with us, many who donated at the barrel to Black Santa and all who spent even the briefest of moments with us.
You were part of our life yesterday - and others will be today.
- The Very Rev John Mann is Dean of Belfast