Giro shows we can break this stale cycle of politics
Before we allow the Giro d'Italia to wheel away from us and to become only a happy memory, it is important to savour the goodwill it generated, and to ask how this might be encouraged to remain.
People become blase about big events, in the age of television when so much is brought to our screens and then quickly fades away.
However, the Giro d'Italia provided an extraordinary weekend for everyone here. People from every denomination and background joined to greet this exotic caravanserai on wheels, and even the churches – not noted for their support of Sunday sport – joined in.
The Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches in Armagh changed the times of their services, to allow their flocks to watch the Giro.
The First Armagh Presbyterian Church no doubt agrees with the Biblical teaching that man does not live by bread alone, but nevertheless they served pink bacon butties to race supporters last Sunday, thus showing that food itself is also important.
It is also interesting to point out, in this column at least, that the Church of Ireland, which held its law-making General Synod in Armagh last week, agreed on the interchangability of church ministry between the Anglicans and the Methodists in Ireland.
This may well have a long-term impact on ecumenism, as the Church of Ireland Gazette has claimed, but in terms of headlines this historic development could not compete with something as exciting as the Giro d'Italia in Northern Ireland – even if some non-Protestants in Rome might be keeping an eye on ecclesiastical developments here.
At some stages, the big race last week could have been called the Giro d'PSNI, because of the number of motor-cycle outriders, but the police did themselves and us a great favour by the unfussy way in which they handled the huge crowds at the event.
This week, unfortunately, we had to turn back to business and to look with gritted teeth towards the elections on May 22. In his Synod speech, the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, talked about the paralysis of politics here, and asked pointedly if the politicians were just going to offer more of the same, with the implied challenge that they could do better.
It is hard to escape the barrage of election posters on every lamp-post, and the comical election broadcasts where each party tries to persuade us to vote for it – even if everyone has his or her mind made up already.
Today, I noticed one particularly bad poster, with a dreadful mug-shot of the candidate, and the old slogan 'Vote for Change'.
Yet, change is needed badly. On the one hand, we have shown that we are a people who can stage and enthusiastically support a world-class event with huge international coverage, and that we are a warm friendly people who live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
On the other hand, we are a people who time and again elect politicians who specialise in being bloody-minded to one another, and who have shown little or no capacity for bringing about the changes which we all so badly need.
That is something which should worry not only our struggling and mostly uninspiring politicians and our relatively quiescent churches in Northern Ireland, but all of us. We are champions at welcoming the world to our shores, but chumps at learning to live permanently in peace.
Join charity event to raise thousands
The Belfast One World Run – which aims at helping charities like Oxfam, Christian Aid, Concern and Trocaire – is taking place at the Ozone Complex Belfast at the Ormeau Road tomorrow.
Registration is still available from 1-3pm. In the past 27 years this sponsorship, formerly called the Third World Run, has raised £174,000 for the developing world, which is all good money for good causes.
Lecture discusses 'blessed' status
A Christian Science lecture is being held tomorrow afternoon at the Queen's Leisure Complex in Holywood, starting at 3pm.
The title of the talk is Your Status Is 'Blessed' and the speaker is Lindsey Taylor from Gloucester.
Lindsey is a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship and she currently speaks to audiences worldwide.
A question of faith with Diane Holt
Your idea of Heaven?
When I think of Heaven I think of a place where people will feel fulfilled, whole and flourish in all that they do on a daily basis. There will definitely be lots of laughter.
Eternity, would it not be boring?
I doubt if our concept of time will be the same. I think a fulfilled life where you flourish can never be boring.
Could God be a woman?
I don't think God is either a man or a woman or can be boxed in any shape or form.
Your finest moment of spiritual enlightenment?
I think it was when the message of Jesus to Martha really sank in. I began to realise the importance of just 'being' with people, spending time with them, understanding their hopes and also their pain. So much of life now is virtual and busy that we have lost the heart of the gospel message which is about our relationship with each other as well as our relationship with God.
The person alive today you most admire and why?
A friend who is a single mum and does an amazing job with her daughter, manages a part-time job, volunteers in her local community and church to live out her Christian faith in practical ways.
If you had just one question to ask God face to face, what would it be?
"So – are all sins equal?"The Bible teaches that all sin is sin – but we tend to grade it.
Your favourite book/music/film?
Toy Story 3 stands out. I have eclectic musical tastes as I lead a community choir and sing different styles. My son told me to read The Hunger Games and I read the trilogy.