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Black Santa's Diary: Bad weather but every pound raised is a pound for shelter and hope

Rev Stephen Forde
Rev Stephen Forde

By Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast

When the weather forecast posts a warning, Black Santa begins to worry. Heavy rain and strong winds were predicted for Belfast and Donegall Street, and today the forecast was right!

But before every storm, there is a calm. The morning broke grey, but Black Santa was joined by the soon- to-retire Bishop of Connor and the rector of Bangor Abbey.

They had enjoyed a hearty breakfast before taking their place on the cathedral steps.

The Bishop of Connor always counts his stint with Black Santa as a highlight in his preparation for Christmas.

As he serves his final weeks as Bishop, and with positive news from his doctors, the Bishop was warmly greeted by many who passed by.

Never the less, his thoughts and ours were with the striking nurses and health workers whose demand is for a health service in our province which is properly funded, resourced and managed by locally accountable politicians.

As so often happens, those giving to Black Santa share a range of experiences. From an Australian couple visiting Northern Ireland for a family wedding to a former international rugby player with memories of Black Santas past, to a mother and daughter home for Christmas and off to make the best of the festive shopping. Each has a gift to make. Each wants to make a difference for good.

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But as the afternoon drew in, and the rain began to fall incessantly, the reality of outdoor living in December became more focused.

Those black cloaks and woolly hats absorb a lot of rain, but once your boots let in the water, and the rain runs down your neck, you realise that for those who are homeless, and those alone walking the streets, every pound raised by Black Santa and his helpers is a pound for warmth and shelter and hope.

This is why Black Santa matters in today's dark world.

Belfast Telegraph

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