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‘I can feel God on the mountain breeze in all His awesomeness’

Jim Deeds is a pastoral worker from Belfast, working with church communities across Ireland.

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Jim Deeds is a Pastoral Worker

Jim Deeds is a Pastoral Worker

Jim Deeds is a Pastoral Worker

Q. Tell me about your background

A. I was born in Belfast in 1971 and grew up on the Glen Road in west Belfast. My dad, Brendan, was a bus inspector and my mother’s name is Ann. I went to St Teresa’s Primary School and St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Grammar School, both on the Glen Road.

I was a social worker for 20 years before discerning a call to work for the church.

When I married, we settled in west Belfast. My wife, Nuala, and I enjoy being part of the diverse, friendly and interesting community here. We have three children, all adults now.

Q. How and when did you come to faith?

A. I grew up as a ‘cradle Catholic’. I got involved in my local parish when I was young, serving as an altar boy for many years and then sitting on our parish pastoral council in my middle teen years.

Q. Does this faith play a real part in your life, or is it only for Sundays?

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A. Faith is something that is supported by attendance at Mass, but not something limited to just Sundays. I get great strength from the eucharist. It helps me go out and face into the week ahead. That said, I find that I need a period of prayer every day and when I am too rushed for this to happen, I find myself off balance.

Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith or a gnawing doubt about your faith?

A. I have gone through periods in my life, particularly in my 20s, when faith was not relevant to me. I stopped going to Mass and I didn’t pray that much, but I came back to a sense of faith as I grew older.

Q. Have you ever been angry with God, and if so, why?

A. I get angry and sad when I see people get hurt or get maltreated.

Sometimes this emotional response flows over into my relationship with God. I think God can take it though!

Q. Do you ever get criticised for your faith, and are you able to live with that criticism?

A. Rarely. I come into contact with lots of people, obviously, who do not share my perspectives. Some of these people hold very different views from mine. However, for the most part, we’re able to agree to disagree.

Q. Have you ever been ashamed of your own church or denomination?

A. The legacy of child abuse within the Catholic Church is a source of shame for me. Thank God we have good safeguarding procedures in place now.

Q. Are you afraid to die, or can you look beyond death?

A. Both. Maybe I am a bad Christian, but I do hold some fear about death and, more so, about dying. I also feel assured that this life is not all that there is and that after death I will enter into something bigger, which will be beyond this life.

Q. Are you afraid of hell-fire?

A Absolutely not. I am much more convinced of the mercy of God, and His willingness to love even the worst among us, than to be worried about hell.

Q. Do you believe in a resurrection, and if so, what will it be like?

A. I am convinced of the reality of resurrection. What it will actually be like is a great question. I believe that it will be beyond anything I can capture in words, but that it will be a unifying of my own existence with all existence in God.

Q. What do you think about people of other denominations and other faiths?

A. I recognise our differing traditions, but I refuse to allow these to be a barrier to relationship. I see it as a duty to go beyond the comfort of my own faith tradition.

Q. Would you be comfortable in stepping out from your own faith and trying to learn something from other people?

A. Having had the opportunity to do this very thing, I have grown in faith and learned so much from people of other Christian traditions. I recommend it highly.

Q. Do you think that the churches here are fulfilling their mission?

A. I believe that the people are the church, and so I am drawn to ask myself, am I fulfilling my mission? If we all ask this, and act on it, the churches will indeed be fulfilling their mission.

Q. Why are so many people turning their backs on organised religion?

A. Rather than dwell too long in wondering why, I would like us to really concentrate on reaching out to all people and to provide a genuine welcome, good liturgy, relevant preaching, consoling music and a message of love.

Q. Has religion helped or hindered the people of Northern Ireland?

A. Most religious people and most church communities want nothing but good for their fellow citizens. That’s not to say that there isn’t work to do to ensure that happens.

Q. Some personal preferences: favourite film, book, music and why?

A. I love the film Jaws. It evokes childhood memories of watching it with good friends.

My favourite book is usually the best one I am reading at present, and so my current favourite is Fierce Landscapes by Belden C Lane. I am a big fan of blues music, specifically blues guitar music. Currently, I listen to a lot of Joe Bonamassa.

Q. The place where you feel closest to God?

A. I love the wildness and solitude of a mountain walk. I can feel God on the mountain breeze in all His awesomeness.

Q. The inscription on your gravestone, if any?

A. Just my name, so my family can find me and come and talk to me.

Q. Finally, any major regrets?

A There are so many times in my life when I have made mistakes. I have regrets about times when I have hurt or offended people or not shown love in the way I should have done. In terms of life direction and career, I have had a great run so far, and I have no regrets about any of that.


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