Care and growth at The Mustard Seed
The Archdeacon of Raphoe, David Huss, is Rector of Donegal, Killymard, Lough Eske and Laghey. Here, he shares his thoughts on the development of The Mustard Seed, a community centre for Christian care and outreach run by the Church of Ireland parish in Donegal Town.
What is your vision for the Mustard Seed?
The Mustard Seed is a place for community building and Christian outreach, a way to take the gospel out of the church building and into the community. It consists of a tea room, prayer space, office and small bookshop. The tea room has no pressure and no prices: you can stay as long as you like and pay whatever you want. It is open to everyone.
Where does the inspiration for the centre come from?
Back in 2016, Derry and Raphoe had a ‘Year of Opportunity’ where we focused, among other things, on mission. As we planned for that year, it turned out that several of us had been having similar thoughts about having a ‘shopfront’ in town, a place where we could welcome and serve the whole community. The name ‘The Mustard Seed’ comes from Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13 where the kingdom of heaven is compared to a tiny seed which grows and grows.
How did the idea grow over time?
We got together a team who were committed to the project, prayed, and found a suitable building to use. The next step was to bring the whole church family on board by sharing the vision. In those early days, we had no funding except what the Lord led people to give – it was an exciting time of living by faith! Later, we were blessed with a grant from the Church of Ireland Priorities Fund. The Mustard Seed was launched in 2017 and later that year we appointed a parish outreach worker who works alongside the administrator and assistant in delivering the project. There is a great team of volunteers who run the tea room day–to–day.
How has it encouraged parishioners and how has it served others?
One of the unexpected blessings has been how the team of volunteers (who come from a variety of different churches) have benefitted from helping out at the Mustard Seed. In some cases, it has given them a whole new purpose and direction in life. It has also been good for our parishes to see how we can serve and bless the community. The Church of Ireland is a small minority in this part of the world and we benefit from the practical and financial help of the wider community. The Mustard Seed has enabled us to give something back, as well as allowing us to make contact with far more people and to share our faith through things like the Alpha Course.
What are some of the particular needs and challenges in Donegal?
As with any rural area, there is a lot of loneliness and isolation. The Mustard Seed enables people to meet together and find common interests and fellowship. It also provides a base for groups like Gamblers Anonymous who do great work. Above all, there is the spiritual need to have a relationship with Jesus. The Mustard Seed enables us in a gentle way to serve this need. There is no pressure – many enjoy simply coming and drinking tea. But for those who wish to delve deeper and maybe join one of our groups or courses, that opportunity is there.
How have you found serving in the area?
Donegal is a brilliant place in which to live and to serve. There is such openness and friendliness across the whole community, and people are very warm. It is a joy to sit down at our regular Friday prayer times with people from all churches and backgrounds, seeking the Lord’s blessing upon our community.
What would you say to other parishes considering a similar form of outreach?
Every parish is different and will need to take its own path. But we have definitely found that when you begin to be more outward looking and to take the gospel outside the church building, exciting things happen. There will be some bumps in the road, some indifference and even some opposition – but keep going, stick to the vision you have been given, and above all keep on loving one another and the Lord! And pray, pray, pray.
You can find out more about the centre’s ongoing work on its Facebook page here.