‘Brushes with the divine give strength to do the hard work of faith’ – Black Santa Service Dublin
More than €80,000 was shared among local charities when the proceeds of the bumper 2022 Dublin Black Santa Appeal were distributed yesterday (Sunday February 19) at St Ann’s Church, Dawson Street. Representatives of the charities who benefit from the appeal gathered for a special service of Choral Mattins where prayers of gratitude for the generosity of people who donated were offered.
In all €80,826.28 was collected in the sit out during the days before Christmas. This is the largest amount ever collected in the 21 year history of the Dublin appeal and every cent donated has gone directly to the charities which include the Salvation Army, the Simon Community, Alice Leahy Trust, Peter McVerry Trust, Protestant Aid, St Vincent de Paul, the Samaritans, and Barnardo’s among others.
Opening the service, the Vicar of St Ann’s, Canon Paul Arbuthnot, noted that they gathered to give thanks for the gift of charity and for the work of those charities represented in the church. He gave thanks for the astonishing generosity of those passing the church who donated and for the corporate doners. He prayed for those in Dublin and worldwide who found themselves in need.
The preacher was the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, the Very Revd William Morton, who, with his wife, joined the Vicar to collect during the sit out. He described the 2022 Black Santa Appeal as a magnificent success and commended the Vicar and the team at St Ann’s for their commitment to the annual sit out.
Dean Morton noted that St Ann’s Church was in an ideal location in close proximity to the life and culture of Dublin’s city centre with many people passing the church every day. He said it’s lifeblood was Anglican worship but he said he was struck by the way that those who served in the church, lay and ordained, responded to moments of divine inspiration and by their actions sought to be God’s agents in what they achieved in this important setting.
Both readings [Exodus 24: 12–end and Matthew 17: 1–9], he said, referred to brushes with the divine. “The success of the Black Santa Sit Out lies in the fact that in the first instance there were those who served God here in years gone by who caught those glimpses and the potential of the divine moment, whose hearts were touched by God and whose plans and designs were changed and for the advancement of God’s people were transfigured. We encounter God in many ways – in the worship, in how thankful we are for the magnificent standard of the worship here … We encounter God also in Holy Scripture, in prayer, in word and sacrament. We experience God too in the plight of others and in the ravages of war,” he said.
Dean Morton added that those “mountain top” brushes with the divine give strength to go back down the mountain and do the hard work of faith. “Our faith is constantly challenging us, stretching us, calling us. Christ tells us to pick up our crosses and follow him as he goes to his own cross. We are called to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us. We are commanded to do justice, to feed the hungry and to care for the most vulnerable. And none of this is easy. And we are asked to do it with only glimpses of the God we believe in. That is why our response to those in need is vital in the extreme. And so we celebrate and thank God for this wonderful church, the Vicar and Select Vestry and all of you who serve in this church as you carry out work in God’s name,” he said.
Speaking after the service on behalf of the charities which benefited, Bryan Dobson, expressed their collective gratitude to the community of St Ann’s for the Black Santa Appeal. He commended the hard work and dedication of the collectors and the generosity of the doners and corporate doners. “Black Santa has proven to be very resilient. The Luas works couldn’t do for him and Covid couldn’t do for him. Although he is a Black Santa, he is a beacon of light in the city centre in the days before Christmas. When everybody is rushing about in the hustle and bustle of the busy season, here is someone who reminds us that in this city prosperity and wealth are side by side so often with deprivation and need. And the Black Santa, as well as raising really important funds, is also a reminder of the needs of many in this city and this community,” he said.