One never knows exactly what to expect when going to a new ward, how one will be received, what the building will look like, etc. What I envisioned in my mind was a small collection of Irish saints and perhaps a few ex-pats, like me, together for worship on the Sabbath.
I certainly got the collection of faithful saints, but the Irish part was surprisingly small.
To get me to church today, Bro Fuji, a native of Japan, picked me up. He already had another fellow with him, an investigator by the name of Anderson, a native of Brazil. Already my multi-cultural experience had started.
When we arrived at church, we were a few minutes late and had to dash into some empty seats toward the front. My first glance of about 75 to 100 people quickly smashed my preconceived notion of an all-Irish ward. I saw individuals and families from every conceivable walk of life and nationality.
As church progressed, hearing the speakers and instructors talk reminded me that the Gospel is true no matter where you live; no matter where you're from. I could feel the Spirit and the sincerity of the members. It was an amazing and literal fulfillment of the gathering of saints of all nations.
Luckily for me the ward was holding a social immediately following the normal block. Besides enjoying copious amounts of Irish and other international foods, I got to meet many of the ward members. Again, everyone was very nice to me, and were all very helpful and encouraging me to join their ward.
Of course, I didn't get a complete list of names or where everyone was from, but from what I remember there were individuals and families from Canada, Brazil, Nigeria, Poland, Latvia, Philippines, Japan, China, and ONE from the US, Knoxville, TN. I have had no greater witness of the global reach of the Church before today. Truly the great gathering is well underway.
And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer. 1 Nephi 10:14
The second part of day was also very good, but more in a touristy way.
My friend and soon-to-be-boss, Colm, volunteered to motor me around the northeastern quarter of Dublin. The Clontarf and Howth neighborhoods, primarily. It's a section of town where he actually lives so he's well acquainted with their features.
The primary difference of the northern part of town is it's a little more working class. There are certainly nice places, especially along the coast, but rents are more reasonable than compared to those in the elite embassy rows of Ballsbridge.
The trip took us up a hill on the peninsula of Dublin Bay, near the suburb of Howth. It was very cold, and the wind was blasting, but I managed to snap a few pics of the amazing view.
Though faint, in the distance is central Dublin and Dún Laoghaire. I hope to get back up here on a clear day, and perhaps a bit warmer than near freezing. There are tons of walking paths around the area, and you're pretty much free to wander wherever you want. As Colm explained, there's really no such thing as trespassing in Ireland. Go figure.
We circled back around Howth and through Clontarf again, taking a look at Malahide Castle, with its helipad, only used once by Margaret Thatcher in order to avoid taking excessive personal risks during the Troubles.
On they way back Colm pointed out a section of housing that had been rebuilt by Germany as part of its WW2 war reparations. Dublin was first bombed August 20th, 1940, preceding a string of bombings despite its declared neutrality in the war. It sort of dawned on me that I had never before been in a city that was actually bombed by the Nazis. It also set up an interesting conversation; could a nation actually be neutral when next door and in between warring nations? I mentioned neutrality didn't work out so well for Poland, Sweden, and Denmark, for example. Colm pointed out that neutrality actually was good for Ireland because the IRA would have likely sided with the Germans (the enemy of my enemy is my friend sort of thing). In the end, Ireland was implicitly aiding the Allied forces.
Another interesting insight: The armed conflicts of the European past also make the soccer and rugby rivalries between these nations so much more intense--In many respects they're settling old grudges on the pitch.
However, our final conclusion, and a dubious and frightening fact was this: History repeats itself.
Tomorrow, the search for permanent residence resumes.