Brendan McManus SJ and Jim Deeds, with the help of Presbyterian Minister Reverend Steve Stockman, launched their book Deeper into the mess: Praying through tough times in Belfast’s Fitzroy Presbyterian Church on 19 May 2019. The event, which featured faith sharing and live music, attracted a packed audience consisting of people across all denominations and none.
The follow up to their best-selling first book, Finding God in the Mess: Meditations for Mindful Living, this collaboration was based on a Facebook survey of what people reported were the ‘messes’ in their lives. Accordingly the book offers practical meditations for dealing with depression, anger, suicide, breakdown etc., as well as celebrating hope and optimism. Loosely based around the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola, each chapter has a quote from the saint and an imaginary ‘conversation with God’ which voices doubts and fears as a two way conversation.
Fitzroy Presbyterian Church was the ideal venue for a book based in Belfast that sought to reach people of all denominations united in their human solidarity and desire to find God.
Hosted by Rev Steve Stockman, the evening comprised live interviews with Brendan and Jim about their faith journeys, friendship and writing method. This was interspersed with music from Jim and Brendan aided by the Christian singer Beki Hemmingway. Midway through was a dramatised ‘conversation with God’ from the book (played by Sharon Arnold from Fitzroy) and a meditation called ‘All will be well’ from the book read by Caren Collins of Living Church. Finally, Donal Neary SJ, editor of Messenger Publications (the book’s publisher) spoke a few words of encouragement. The hospitality was provided by the Fitzroy team and over 120 people attended.
While there was a casual tone to the evening, there was no mistaking the Christian commitment to prayer, faith and helping those in need. One attendee remarked that everyone there was having a good time, praying, singing and chatting together and that no one knew or cared what tradition (if any) people came from. Caring about each other and especially those in trouble was enough.
What was very evident was that the book was the result of Brendan and Jim’s close friendship, shared faith and complimentary style of writing and working together – they also offer a retreat/workshop around Ireland.
Jim and Brendan were deeply grateful to Steve Stockman and Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Donal Neary SJ and Paula Nolan of Messenger Publications, and to all who came and helped out in many different ways.