Good Samaritans Service at Belfast Cathedral

The annual Good Samaritans Service at Belfast Cathedral took place on Sunday 4th March 2018.

Grants totalling more than £126,000 were presented to representatives of 212 charities from across Northern Ireland at the service.
The funds were raised by the 41st annual Black Santa Sit-out last December. The cheques were handed out with a smile and an encouraging word by special guest, actor and comedian Tim McGarry. His unique humour raised a few smiles during this very happy service.

Good Samaritans Service at Belfast Cathedral
At the Good Samaritans Service at Belfast Cathedral are, back row from left: Lesley Hammond, Fishermans’ Mission; Grace Koch, SOS Bus; and Ingrid Perry, Fishermans’ Mission. Front, from left: Actor and Comedian Tim McGarry, who was special guest at the service; Penny Stanley, Assistance Dogs NI with Gracie; and the Dean of Belfast, the Ven Stephen Forde.

Special guest Tim McGarry presented cheques to many local charity’s representatives at the Good Samaritans Service at Belfast Cathedral.

Tim distributed grants ranging from £300 to £550, with a donation of £20,000 to Christian Aid for projects overseas. A member of the Hole in the Wall Gang, Tim is a familiar face on our television screens. A former lawyer, he is an experienced actor, writer, stand-up comedian and broadcaster. He has worked extensively on TV, radio and stage. He plays Da in the popular sitcom Give My Head Peace. Tim was also the host on the Radio Ulster and BBC NI television comedy panel show, The Blame Game.

Tim said the gathering of charities and community organisations, and the great public support for the annual Black Santa Sit-out, were ‘testament to the spirit of the people of Northern Ireland.’ He revealed that that he remembers Belfast’s original Black Santa, Dean Sammy Crooks. Tim said he and his sons visit St Anne’s Cathedral every Christmas Eve to make a donation to the appeal. “It is one of those things that makes Belfast great,” he said.

Dean Forde welcomed everyone to the special service.

Welcoming everyone at the start of the service, Dean Forde paid tribute to all the charities represented. “In so many ways each of you acts as a Good Samaritan in your own context. You care for those who are hurt or in need. You provide guidance and the blessing of your presence. We give thanks for to you for giving your time, your talents and your expertise to help those in need.”
Worship was led by the Cathedral Choir under Master of the Choristers David Stephens with Assistant Organist Dr Ed Jones at the organ. A particularly poignant item was the choir’s singing of the 23rd Psalm, set to music by Howard Goodall, This was in appreciation of the life and talent of Emma Chambers who played Alice Tinker in the BBC programme The Vicar of Dibley. She passed away on 21st February.

The 41st Black Santa Sit-out.

The 41st Black Santa Sit-out took place on the steps of St Anne’s from 18th – 23rd December. It was unique in the history of this charitable tradition as for the first time there was no Dean in place at Christmas.
But Dean Forde, who was installed in the Cathedral on 4th February, helped to launch the 2017 Sit-out. He spent several hours on the steps as ‘Black Santa in training!’ He had his L plates with him at the Good Samaritans Service to remind people he was ‘still learning the ropes!
Dean Forde said:

“We expected giving to be down a little as there was no single ‘Black Santa.’ But with the help of our Bishops, the Cathedral Chapter, our Ecumenical, Lay and Minor Canons and our own clergy, a team of Black Santas had a constant presence on the steps of St Anne’s. We are very grateful for the support of individuals, groups and businesses who pledged funds both on the steps and through postal or online giving.”

You can find out more about what’s happening at Belfast Cathedral on their website here.