At the end of March, REBOOT flew to Northern Ireland for the second year in a row, a visit masterminded by local boy and OCCA Fellow, Gareth Black. Over 300 young people flocked to the Assembly Buildings in the heart of Belfast and hundreds more joined via ground-breaking livestreams to Uganda and Nigeria.
Although small in size, Northern Ireland has a heart for Christian apologetics that has spread the Gospel far beyond the banks of the Lagan. It is the birthplace of three giants of apologetics in C. S. Lewis, Alister McGrath and our very own Professor John Lennox. Less than two miles from the venue, you can find the ‘Searcher’ sculpture, an arrestingly original memorial to Lewis and his imagination.
Revelation through investigation
Inscribed on the back of the sculpted wardrobe, that a 21-year-old Lewis peers into, the sculptor Ross Wilson has imprinted, “revelation through investigation”. Those words stand as a memorial to Lewis’s argument for reason and for the existence of God. They also stand, alongside the REBOOT motto of ‘No Question Off Limits’, as an encapsulation of the ethos of our own day of youth apologetics.
Also imprinted on the back of the wardrobe is Lewis’s thoughtful letter in response to questions from a 10-year-old girl called Anne. His spirit of engaging with young people and never preaching to them from on high filled the hearts of our own apologists and flowed out into the room in Belfast last Saturday.
For Gareth, as part of the next generation of Northern Irish apologists, bringing REBOOT to Belfast was beyond important. “I went to school across the street, grew up here, became a Christian while I was at school. I needed something like REBOOT in Northern Ireland, but I didn’t have it.
“I was just longing for someone to take my questions seriously and help me, both for my own spiritual growth and confidence in faith but also to help me engage with my friends in school.”
The idea of filling a gap struck a chord with one particular mum, who said that, “As a parent and youth leader, I am so thankful that my kids are hearing positive, gracious, loving truths. For myself I have been encouraged, challenged and taught many times over and cried several times.”
Solid ground beneath their feet
Gareth’s passion to fill a gap in his own Christian youth was matched by Phil Howe of the Scripture Union Northern Ireland, one of three partners that helped make REBOOT Belfast possible. “For me, REBOOT is all about creating space and time for young people to ask their big questions about God. We saw today that REBOOT really means it when it says ‘no question is off limits’.”
For John Kee, another of our three partners and director of Northern Ireland’s Summer Madness festival, “it is vital to assure young people that it’s okay to have doubts, that it’s okay to ask questions, let’s explore these big issues together and let’s get some really solid ground beneath your feet.”
For one 16-year-old, Reuben, the event did just that. He said, after the final set from Jonny Wright’s worship band, “The whole day really strikes to the heart of a lot of the issues that Christians think about on a daily basis, questions that you’re afraid to ask or that you feel like your church doesn’t want you to ask. So, for some of those taboo subjects to get hit head on with the truth of scripture was great to hear.”