Families gather at the Braid Chapel for Family ‘Funanza’!
Half way between Ballymena and Carnlough, the Parish Church of the Braid is nestled beside the Braid River. It’s more regularly associated with farms and sheep, but on Sunday 18 June the whole Parish site was transformed for the third annual ‘Family Funanza’.
The fun day was organised by Koinonia John the Baptist, a community in the Catholic Church made up of both Consecrated (Religious) Brothers and Sisters, and lay members. Koinonia John the Baptist have had a permanent community based in the Braid for nine years. Their presence there has revitalised the site, most recently transforming the old primary school into a Pastoral Centre and coffee bar.
One parishioner of the Braid said:
“Koinonia has saved our small Parish community, and brings such joy and faithfulness to everything that they do”.
Koinonia’s primary ministry is sharing the Gospel, supporting parishes and communities in reaching out to people who are questioning or have no faith. They do this with creativity and by building relationships. A Parish that was facing closure is now a hub for young people, peace and reconciliation, adults experiencing loneliness and families, through events like Sunday’s Family Funanza.
For a while, the weather forecast didn’t look promising. However, the Braid Valley avoided the thunderstorms and all that was heard at Saint Patrick’s was fun and laughter from children and families who came both from local parishes, different churches, and from Belfast.
There were family team challenges, outdoor games, inflatables, an escape room, treasure hunt, a toddler zone and archery. A new coffee bar, fitted with a coffee shop style barista meant there was something for all the family to enjoy!
Speaking during the event, Mary, a local parent said:
“I’ve never seen anything like this in our rural parish. My grandchildren spend their time on their video games and today has really brought them out of their shell. Today has been amazing!”
Sr. Christine Sawey is the community pastor. She commented:
“The only thing better than the beauty of Slemish and the Braid Valley, is when it’s filled with families having fun and children laughing. We are so grateful to the Parish of Glenravel and the Braid for providing us freedom to host this festival of family life”.
The day was spearheaded by Br Francesco Lacuitto, an Italian brother based here for almost five years. He thanked the many volunteers that made the day possible.
“We had volunteers from 16 years old to 82 years old. Never believe that you’re too young or too old to get involved in family and children’s ministry!”
He particularly wanted to thank Mid and East Antrim Council for part-funding the day, through their community events grant,“without their support we simply couldn’t have arranged the day”. He also thanked Tesco Ballymena for their kind donation to the snack bar.
Koinonia John the Baptist have a busy summer ahead. They’ll be leading a cross community group at Summer Madness Youth Festival at Portglenone Abbey at the beginning of July, along with St Patrick’s Church of Ireland (Broughshane) and Ballymena Methodist Church. They then are taking a group on pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, before participating in the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in Lisbon in August.
All organised on the normally quiet slopes of Slemish in the Parish of the Braid.