warm welcome at Shalom House
Shalom House in Cliftonville Road is a
well-known landmark in north Belfast, and since the early nineties the
house has certainly lived up to the name "Shalom" as a place of
peace and welcome for all.
Shalom House is run by the Lamb of God
Community, a 30-strong Christian interdenominational group who began
meeting for prayers 30 years ago in St James Church - across the road
from the present Shalom House.
The Lamb of Community were united through
their shared spirituality but also through their commitment to the work
of renewal and reconciliation within their own lives, and in the wider
community. The Community wanted to establish some kind of physical
presence in north Belfast, so when a hairdressers shop came up for sale,
they bought it immediately. The property was located in Duncairn
Gardens, a troubled interface area which the peace-loving group felt
drawn to. The shop served as a hairdressers and a welcoming "drop-in"
place for local residents until it was eventually turned into a thrift
shop, which is still going strong today.
The Lamb of God Community bought Shalom House in
1992 and were able to set up a number of programmes to help the poor,
unemployed and anyone else who needed help and support in the local
area. After doing some research among local residents to find out what
was needed, the Community decided to run an ACE scheme and set up
Shalom Créche and caring service for the
elderly, called Shalom Care.
ACE schemes were created during the 1990's to help people on benefits
find employment, but they were later phased out by Government. Today,
the Shalom Créche , which
caters for 2 to 4 year olds from single parent families and families on
benefits, is very successful while
Shalom Care is a thriving social
enterprise employing a large number of staff offering care services for
the elderly. Shalom Care is a Charity
Another area that the Lamb of God Community wanted to focus on was
education. In the early days, they offered courses ranging from maths
and English to yoga and creative writing to art and poetry. Some of
these courses continue today, although a lack of funding has slowed down
the development of many new courses.
Personal growth and self help
are other areas that are addressed at Shalom House and there are regular
courses and workshops on all aspects of faith and spirituality as well
as courses on alternative therapies and holistic healing.
While the Lamb of God Community can measure their success through
business enterprises like Shalom Care, it is the immeasurable but
pervading sense of peace one experiences on entering Shalom House that
makes it so unique.
Liam Cluskey has been involved
with the Lamb of God Community for many years and is now the house
manager and pastoral care co-ordinator. He explained how the Lamb of God
Community combines a spiritual ethos with practical business sense. Any
group that comes here comments on the peaceful atmosphere and we put
that down to the fact that it is a house of prayer and a place where
people can come to reflect. We do believe it is a place where people can
come in from a busy world and experience a sense of letting go. But
while we have that spiritual motivation, we are also practical and
respond to what is needed by people in this area.
As for the future of this great facility, it is hard to say how the
Community will evolve, as funding cuts make it difficult to develop new
programmes and sustain existing services.
However, with a foundation based on spirituality and the generosity of
its supporters, Shalom House is sure to be an enduring presence in north
Belfast for many years.