Pastor visits Ireland
A trip to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland brought out the Irish in the Rev. David Wilson.
The pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Kittanning was able to connect with his Irish roots when he and his wife, Gale, visited there during a six-week stay as part of a three-month summer sabbatical that included Wales, England, a rail tour of Europe, Jerusalem and Uganda in Africa.
"It was the experience of a lifetime," Wilson said. "Ireland was in our top two of favorite places. Absolutely beautiful. You've never seen so many shades of the color green. And the people are the friendliest I've ever met.
"It renewed my Irishness, even more so when we attended an Irish parade. To see the bagpipe bands and the fife bands and all the marchers, it brought tears to my eyes."
Wilson said he takes pride in his Irish heritage. His grandfather came to Western Pennsylvania from Northern Ireland in 1906.
In Ireland, Wilson was just another Irishman.
"I looked like every Irishman," he said. "I certainly do look Irish."
While he was in Donegal County in the northwestern area of the Republic of Ireland near the Northern Ireland border, Wilson served as pastor of a church for three weeks as part of an exchange program. Back home in Kittanning, the Rev. Canon David Crooks looked after St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Wilson had four different congregations to serve in his duties at his Irish church.
"My parish at home was much more lively," he said. "In Ireland, it was rather formal. We were used to a little more life.
"But they were a very friendly people who welcomed my wife and me with open arms."
Gale Wilson also was impressed with the people of the parishes being served by her husband.
"It was a privilege to talk to people who have gone through what they call the troubles and to get their perspective," she said. "We were in a community where Protestants and Catholics got along, and they were very deliberate about their cooperation with one another."
The Wilsons brought back a Celtic cross, a copper etching of St. Columbs Cathedral in Londonderry in Northern Ireland and a gift of Irish linen from their visit.
They also brought back a feeling of accomplishment from their service there.
"I think we brought them a sense of outreach," Wilson said. "They weren't reaching people with the Gospel.
"They had no sense that they could reach new people with the Gospel and invite them into their fellowship and church. I think we convinced them in some measure that they needed to be intentional about reaching others."
Africa was one of the other stops on the Wilsons' tour.
"We found the African people to be absolutely full of faith," the pastor said. "It's amazing how faithful and devout Christians they are, considering they have nothing material-wise. They're so grateful for what they have."
In Uganda, the couple visited friends who are there helping to build a university.
"We got to see what they had accomplished," Gale Wilson said. "I was struck by the poverty. A city of 1 million had one traffic light that didn't work and dirt roads everywhere.
"It astounded me. Why would such a fertile continent be so impoverished?"
The Wilsons said they found most of Europe to be less than satisfying.
"There were parts of Europe we liked and parts that were so-so," Wilson said.
He liked the way Europeans rely on public transportation.
"We found it to be neat, so we rode the trains, buses, subways and El's," he said.