Healing powers at help centre

Louisa McGrath

Many people passing through the Liberties have probably seen the UCKG Help Centre on Ardee Street, just off Cork Street.  But like me, they may never have realised what exactly it was

Walking by the building one day, I was handed a leaflet.  Looking at it afterwards I realised that the UCKG Help Centre was in fact a Pentecostal church; UCKG stands for the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.  The leaflet was promoting one of their services: “Friday of Breaking Curses”.  The leaflet encouraged people with a range of problems from financial troubles and bad love lives, to feeling sick and tired, to come along to the service for help.  The leaflet said the service can free you from “works against you”, such as black magic, voodoo and witchcraft and displayed positive testimonials from UCKG members who had been healed.

The first UCKG was founded in 1977 in Brazil, since then it has since expanded to 176 other countries.  Their first Irish church opened in 2004 in Phibsboro, another two Dublin branches were later opened in Blanchardstown and the Liberties.  Their help centre in Dublin 8 has been their Irish headquarters since it opened in May 2011.  UCKG, Ardee Street has about 100 members.

Each day of the week different services are held in the centre: there are prayers for finances on a Monday, prayers for physical healing on a Tuesday, bible studies on a Wednesday and prayers for family and marriage on a Thursday at ‘Love Therapy’; in fact, members can even get married on a Thursday.

According to UCKG this aims to give guidance to couples who are having issues in their relationships and to help singles, who want to find suitable partners.  “We had around ten weddings and vow renewals in the last year,” said UCKG’s spokesperson.

As well as services, UCKG hold prayers on Meath Street, just by the Liberty Market.

Every day there are three services; I decided to attend the “Friday of Breaking Curses” that first caught my attention.  Although the Pastor in Ardee Street was reluctant to speak to the newspaper, he allowed me to stay for a service.

Having been to both Catholic and Protestant services, I found the meeting at UCKG a new experience… The church was a rectangular room with an altar that looks like a stage; it reminded me of a small community hall.  There were 140 comfortable seats and no place to kneel, because in UCKG the members don’t kneel, but often stand.

Only six people attended the service, which was unsurprising given it was 3pm.  Three pastors ran the service and Pastor Vick, who led, was enthusiastic despite the small crowd.  He began by reading a passage from the bible, explaining it clearly and relating it to modern circumstances; he was literally teaching, not just reciting.

He then interacted with us; we were called to the front to pray about our problems together, everyone prayed aloud with their eyes closed.  Music began to play in the background and the pastors put a hand on each person’s head and started praying with us.  Pastor Vick put his hand on my head; he put more and more pressure on it, as he prayed louder and louder.  The pastors ended up shouting over each other as the music peaked, and Pastor Vick released the pressure from my head; then there was silence.  I got goose bumps and felt a sense of relief from the atmosphere; I wasn’t even thinking of specific problems, but if I was it would be hard not to feel uplifted by these prayers.

Like any other church, the Pastor asked us to donate money and followed this with a prayer for finances; they are completely funded by donations.

Then Pastor Vick began singing and clapping until everyone joined in, it was lively considering how few of us there were; I’m sure if the church was full, the energy would have been immense.  Although I was out of my comfort zone, after 40 minutes I think it would be hard to leave the service without feeling even a bit more positive.  Afterwards, the pastors were there to speak to people about their problems privately.

According to the UCKG spokesperson, the Help Centre contributes to the Liberties community in a number of ways: “It provides everyone who asks with practical help and /or prayers, irrespective of any faith or religious affiliation they may have.”  The spokesperson also said members of UCKG visit members of the Liberties who are in James’ Hospital and might otherwise have no visitors.

The spokesperson also mentioned UCKG’s work with youths: “We have two groups, for whom we run regular meetings and activities in the local sports centre and public sports area.”  She said TFTeens helps preteens to develop social and personal skills, while the Youth Power Group teaches 14 to 25-year-olds how to do well in school without giving into peer pressure.  Their activities include singing, dancing, drama, football, days out and advice sessions.

“As part of our youth work, we have worked closely with the local Garda regarding violent youth gangs and drug addicts, and have helped to bring more tranquillity to the area,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for UCKG said that of the members in Ardee Street, “We believe that probably 80% of them live in the Dublin 8 area or close to it.”

However, speaking to a dozen people living near Ardee Street, most of them had a vague idea that the Help Centre had a religious purpose; while three had no idea.  None of the locals I spoke to had ever attended the church, and only one woman knew of someone who had.  One man had no idea the building had become a church, but he informed me of its past use as Watkins’ Brewery, which was occupied by rebels during the 1916 Easter Rising.  Over the last 100 years the building has gone from a home of whiskey, to a house of worship.

 Image top; UCKG


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