Ireland Blog

Monday, June 20

5 am wake-up call, 5:15 bags out, 6 am departure for airport for a 10:10 am departure home.  To be totally honest, almost everyone looked wide awake and energetic!  The hotel provided breakfast bags to take and had a coffee/tea/juice table set up for us.  About 5:50 we realized we had not seen two of the high school girls¦.yep, they had overslept!  It was amazing how put together they looked when they emerged from the lift 10 minutes later!

John and I experienced a bittersweet moment as we waved goodbye to the coaches when they pulled away and departed for the airport.

I'm sure you'll hear more from folks in the coming days and weeks, but John and I want you to know how proud we were of our adult and youth choirs and how well they represented Westminster, Nashville and the United States.  New friendships were established, old ones rekindled, and great joy surrounded most of the tour.  We are so very thankful to this group (and those who could not join us for various reasons) and full of love for all.  John put it very eloquently at dinner on Sunday night when he quoted from one of our anthems, "Do Not Be Afraid: "and I love you, I love you¦with a perfect love.  Our love, of course, is not perfect, but the desire and will is there.

Thanks to all at home who encouraged us on this tour, held us in thoughts and prayers, and carried on with the ministry of the church. 

Peace and grace,


Sunday, June 19

This morning began by singing in the worship service of Abbey Presbyterian Church in Dublin.  Rev. Boal was a gracious host and had changed the worship this day to showcase the choir.  We sang 6 pieces throughout the service and had a short, but good, time of fellowship with congregation members following worship.

Following the worship service, we were back on the coaches and headed to Trinity College to see the famous Book of Kells. Then it was time for lunch and final shopping! 

Gathering together at the hotel for our final group dinner, we enjoyed delicious food, wonderful fellowship, and sharing with each other about our individual experiences.  The choir serenaded us with a new tongue-in-cheek text sung to "The Bluebird which recounted many of our adventures whilst on tour.














Saturday, June  18

This morning we headed towards Dublin with a much anticipated stop in the town of Cashel to visit the famous site, "The Rock of Cashel.  From 370 until 1101, the rock was the seat of the kings of Munster.  St. Patrick visited Cashel in 450 and baptized King Aengus. During the 10th c, Cashel was very important as it was the stronghold of the holy Cormac MacCullinan, king and bishop.  Given in 1101 to the ecclesiastical authorities, Cormac's chapel was the first religious building to be built, being consecrated in 1134.  The choir sang "Do Not Be Afraid in the acoustically appealing Cormac's chapel.

Onto Dublin!   After a quick stop for lunch, we traveled the final hour or so to the capital of Ireland, the city of Dublin.  After checking into our hotel, centrally located adjacent to Trinity College, the remainder of the day and evening was free for individual exploration, shopping and dinner.

Friday, June 17
It is the choir singing at St. Fin Barre's  Anglican Cathedral in Cork (below). 


Thursday, June 16
Just to add an interesting note about the concert a few days ago in Killarney: in addition to the Petries and Rochesters, there were three women in the audience who worked at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville and a couple from College Grove, TN who were in town and came to hear the concert-- small world!

We left Killarney under the ever present cloudy skies (although we have avoided rain for a few days!), leaving County Kerry heading for County Cork. At lunch in Ballyvourney, we celebrated Nellie Renwick's 17th birthday with a song and traditional Irish meal- Irish Stew, potatoes (of course), and apple tarts.


Stopping to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle was great fun, and Dr. Staggs offered antibiotics to those who actually laid upside down and kissed the rock at the top of the castle!  The castle was built in 1446 by Cormac McCarthy, King of the Munster Province.

Our travels ended today in Cork, the second largest city in Ireland. After a free evening, the choir will be performing in Cork tomorrow.




Wednesday, June 15

We began our day with a lovely breakfast in the Randles' Hotel restaurant.  Breakfast included a choice between buffet and a menu, both featuring the traditional Irish breakfast options.

After breakfast we boarded our buses (helmed by new drivers because the originals were on break) and headed to the quaint, tourist town of Dingle. Before we arrived, however, we stopped at The Inch, a local beach that opens up into Dingle Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Once we arrived we enjoyed a 20 minute bathroom break and then immediately got back on our busses and left for the beautiful Dingle Peninsula.  On the way we stopped at a beehive hut and met a few baby lambs(for a small price of 3 euros of course.)  After touring around the peninsula for an hour or so, we returned to Dingle for a free lunch most likely including fish and chips and Murphy's Ice Cream.

After our time in Dingle we boarded the buses once more and returned to the town of Killarney for a relaxing and free afternoon.  We are currently enjoying the sights and sounds of Killarney including horse drawn carriages and a local song and dance performance.  Tomorrow we continue our adventures and ride for Cork!

Tuesday, June 14

A rainy morning greeted us, but the air was a cool and pleasing 62 degrees¦.almost 30 degrees cooler than what we have been told it is in Nashville!

Traveling along the beautiful coast from Galway, through parts of the Burren, our first visit was to The Cliffs of Moher where we were blown away, both by the cliffs and the 40 mph winds!  Luckily, we were provided a break from the rain and our visit was wonderful.  The Cliffs are a unique formation of rocks located at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and home to many different flora and fauna.  One of Ireland's most visited sites, it was a great beginning to our day. 

Following, we coached 10 minutes away to the village of Doolin where we had a delicious lunch at McGanns Pub.  Choices included Seafood Chowder, Irish Beef Stew, Smoked Salmon Salad, Chicken in Puff Pastry with a cream sauce, Fish and Chips, Hamburgers as well as other tasty treats.

Our next stop, on the way to the town of Killarney, was for a "loo break in the lovely town of Adare with its thatched roofed houses, castle, golf courses and a welcoming visitor's center.

Arriving at our manor house hotel in Killarney, the Randles Court, we were welcomed by a delicious dinner before quickly changing for our evening concert.  We then transferred to St. Mary's Church of the Sloes where we sang our best concert yet, to a full house, including WPC members Lori and Bill Petrie and Rick and Mary Rochester. 

Tomorrow promises to be another fantastic day with a visit to the Dingle Peninsula and a free evening to enjoy the tourist town of Killarney.

Thinking of all of you wishing you were here with us.

Photos: Cliffs of Moher, St. Mary's Killarney


Monday, June 13

We held a service of prayer and remembrance this morning at Clonmacnois for Hayes Springer.

Sunday, June 12

Today the choirs sang for morning worship at St. Columb's Cathedral in Derry, Northern Ireland (UK). The Cathedral was completed in 1633 and is the city's oldest building. The choir sang two anthems beautifully for the morning "Service of the Word.  This is a Church of Ireland and is Anglican (Episcopalian). The liturgy and preaching was quite good and a lot like Westminster in many ways.  After church, we left Northern Ireland and drove to Galway through Donegal (a lovely lunch spot), Sligo, and Knock.  The sea and mountain scenery was beautiful!  As director of this group, let me just say that the youth and adults are representing you very well in Ireland.  They have sung beautifully and have been wonderfully gracious tourists. 

Our prayers and thoughts continue for the Springer family, Roberta Rodgers (former choir member), and the Westminster family on Monday as you grieve the loss of Hayes Springer.  Personally, I got to know Hayes over the past four Wednesdays in May.  He and his brother, Battle, attended all the Music Camp rehearsals.  Hayes stole my heart as a teacher.  He was such a sweet, smart, brave boy!  He really gave his all to the rehearsals and that won me over.  I was so very pleased to work with him.  He was a wonderful child of God and I trust in God's care for him and his family.  We regret that we cannot be there tomorrow. 

We appreciate your prayers as we continue our choir tour and pray God's peace for you all. 

With love, John Semingson


Saturday, June 11









The first stop we made this rainy morning was to the family church of Betsy Minkoff's father, John Berryman, who was born and lived in Moneymore (Northern Ireland) before emigrating to the US at age 18. The choir sang briefly at St. John's Church (Church of Ireland), Betsy's father's family church, which we passed on our journey north.  Photos attached are of the church, the choir performance there, the Minkoffs with Betsy's first cousin Jimmy Lyttle, and her family burial plot in the churchyard. It was a special stop for Betsy and her family!

We arrived mid-day at the top of Ireland and toured the Giant's Causeway, a world heritage site. Mysterious (and of course, mythological) hexagonal columns rise up from the seashore. The myth is a story about a Irishman building a bridge to Scotland, but the geographical explanation is that lava from a prehistoric volcano eruption formed these basalt columns as the lava poured into pools. All things come from God!

From awe- inspiring to horrific, our next destination was the Free Derry Museum in Derry/Londonderry (they officially use the nationalist Derry and the Unionist Londonderry, separated by a "stroke." The Free Derry Museum explained the Bloody Sunday Massacre in D/L in 1972, where 14 unarmed Catholic civil protestors were gunned down by British forces on Easter Monday. It took more than 20 years and 2 inquiries for the British to recognize fault and apologize. And the saddest part of our tour was the young nationalist sympathizer running the tour who said that neither he nor his parents went to church - they would rather stay out late at the pub than get up to go to church. It seems that this conflict is no longer religious but political - but the church should be an important force for reconciliation!

The choir will be singing in D/L at a worship service tomorrow morning.

In Derry/Londonderry,

Susan Hassell

Friday, June 10

Today we are in Armagh for our first concert at St. Patrick's Cathedral -- but which one? As the home of St. Patrick, there is a Catholic and an Anglican cathedral of the same name! 

St. Patrick began converting pagans into Christians in Armagh around 432 AD, making him the first to bring Christianity to Ireland-- and he is now Ireland's patron saint. The location of two cathedral(s) here is why Armagh is known as the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland. 

There are two because the English gained control of the Ulster Plantation area in the 1600s and converted the main cathedral to Anglican. The Catholics built themselves another one in the 1800s.  Got it? We are singing at the Anglican cathedral this evening (above photo).

You can also see a photo of our first Irish rain/downpour and some wet choir members -- even though Weather Channel showed a zero percent chance of rain! And see Carson making delicious flatbread using an Iron Age recipe at the Navan Fort, home of Ulster mythology. Craic (i.e., fun) was had by all!

Your choir offered beautiful music to the glory of God this evening at St. Patrick's and the audience was enthralled. One lady sitting behind me sang along with nearly every song - Irish or not!

From Armagh,

Susan Hassell

Thursday, June 9

Greetings from Armagh, Northern Ireland!  All arrived safely in Dublin this morning and our first day has been long, but good.  After loading luggage on the coaches, we set off for the town of Slane to view the castle and town.  We then went to the Boyne Valley to visit the monolithic mounds, Newgrange and Knowth (  What an interesting visit to sites that date older than the Egyptian pyramids! 

We arrived at our home for the next two nights, the Armagh City Hotel, in the ancient ecclesiastical town of Armagh, Northern Ireland, where we commenced to have dinner and where now most have gone to bed.

A good first day.

Our prayers are being uplifted for Hayes, the Springer family and Roberta Robertson.  We are deeply saddened by this tragic news and please know we love you very much.

The photo today features several of our youth ( and adult Jennifer Barnes) in front of one of the two entrances to the mound at Knowth.

Cheers and prayers from Ireland. -Keith

We will be posting our photos beginning Thursday, June 9.

During the tour, we will share our gift of music on several occations:
Friday, June 10 - Late afternoon or evening performance in Armagh
Sunday, June 12 - Participate in morning worship in Londonderry
Tuesday, June 14 - Evening concert in Killarney
Friday, June 17 - Midday concert in Cork
Sunday, June 19 - Participate in a morning worship service in Dublin

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