Covid virus drives worshippers ‘up the walls’ to St Augustine’s

Bishop Andrew Forster joined scores of parishioners from St Augustine’s Londonderry and further afield for a ‘Drive-in Service’ to mark Pentecost Day. The service – which took place in glorious sunshine – was led by the Rector of ‘The Wee Church on the Walls’, Rev Nigel Cairns, and the Bishop preached the sermon.

The service was held in Bishop Street car park, adjoining St Augustine’s Parish Hall and opposite the city’s courthouse. A team of volunteers, dressed in ‘high-vis’ vests and PPE gear, oversaw a one-way, ‘car ferry’ type system, that meant cars were directed in one entrance and afterwards out a different way.

Social-distancing guidelines required all those present for worship to remain in their cars during the service, and parish volunteers ensured none of the worshippers fell victim to the soaring temperature.

Bishop Andrew welcomed the congregation to what he called his ‘back garden’ (the car park occupies what would previously have been the back garden of the old Bishop’s Palace). He said, St Augustine’s was known as ‘the Wee Church on the Walls’. “Today, we’re the wee church without walls,” he said. “I always think about St Augustine’s as the Wee Church with a big heart and today we’re showing our big heart because we’re together, worshipping God on this Pentecost Sunday.

“This is definitely a first for me,” the Bishop said, “and I would imagine it’s a first for many of you as well, but God is here and we worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Rev Cairns echoed the Bishop’s welcome to the first ‘Drive-through Church’ in the inner city, and thanked all those who had helped make the service possible. He said St Augustine’s would be gathering for worship in the same location again next Sunday.

Children’s Activity Resource for Pentecost

Sunday next is one of the great occasions in the Christian calendar, the Feast of Pentecost, when we recall the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples.

Click below to download the activity sheet prepared by our Diocesan Children’s Ministry Officer, Kirsty.

31st May – Pentecost-2



Children’s Activity Resources

The latest Children’s Activity Resources are available for this weekend – Sunday, May 24th. The resources have been prepared, as usual, by our Diocesan Children’s Ministry Officer, Kirsty, and draw very heavily on the theme of Christ’s Ascension, which features in next Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Click the link below to download the resources.

23rd May 2020 – Ascension



Spirituality for Christian Discipleship – a new free course from CITI

The Church of Ireland Theological Institute (CITI) is delighted to announce a new initiative aimed at offering resources for Christian discipleship to lay people. Over four weeks in June, institute staff will offer a one-hour virtual class online on Monday mornings. This four-week course offers resources for your spiritual life and opportunities to learn new practices of Christian discipleship to resource your faith during social distancing.

Weekly Zoom meetings led by members of CITI’s academic staff will include a presentation and interactive discussion about practices of Christian spirituality and will conclude with an exercise or activity for you to try at home. By gathering, praying and learning weekly with the same group of Christians, you will also receive encouragement and fellowship and offer these gifts to others.

Monday mornings 11.00am–12 noon, beginning 8 June.

Email to sign up.

When you sign up, you will be given an easy link to enter the online classroom. The class is free during Covid–19 restrictions but limited to 25 participants.

8 June: Knowing God: An Invitation to the Journey of Discipleship, Revd Canon Dr Maurice Elliott

15 June: Spirituality in a time of abstinence: lockdown with Mary Magdalene, Dr Brigid Nichols

22 June: Spirituality and Failure: Seeing Ourselves in a New Light, Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey

29 June: The Psalms: Biblical Company for the Journey of Faith, Dr Katie Heffelfinger

Please share this with friends, fellow parishioners and neighbours who may be interested.


Covid-19 recovery pathway: Church leaders welcome cautious and considerate approach

The leaders of Ireland’s main churches have written to Northern Ireland’s First and deputy First Ministers  to welcome the announcement of the beginning of Step 1 of the Northern Ireland Executive’s pathway to recovery.

In their letter, the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches Church expressed appreciation for the careful preparation that had preceded the announcement, which included consultation with the Churches about issues relating to places of worship and the Churches’ wider community engagement.

Church Leaders’ joint statement in full:

“The announcement that we are moving to Step 1 of the pathway is an important and much-needed sign of hope. We welcome the cautious approach adopted by the Executive, which continues to prioritise the protection of health and wellbeing, with particular emphasis on those who are most vulnerable.

“As Church Leaders, we appreciate the recognition in this recovery plan of the importance of the local church, and public worship, in the lives of many people. A great flourishing of creativity and a strong community spirit has enabled local churches to continue to provide pastoral care and social outreach in spite of the restrictions, but there is a strong desire to increase the level of pastoral contact where that can be done safely. In particular, we are keen to respond to the appeals from those who find great comfort in visiting their church for private prayer, from couples who are anxious that they can proceed with their marriage ceremony and from parents who wish to have their child baptised.

“At the same time, we are conscious that the Christian call to be good neighbours is a call to civic responsibility in the protection of public health. As outlined in the Executive’s recovery plan, partnership across all sectors of society, in solidarity with the most vulnerable, will be critical to minimising the threat of Covid-19, which is likely to be with us for some time. In our churches, we are currently undertaking risk assessments and putting in place response plans that reflect the unique circumstances of each local context and will be sustainable in the long-term. We are very grateful for the efforts of those who are leading this work on behalf of their congregations.

“Finally, in our letter, we welcomed the opportunity to discuss the importance of protecting social cohesion in plans for recovery. During lockdown, the burden of suffering has not been shared equally, and the benefits of recovery will come more quickly to some than others. One of the signs of hope to emerge from this crisis has been the way local communities have pulled together in support of their most vulnerable members. That same spirit needs to shape a vision for recovery that leaves no one behind.”

Rt Rev Dr William Henry

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Most Rev Eamon Martin

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

Most Rev John McDowell

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

Rev Sam McGuffin

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson

President of the Irish Council of Churches

New diocesan resource for Mental Health Awareness Week

The Diocese of Derry and Raphoe is lending its support to Mental Health Awareness Week, which has as its theme, this year, ‘Kindness Matters’.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue of mental health to the fore. Our prayer is that for now, those who are concerned about their mental health will talk to someone and seek help, and that when we emerge from the pandemic, society will continue to be kinder.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32) 

A special resource is available via the drop-down menu on the Christian Faith section of our website. Alternatively, you can click the link below for a PDF version of the resource. Many thanks to the Rector of Faughanvale, Rev Canon Paul Hoey, for preparing this.


Kindness Matters Resources for Mental Health Awareness Week

Derg rector prays through the pain barrier to pass unique marathon test

The Rector of Derg and Termonamongan, Rev Peter Ferguson, has successfully completed his eagerly anticipated ‘Door-to-Door’ marathon, raising more than £3,000 for parish projects as he strode through the County Tyrone countryside praying en route.

The 41-year-old clergyman shook off a foot injury that, until recently, had threatened his participation in this unique fundraiser. The father of three was accompanied on the last half of the run through the ‘Red River Valley’ by Derg parishioner Geoffrey Sproule.

The Diocese’s fittest pastor set off from his home in Castlederg at 10.30 on Friday morning, following a 26.2 mile route through that took him through Killen, Killeter, Aghyaran and Spamount, before arriving back at the rectory’s front door.

Church members and well-wishers gathered along the way to encourage the popular clergyman along. On the last stage, Rev Ferguson was applauded by parishioners who’d put up balloons and a sign on the rectory gates to support him on the hard final steps. One parishioner, Audrey Robinson, said, “Aw, Peter, I just want to give you a hug,” although – in deference to social distancing guidelines – she restricted herself to joining in the three cheers offered for the rector.

Minutes after the run, the long-distance rector said he intended to do his stretches, have a shower and then enjoy dinner. “I’ll just do a 10-mile run tomorrow,” he quipped – at least we think he was joking.

This isn’t the first time Rev Ferguson has run the 26-mile endurance test. He has completed the Belfast Marathon on three occasions, clocking a personal best time of 3 hours and 24 minutes. Friday’s run – over a more difficult course – took a few minutes longer.

The Rector said Friday’s first Derg and Killeter ‘Door-to-Door’ Parish Marathon was not intended as a Free Will Offering replacement but rather as a community fundraising initiative in the parish group. The money raised will be used to carry out repairs and restoration to St John’s Church in Castlederg and St Bestius’ Church in Killeter. Rev Ferguson said the parish also has plans to redevelop its youth hall, which is used by the whole community.

If you’d like to support the Parish of Derg and Termonamongan’s fundraising effort, you can still donate to its JustGiving crowdfunding page:


Church choirs, singers and musicians invited to join ‘virtual’ blessing for frontline workers

Singers and musicians in churches throughout the island of Ireland are being invited to take part in a unique singing musical and blessing experience. The Irish Blessing is a new initiative which will recognise and honour the dedication of all involved in providing essential services during these challenging times.

At a local level, participants are asked to select a facility which provides an essential service and to dedicate their rendition of the specially adapted hymn – ‘Be Thou my Vision’ – to that facility.

Project joint co–ordinator, Fr. Martin Magill, Parish Priest, St. John the Evangelist, Belfast, outlined the background to the choice of hymn.

“The words of the hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’ can be traced back to fifth to ninth century Christian Ireland, to a tradition of a prayer for protection known as, ‘lorica’, (Latin for armour or breastplate.) The references in the prayer to armour and sword are thought to be inspired by some of the imagery in St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, 6:16–17, such as ‘shield of faith,’ ‘helmet of salvation,’ and ‘the sword of the Spirit.’  Praying for protection and blessing is particularly apt during these times,” he stated.

Fellow organiser Philip McKinley, a Dublin–based Church of Ireland ordinand, added that the hymn invites us to look beyond ourselves. “God blesses us abundantly and is present with us, even in very difficult times. This hymn invites us to lift our eyes, to shift our vision far beyond ourselves, to Him. Ireland is famous for its blessing; words to encourage friends, family and neighbours along the journey. We want to bless those on the frontlines with words of hope and life and relationship with the Creator of all things. This is an exciting, collaborative, video–project, designed to bless our community and encourage people to lift their vision to the Lord. In the words of the hymn we want to draw people into a greater awareness of, ‘thy presence, my light,’ in these dark and challenging times,” he commented.


If you are interested in participating in this exciting project, please subscribe to the website:

Once signed–up, you will be notified this Saturday May 16 to download, from, our Recording Guide Resources, which will contain all the information you will need to record and submit your contribution. THE DEADLINE FOR RECORDED SUBMISSIONS IS 12 NOON ON FRIDAY 22ND MAY.  Once submitted, your recording will be considered for inclusion in an all–island, collaborative version of the hymn. This final collaborative video will be directed and edited by a renowned team, including Greg Fromholz, Stu Reid and Jonny Rea, and will be released on YouTube on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, at 11am.

Archbishops envisage gradual return to old patterns of worship

Over the past few days An Taoiseach, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the devolved administration in Northern Ireland have each published some form of  “road map” to guide us out of the current severe restrictions which had been put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the road maps differ somewhat from one another, they all point to a gradual and a graduated easing of restrictions. Each is set out in stages and presupposes that movement to the next stage will require satisfactory progress against certain criteria. It is acknowledged that there may be setbacks.

We want to thank all of those in the Church of Ireland community and far beyond who, by their sacrifice of personal liberty, have made progress to this point possible. We especially wish to thank all of those who have self-isolated and all who have strictly observed the guidelines laid down by public health authorities. It has often been far from comfortable to do so.

We wish also to commend those who have been involved in reaching out into their parishes and communities to maintain the work and witness of the Church; through online services of worship; through parish initiatives to maintain a sense of togetherness; and through action with other groups and projects. In short, by serving God, “not only with our lips but in our lives”.

The burden of work and of suffering during this period of emergency has not fallen equally on us all.  As the picture becomes clearer and the statistics more complete, we want to pay tribute to and give thanks for all who work in care homes throughout the island. Their selflessness and resourcefulness in caring for very vulnerable people under difficult circumstances cannot be praised highly enough. The workers, residents and families in that sector, along with all who work on the front line in hospitals and in the community, remain at the forefront of our prayers. We continue to pray also for all who are ill and those who have been bereaved of loved ones at a time when funerals and grieving cannot follow their usual patterns.

As progress is made, there is an inevitable eagerness to return to our old patterns of worship. That is our hope too in the long run. In the meantime, as with any other gatherings which have the potential to spread the Covid-19, progress towards that goal will be gradual. A return to even small gatherings for worship will require close observance of both social distancing and hygiene requirements as laid down by the public health authorities. Even where such gathering for worship is permitted, it may well require each parish to carry out an evaluation and risk assessment.

For now, we thank God for the vocation he has given us to worship him, to care for his people, for our neighbours and for and his world. We thank you for being faithful in living out that vocation in troubled and uncertain times and for moving forward in faith, in hope and in love.