Rector prays for vandals who attacked St Lurach’s rectory

The Rector of Maghera and Killelagh, Rev Terence Kerr, has said he prayed for the person or persons responsible for a recent incident of vandalism at the rectory near St Lurach’s Parish Church, in Maghera, during which thousands of pounds of damage was caused.

The local parish had only recently completed a £70,000 refurbishment of the historic house, which was built more than 200 years ago. A number of specially-commissioned window panes – each worth around £60 – were smashed during the incident.

Rev Kerr said as well as praying for whoever carried out the attack, he had prayed, too, for justice to happen and hoped the perpetrator or perpetrators would be apprehended. He said Bishop Andrew Forster and local politicians had been among those who had contacted him to express concern following the attack.

The Rector said many of his parishioners felt angry and upset after the incident. “People are very proud of their church,” he told the County Derry Post newspaper, “and they see this vandalism as not only harming the rectory but harming the people themselves who have paid very well to see this [building] refurbished. We could see a bill coming in of around five to six thousand pounds to repair this.” Rev Kerr said there would be an additional cost to the parish, which intends erecting a number of security cameras in the wake of the vandalism attack.

The Police are appealing for anyone with information about the incident to call 101, quoting reference 346 23/04/21.

(Photograph from County Derry Post)


Liturgical Advisory Committee Launches Northern Ireland Centenary Resource

The Liturgical Advisory Committee (LAC) of the Church of Ireland has published a resource for use in parishes marking the Centenary of the Opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament, which will take place on 22nd June 2021.  The published resource includes (in PDF and Word format):

  • an introduction setting the historical context, written by the Revd Dr Stanley Gamble;
  • a Service of the Word to mark the Centenary of the Opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament;
  • a wide selection of suggested Scripture readings; and
  • a range of prayers in contemporary and traditional language.

While the resource has been compiled with particular reference to the Northern Ireland Centenary, it is also intended that the structure and much of the content of this Service can be used in the future to help congregations and individuals pray for those in authority and government.

Speaking about the Service on behalf of the LAC, the Committee’s Chaplain, the Revd Adrian Dorrian, said: “Throughout the Decade of Centenaries, the LAC has been working in parallel with the Church of Ireland’s Centenaries Working Group to provide worship leaders and parishes with resources to help mark and commemorate some of the most significant dates in our shared history.  We hope that this Service of the Word will be useful to those preparing to mark the Centenary of the Opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament in a liturgical setting.

“Prayers for those in authority have always been at the heart of our worship; of course they are built in to the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.  Many of the resources in this service are not specific to this particular centenary, and we believe that they will remain useful to the Church as we continue to hold those in authority before God in the years to come.”

The resource can be accessed on the Church of Ireland website at the following link:


Emergency Appeal launched for India’s COVID victims

The Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal has released €10,000 in emergency funding to support Covid relief efforts in India. Individuals and parishes are invited to contribute to support these efforts. Funds will be channelled to partner agencies working on the ground in communities in India providing vital support and supplies.

More than 200,000 lives have been lost to the pandemic in India. The pandemic has spread from large cities to smaller cities, towns and villages where its impact is largely under-reported, and the peak of the outbreak may still be two to three weeks from now.

Bishops’ Appeal’s Diocesan Representative for Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh, the Revd Albert Dawson, says: “As we look at the news bulletins over the last few weeks, the situation that has evolved with Covid-19 in India is very distressing to watch. We can only imagine the distress the doctors and nurses are working in to care, as best they can with extremely limited resources, for the sick and the dying in the hospitals.

“Let us remember the doctors and nurses who have travelled to our country from India and provided care for our citizens over the last year in the hospitals and nursing homes throughout Ireland. These are very valued members of our healthcare staff and it would be one way of showing them how much we value their contribution to our society.”

Donations can be made online or by post using the reference ‘CIBA India Covid Relief’ and all details about how to contribute can be found here:

(Caption: representatives from medical teams carefully check their PPE protocols in an Indian hospital. Credit: Aahana Dhar/Médecins Sans Frontières).

Bright, beautiful new window marks St Bestius’ Church’s links with great hymn-writer

Parishioners and friends of St Bestius’ Church in Killeter arrived on Sunday afternoon to get their first proper glimpse of the church’s new stained glass window, which celebrates their parish’s links with the famous hymn-writer, Cecil Frances Alexander.

The inside of the new window had been under wraps prior to the ‘big reveal’ at Sunday’s Giving Day, marking the completion of phase one of the Parish of Derg and Termonamongan’s ‘Bright and Beautiful Campaign’.

The colourful, stained glass window depicts different aspects of Mrs Alexander’s most famous hymn, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, and was described by the Rector, Rev Peter Ferguson, as “a thing of beauty”. “It’s something our entire community can be proud of,” Rev Ferguson said. “I believe that for anybody doing a visit or a daytrip to Killeter, this window will be a ‘must-see’ part of any visit to our area.”

The parish implemented measures in church – such as a one-way system, taped off sections, social distancing, and hand sanitiser – to ensure that visitors remained safe during the Giving Day and church wardens were present to ensure that COVID restrictions were adhered to.

The Killeter Parish’s ‘Bright and Beautiful Campaign’ aims to restore St Bestius’ Church to its former glory – albeit with a few improvements. “We’ve now completed phase one of the project,” the Rector said, “which involved essential work to the exterior of the gable wall, where there was severe water ingress. That area has been completely and lovingly repointed, the stonework has been blasted and brought back, it’s been lead-lined. And then a major and signature aspect of this whole project is our newly-commissioned and installed stained glass window.”

Mrs Alexander and her husband, Bishop William Alexander, were “beloved characters” in the Killeter community, the Rector said. The project was launched in 2018, on the 200th anniversary of Cecil Frances Alexander’s birth.

“As a community,” Rev Ferguson said, “we’ve grown together, and we’ve also grown in our knowledge, our understanding, our appreciation, our respect, our celebration of the Alexanders and what they brought – not just to the Church of Ireland community here but to everybody in the community and further afield – through her beloved hymns and poems. So, this project will see St Bestius’ Parish Church completely restored and some innovative and exciting community ideas as well.”

The next phase of the project will see a newly designed, multi-purpose, fully-glazed room provided, with a new coffee and tea dock, baby-changing facilities, and a new fully-accessible toilet. The room will be available to community groups during the week and will be adapted, as required, for worship on Sundays and on other occasions. “It is fully part of the church,” Rev Ferguson said, “the sound system will be fed into the new room, and extra seating can be moved in as and when required.”

Cheques made payable to Termonamongan Parish Church B&B Fund can by sent to Rev Peter Ferguson, 13 Strabane Road, Castlederg, Co Tyrone BT81 7HZ.

Duke’s contribution to peace in Ireland recalled at Special Service in St Columb’s Cathedral

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has recalled the late Prince Philip’s contribution to peace in Ireland as one of The Duke of Edinburgh’s many legacies. His remark came during his sermon at a Special Service in St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry on Friday evening, marking the death of His late Royal Highness.

A socially-distanced congregation and people watching online, heard the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, describe the Service as an occasion when Church, city and community came together to remember a great and a good man. “This evening,” the Dean said, “we thank God for Prince Philip’s long life – two months and one day short of 100 years – his commitment to Her Majesty as a husband for over 73 years; we remember his sense of duty and loyalty to his Queen and country, as well as his association with many charities, particularly his involvement with The Duke of Edinburgh Award since its inception in 1956. We recognise his long service to this nation and all the nations of the Commonwealth. We rejoice in the Christian faith by which he lived and in which he died.”

The Dean welcomed representatives of other Churches in the city, as well as representatives of political and civic life, among them the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Cllr Brian Tierney; Her Majesty’s Vice-Lord Lieutenant for the City of Londonderry, Stuart Keys; the Clerk to the Lieutenancy of the County Borough of Londonderry, Alan Moore; the High Sheriff for the County Borough of Londonderry, Linda Heaney; and Lord Hay of Ballyore. The Lord Lieutenant for the City of Londonderry, Dr Angela Garvey, and her husband Gerald were unable to attend and sent their apologies, as did the Foyle MP Colum Eastwood and Foyle MLA Gary Middleton.

In his sermon, Rt Rev Andrew Forster said they had gathered to give thanks for an extraordinary life and an extraordinary influence right across the world. Bishop Andrew recalled how, as a baby, Prince Philip had been rescued with his family from political turmoil in Greece and how he had been carried off in a cot made from an orange box into exile. “The next years are well documented, characterised by disruption, break-up, grief and misfortune. When he joined the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, whether by his wry sense of humour or the reality, when he registered he signed up as ‘Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, of no fixed abode.’

“Yet this young man, from such a fractured and disrupted background, would go on to ingrain himself in the consciousness of our country and Commonwealth, and transform the lives of many through his deep commitment to improve lives. In some way, Prince Philip could be seen as the Good Samaritan who was not prepared to pass by on the other side when he saw people whose lives he could help change for the better. And perhaps that commitment was borne out of his early hardship.

Bishop Andrew referred a number of times in his sermon to the naval command, ‘Action Stations’, which summons all hands to battle stations on warships and which will be played by buglers as The Duke’s body is laid to rest in the royal vault at Windsor Castle. “As a naval officer he would have heard the sound, ‘Action Stations’ during his distinguished career in the Second World War – mentioned in dispatches, saved his own ship from certain destruction – and on The Queen’s accession to the throne in 1952, when he had to walk away from his beloved career, it was again as if ‘Action Stations’ had been sounded, as his life of seemingly perpetual action and motion shifted to dedication in supporting The Queen. There was no job description, there was no one to tell him what he should do or shouldn’t do, and he carved his way in making life better for those whom he served, and in dutiful care and love for our sovereign Queen.”

Bishop Andrew said the qualities of Prince Philip’s life had been spoken of at length over the past week: duty, service, diligence, discipline, straightforwardness and straight-talking. Many had said that Prince Philip’s greatest legacy was The Duke of Edinburgh Award – a scheme borne out of his desire to improve lives and make people’s lives better.

“There are many facets of his remarkable legacy,” the Bishop said, “and perhaps all of us would choose different things that we would say about his legacy and that we would celebrate – war hero, innovator, whatever it might be – but perhaps his greatest legacy of all is as the man who walked a few paces behind The Queen, and was always right behind her, physically and emotionally: with her, supporting her, guiding her, loving her, caring for her, always at ‘Action Stations’ to support Her Majesty.

“As The Queen herself said on their 50th wedding anniversary, he was her strength and stay all these years, the man behind perhaps one of the greatest monarchs in history, her liege man of life and limb, always ready to use the soft power for the greater good, including building peace in this island. A man who was prepared to put aside in many ways his own great grief at the loss of his uncle in the Troubles, to reach out, to try to do the best to help this island to move to better days – again the desire to make life better for people.”

Bishop Andrew described The Duke of Edinburgh as a man of deep faith. He said that Prince Philip and The Queen had sought to live their lives in the public gaze by the principles of Almighty God. “Tomorrow, as he is laid to rest, at his request ‘Action Stations’ will be sounded. Tonight, we are thankful for a life lived at ‘Action Stations’; a life that is an example to each one of us; a very long life, remarkably lived; a life that made a difference in the lives of many; and a life that in some small way we can seek to mirror by making a difference for the good in the lives of those around us. ‘Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will by my children.’”

Dean Stewart was assisted during Friday evening’s Service by Rev Canon John Merrick and by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry, Rev Dr Donal McKeown, who gave the Scripture Reading. The Reverends Keith Hibbert (Presbyterian Church) and Paul Gallucci (Methodist Church) were in the congregation. Music at the Service was provided by the Gentlemen of the Choir. The organist and Master of the Choristers was Dr Derek Collins. At the end of the Service, the congregation left in an orderly fashion, consistent with COVID guidelines.

(The private photo of the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh was shared by HM The Queen and taken by The Countess of Wessex)



Church Leaders call for unified political response to address violence and community tensions

Following recent disturbances in Northern Ireland, the Church Leaders Group (Ireland) has written an open letter to political leaders in Northern Ireland, the Governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the European Union.
In the letter, Church Leaders:
• Echo the appeal from local church and community leaders for political leaders to treat Northern Ireland’s fragile peace with care;
• Emphasise the importance of the three strands of the Good Friday Agreement and the consequent responsibility to respect all identities and foster good relations within Northern Ireland, on the island of Ireland and between the UK and Ireland;
• Call on the Northern Ireland Executive to make a joint approach to the UK Government and the European Union in relation to the challenges posed by the Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol; and
• Express their support for the PSNI and underline the importance of ensuring that any concerns about policing are addressed in a way that supports and strengthens democratic institutions and processes.
The full letter reads as follows:
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God’
As Christian Church Leaders from across the island of Ireland we appeal to our political leaders to come together in a unified response to the heartbreaking scenes witnessed on our streets last week and renew their commitment to peace, reconciliation and the protection of the most vulnerable.
The causes of this most recent outbreak of violence are complex and, in some respects, deep-rooted. Church representatives and other community leaders working on the ground in affected communities have spoken to us of their frustration at seeing another generation of young people risk their lives and their futures because repeated warnings about the need to treat our fragile peace with care went unheeded.
The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement has rightly been held up as a beacon of hope for societies in conflict around the world. The significant reduction in violence since 1998 is a major achievement that serves to remind us that the problems we face at present are not insuperable. But that experience also teaches us that these challenges can only be addressed by political leaders coming together with a genuine desire to find solutions and accommodations which meet the legitimate concerns of others as well as their own. The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, and the subsequent agreements that built on its foundations, recognised our interdependence on these islands and the consequent responsibility to respect all identities and foster good relations within Northern Ireland, on the island of Ireland and between the UK and Ireland.
We have previously advocated for the need to protect all these relationships in the context of Brexit. The Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol presents many challenges to the flow of trade and also the flow of goodwill across and between these islands. Some of the challenges were foreseeable and have been planned for and mitigated (at least in part). The political outcomes of the Protocol are more difficult to address because they are tied in with very big issues of world trade and sovereignty. The only way in which these will be constructively handled, from a Northern Ireland point of view, and with a good chance of a successful outcome, is if the European Union (including the Irish Government) and the Government of the United Kingdom are approached jointly by the entire Northern Ireland Executive advocating for the protection of the common good across the whole of Northern Ireland. Such a joint approach would be difficult to turn down, but to develop it will require a renewed generosity of spirit from political leaders on all sides of our community.
Leaders, organisations and communities make mistakes. As Christian leaders we are conscious of the need to acknowledge the failings of leadership from the churches in our ministry to divided communities. In such circumstances there is nothing ignoble in showing genuine sorrow. It is hardly surprising, given the complexities of our relationships at home and abroad, that politicians, political parties and others in leadership make miscalculations. Learning from the consequences of miscalculations is much better than an endless scramble to paper over the cracks.
We also have to face the difficult questions about who pays the price for our failings. In the past week we have seen people afraid to leave their homes, others at risk of violence as they go about their work and young people feeling that they have no stake in society or hope for the future. Much good work on the ground has been undermined as tension has risen and confidence has plummeted. It has been horrific to witness the intensity of the violence directed against the PSNI and the extent of the injuries sustained by officers. All of us in Northern Ireland have created a society in which even-handed policing requires the wisdom of Solomon combined with the patience of Job. The PSNI is relentlessly scrutinised by the Policing Board, and other organs of accountability. In that sense the PSNI has a political legitimacy across this community which is enjoyed by few other institutions. It is vital that we address concerns in a way that strengthens our democratic processes rather than undermining them.
We are conscious too that churches are only a small part of the wider civic leadership in our society, and that all civic leaders have a responsibility to support our elected representatives as they seek to negotiate difficult compromises and find new accommodations for the common good. At the same time, we have a responsibility to hold them to account, and the persistent levels of socio-economic inequality in the areas worst impacted by violence, over two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, demand more sustained attention and meaningful intervention by political leaders. The Agreement provided for regular and transparent engagement of civic leaders in policy development, but in practice this has been implemented only in a very limited way, and all too often as an emergency response rather than a preventative measure. Churches, together with other civic leaders, are keen to play our part in addressing the root causes of violence and working to ensure all communities here can enjoy the benefits of peace into the future.
Please be assured of our continued prayerful support for your leadership at this critical time.
Yours sincerely,
The Most Revd John McDowell
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
The Most Revd Eamon Martin
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
The Rt Revd Dr David Bruce
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
The Revd Dr Tom McKnight
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
The Very Revd Dr Ivan Patterson
President of the Irish Council of Churches
The Church Leaders pictured at their recent meeting in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh. From left: Archbishop John McDowell; the Revd Tom McKnight; the Rt Revd Dr David Bruce; the Very Revd Dr Ivan Patterson; and Archbishop Eamon Martin.

Bishop offers Dioceses’ condolences following death of Duke of Edinburgh

Bishop Andrew has offered condolences to the Royal Family on behalf of the parishioners of Derry and Raphoe following the death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh,” Bishop Andrew said.

“As the longest-serving consort in British history, Prince Philip was the most loyal and most steadfast supporter of Her Majesty The Queen. We thank God for the Duke’s selfless service as husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather to our Royal Family, and for his decades of service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.“I am sure I speak for all the parishioners of our united dioceses of Derry and Raphoe in offering condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and her family, and in thanking God for the Duke’s life. We keep the Queen and the members of the Royal Family in our prayers at this time of loss.”

Prince Philip died peacefully at Windsor Castle at the age of 99. He was the longest serving consort in British history. The Duke’s death was announced as follows on the Royal Family’s official website:

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

“Further announcements will made in due course.

“The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

The Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev John McDowell, has also joined in the tributes to the Duke and the offers of condolence to the Royal Family.

“With profound sympathy for Her Majesty the Queen, I wish to express my sincere condolences to her and her whole family on the death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh,” the Primate said. “Her Majesty’s sense of loss must be very great after over seventy years of unbroken love and friendship.

“In remembering and reflecting on a life of service, including as a Naval Officer in the Second World War, we recall his exemplary sense of duty to the nation and Commonwealth over seven decades and, most especially, his love, honour and obedience to Her Majesty.

“Prince Philip accepted and developed a unique role in the life of the United Kingdom, always closely supporting the Queen as her “liege man of life and limb” and continuing to serve in an active public life which continued long after many would have sought to lay aside a heavy burden of public service. My prayers will be with the Royal Family in the days to come.”

“Rioting and destruction are never the answer” say Church of Ireland bishops in Northern Ireland

The following is a statement from the Church of Ireland bishops in Northern Ireland following recent disturbances in Northern Ireland.
The violence which has been happening in parts of Northern Ireland over the past week is wrong and should stop immediately. People may feel aggrieved at things which have happened in the political sphere, recently, but that is where any grievances should be addressed – in the political arena – and any response to these grievances should remain constitutional and legal.
It is never acceptable for anyone to attack police officers with petrol bombs, stones and fireworks, and to risk causing them serious injury or worse. The PSNI do an incredibly difficult job and deserve our support. People may have criticisms of policing but there is a forum for this, and any criticisms should always be expressed respectfully.
There may be lifelong consequences, too, for some of the younger people involved in the past week’s disturbances, who could end up with prison sentences, criminal records or life-changing injuries. We urge them not to become involved in rioting and not to do anything which they might regret for the rest of their lives.
Rioting and destruction are never the answer. They destroy neighbourhoods and divide our community.
It is ironic that the recent trouble should have occurred during Holy Week and Easter, such a special time in the Christian calendar. Easter is normally an occasion when we are reminded of the possibility of hope through Christ’s resurrection and when we, as God’s people, are challenged to work towards a better and more hopeful future. It is incumbent on all of us to choose our words and actions carefully – at all times – and to do and say nothing which would jeopardise peace or upset the fragile equilibrium on which our political system depends.
+ John Armagh
+ Andrew Derry and Raphoe
+ David Down and Dromore
+ George Connor

Royal Maundy honour for Diocesan stalwarts

Two members of the Church of Ireland from the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe have been honoured by The Queen with Maundy Gifts this year in recognition of their service to the church and the local community. The recipients – Mrs Avril McNee, a stalwart of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union branch, and Diocesan Reader Mr Albert Moore – received their gifts by post rather than in person, this week, because of COVID-19 restrictions.


The Royal Maundy Service is usually one of the most colourful events in the royal calendar and is often attended by other members of the Royal Family, as well as Yeomen of the Queen’s Bodyguard.


Royal Maundy, which falls on the Thursday before Easter, is one of the most ancient ceremonies retained in the Church of England and commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. The name comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’, which means ‘command’ and refers to Jesus’s instruction to his apostles to ‘Love one another’.


Traditionally the Queen marks the occasion by offering ‘alms’ – commemorative coins – to retired pensioners who have been recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations. The coins bear the portrait designed for Her Majesty’s coronation in 1953. Most years there are two recipients – one male and one female – for each year of the monarch’s life.


Each recipient is given two small leather purses by The Queen, one red and one white. The first contains a small amount of ordinary coinage which symbolises the Sovereign’s gift for food and clothing. The second purse contains Maundy coins up to the value of the Sovereign’s age. The coins are legal tender but recipients normally prefer to retain them as a keepsake.

Innisrush parishioners plan online ‘car boot auction’

The intrepid parishioners of Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower are pressing ahead with an online car boot auction later this month in aid of Innisrush Parish Church. Around 200 items will be available to view between Wednesday 7th April and Saturday 17th April.

A catalogue will be available from Wednesday 7th April. To acquire one, please WhatsApp 07703442451 or 07817968357, or send a Facebook message to