The weather outside was decidedly on the chilly side, but the mood inside St Eunan’s Cathedral in Raphoe was warm and inviting – which was appropriate – as scores of people arrived for the first of this year’s ‘Derry and Raphoe Youth Invites’ services.
The chairman of the DRY Board, Rev Peter Ferguson, looked pleased as Punch as the church filled up with worshippers of all ages and from all arts and parts. He had been at pains to point out that the service was for the whole Diocesan family, not just for young people.
Rev Ferguson and the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, were rewarded with a congregation that comprised men and women, boys and girls, leaders and clergy from parishes in both dioceses and representing counties Donegal, Tyrone and Londonderry.
Dean Barrett welcomed everyone to what he called “a special occasion”. It was special, he said, because it was St David’s Day, the first of March (there were no Welsh people in the congregation – the Dean checked); it was special because it was the first Sunday of Lent; and it was special, he said, because of the music they had, which was to be led by the Mark Ferguson Band.
A special feature of the ‘Derry and Raphoe Youth Invites’ services is the testimony of young people. Today’s congregation heard about the impact of the new Exodus youth outreach programme, which was introduced in the Stranorlar, Meenglass and Kilteevogue parishes last year; about the weekly Confirmation class in in Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, where the SPARK initiative – first pioneered in Garvagh – will be rolled out this summer; and details of the new interdenominational youth group which meets at weekends in Donegal Town.
The Archdeacon of Raphoe, Ven. David Huss, revealed details of this year’s ‘On the Move’ weekend, which will take place in Donegal Town and Laghey from the 24th to the 26th April. The weekend is for youth aged 13 years of age and upwards, who will stay in a local school and go out and about in the local community, performing public-spirited tasks such as litter picks and fence painting, blessing the community and showing the love of Christ to their neighbours.
The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, who gave the address at Sunday’s, was in a reflective mood. He said he had brought with him a ‘picture’ of the kind of people God wanted to speak to at Sunday’s service, those God was interested in, those God saw great potential in and, most importantly of all, those God loved. Bishop Forster then produced a large, circular mirror, which he held aloft before walking down the aisle of the Cathedral, showing members of the congregation their reflections.
The Bishop pointed out that the Scripture reading in the service, containing the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin from Luke 15, had three themes: being lost, being found and rejoicing. “For you and me, I think that tells us something about whenever we are found in Christ, found in Jesus, found in God, found by Him and His love, that there’s a rejoicing with joy that springs up within us, a joy that’s there that’s really special and important for us. Lost, found and rejoicing – that’s what we’re talking about today. That’s the God who loves you today. And that’s the God who wants to bless you today.”