“If there’s ever a time that the Church needs prayer, and spiritual leaders need prayer, it’s now,” Rev David McBeth told the congregation in Christ Church, Limavady on Wednesday evening, at the Institution of his friend and colleague, Rev Rhys Jones, as Rector of Aghanloo, Balteagh, Carrick and Tamlaghtard.
Rev McBeth, who had been the new incumbent’s Rector at All Saints, Clooney in Londonderry for the last three years, had been invited by Bishop Andrew Forster to preach the sermon.
As is common, nowadays, the service went ahead under strict conditions imposed to limit the spread of the COVID virus. The attendance – which included Rev Jones’s wife, Samantha, and their children – was restricted to fewer than 80 people. Worshippers’ contact details were collected as they arrived at Christ Church; they were urged to use hand sanitiser as they entered the church; once inside they wore masks and sat in alternate pews, observing social distancing.
“Pray for the Church at this difficult time,” the preacher said, as he urged parishioners to support their new Rector. “For you the people of Balteagh and Carrick, Tamlaghtard and Ahanloo, show your leader mercy. Support him through this difficult time, until we get the churches up and running again.”
Rev McBeth told the congregation that it was never their choice that Rev Rhys had joined them as their new leader. “[It was] Never your choice,” he said. “You might have taken part in the process but that was God’s choice. Remember that.”
Wednesday’s Institution was led by Bishop Andrew, who was assisted by the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller; the Rural Dean, Rev Canon Harold Given (who organised the Service); and the Diocesan Registrar, Rev Canon David Crooks.
Bishop Andrew thanked the Rector of Drumachose, Rev Canon Sam McVeigh, and the Select Vestry for allowing Christ Church to be used for the Service. He welcomed the congregation – whether they came from the new incumbent’s grouped parishes, from the wider community or other Churches.
The Bishop said the refreshments in the church hall which were customary on such occasions, were being dispensed with because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The virus also put paid to the traditional handshake, to mark the institution of the new incumbent, with the Bishop and Rev Jones instead performing an elbow bump.