Rt Rev Andrew Forster braved sub-zero temperatures on Sunday evening to pay his first visit to All Saints Church in Newtowncunningham for the commissioning of Sean McClafferty as a Diocesan Reader for the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe. The Service was led by the Rector of the Grouped Parishes of Taughboyne with Craigadooish, All Saints and Killea, Rev Canon David Crooks.
Mr McClafferty had originally been scheduled to be commissioned in the first week of November but the Service fell victim to the closure of churches under the Republic of Ireland’s new lockdown rules. The new reader’s wife, Jennifer, and their daughter, Zara, were in All Saints for the Service, on Sunday, for a rearranged service that was fully compliant with public health guidelines.
Welcoming Bishop Andrew to the church, Canon Crooks described it as a very special evening for the parish and said he was delighted the Bishop had joined them in All Saints for the Commissioning Service.
In his sermon, Bishop Andrew said it was great to be back in church, and said they were thankful there was light at the end of the tunnel, and that the light was getting a little brighter with the news about the vaccine being celebrated over recent days. “We look forward, then, to next year and things returning to some degree of normality. We know that that will take quite a bit of time but we are so thankful for positive news, when things have been so difficult.”
The Bishop told the congregation that at the height of the lockdown, and again in recent weeks, he had rationed his news intake because all the news was bad. “We were hearing about this pandemic and this second wave, and the growth in infections, more deaths – the news was bad. And whenever you’re bombarded with bad news all the time it actually pulls us down, doesn’t it?
“Mark’s Gospel begins with these words: ‘The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ the son of God.’ Now, the word ‘gospel’ is a word we use so often. We use it to describe the first four books of the New Testament. We use it whenever we take a reading from those books. But what does gospel mean? It simply means this: ‘good news’.
“And in a world that has been filled with bad news, the people of Jesus Christ are people of good news. And I believe these opening verses of Mark’s Gospel tell Sean what his ministry as a reader is to do. It also speaks to all of us about what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ – the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ is good news in the world.
“This evening as I drove out the road, whenever I came round the corner, around the bend, what did I see? The lights on in this church. It’s a dark night but the light was shining from this church. And, for you and me, we say that the light shines in the darkness and that is good news. The light is Christ.
“And in the darkness of this world, in the darkness of this pandemic, in the fear and uncertainty of that the good news is that the light of Christ shines, and that light can guide us through the pandemic and through life, and the light of Christ can comfort us just as the light brings comfort and security whenever we find the storm overwhelming. This is good news, it’s good news, and our world needs the Good News of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
“The good news is that he comes into the world. The good news is that he promises never to leave us or forsake us. The good news is that he promises forgiveness of sin whenever guilt clings onto us – he offers another chance. The good news is that he gives us purpose in life and vision for life. And the good news is he gives us hope through life and death. This is good news.
“Sean, your message – your words – must be words of good news because the world needs good news.”
Mr McClafferty – who was previously a parish reader – is now allowed to preach and conduct Morning and Evening Prayer in any church in Derry and Raphoe.