Kilbarron pupils’ ‘Circuit of Ireland’ fundraiser for sensory garden

Pupils at a Church of Ireland school in south-west Donegal have raised around €2,000 for a new sensory garden by walking ‘around the island of Ireland’. The 3,710-kilometre journey was undertaken virtually and in stages – by walking 20 laps of the Kilbarron National School playground daily, and every Friday the Junior and Senior classes completed a 3-5km, socially-distanced walk around the local area.

A huge map of Ireland was painted on the school pitch – covering its length and breadth – to encourage and motivate the children, and each week the distance walked or run was marked on the map to help the children visualise their progress.

The virtual journey was not without incident, though. The children were ‘stuck’ in Limerick for nine weeks because of lockdown.

A sensory garden is a collection of plants and materials with different textures, shapes, colours, scents and heights, laid out in such a way as to stimulate the senses. For children with special needs, a sensory garden provides a safe and tactile environment to enjoy, touching, hearing, smelling and seeing the plants and natural materials. Sensory gardens can be therapeutic for everyone – offering a lovely place to escape to, to take time-out in and simply relax in, listening to flowing water or just feeling the leaves of plants.

The fundraiser was featured on the RTÉ children’s news programme, News2Day. You can see the report on the RTÉ Player by clicking the link below.




New beginning for ‘New Beginnings’ in Eglinton

There was a new beginning of sorts today for St Canice’s Church’s ‘New Beginnings’ thrift shop as the Rector, Rev Canon Paul Hoey, cut the ribbon on new premises, in the Benbow Industrial Estate, on the outskirts of Eglinton village.

“At 1,750 square feet,” Canon Hoey says, “the new premises offer much more scope for this part of our ministry. We still have our original premises in Main Street, for the time being. That building served us really well when the project was launched last December, but these new premises are far more spacious and offer us much more potential.

“Our coordinator, Roberta [Sinclair] and her daughter, Melonie, have loaned a professional eye to the lay-out and from an aesthetic point of view – and from the shopper’s perspective – the new shop offers a far more enjoyable experience.”

Six shoppers arrived within fifteen minutes of the formal opening. The new shop has lots of items for sale, including giftware, jewellery, clothing, handbags, crafts, books and lots of decorations – all donated by local people.

“I’m immensely grateful,” the Rector said, “to the people who have given us items for sale, to the people who come and buy things in the shop – supporting our ministry in the process – and grateful, too, to our wonderful volunteers who staff the shop. I would encourage people to come along and browse. They might just stumble across that special gift they’ve been looking for, for someone special.”

The new premises are just outside the village, less than quarter of a mile from St Canice’s Church. All proceeds will be ploughed back into the local community – in helping to replace St Canice’s Hall which was badly damaged in the August 2017 flood – and in supporting local charities.

Saint Columba’s Feast Day ends in style at ‘the Wee Church on the Walls’

Celebrations marking the Feast Day of St Columba ended in style at St Augustine’s Church in Londonderry on Wednesday evening as three of the city’s leading cultural lights entertained an audience in ‘the Wee Church’ with a narrated production of ‘Columba: a Triptych’, scripted by Mary Murphy.

The three-part drama recounted the stories of Columba’s mother’s dream, the battle the saint’s kinsmen started on his behalf, and his eventual remorse. Ms Murphy was joined by fellow performers Anita Robinson and Mairead Mullan. They were accompanied by a soundtrack from the original production, ‘Columba – Then and Now’, which 10 years earlier depicted significant events in the Saint’s life, particularly his repentance and desire for reconciliation.

The audience, who included Derry City and Strabane’s new Mayor, Alderman Graham Warke, were welcomed by the Rector, Rev Nigel Cairns and his wife Alison. Guests wore face coverings, followed hand sanitisation procedures and remained socially distanced while in church. Ardmore Folk provided live music at Wednesday evening’s performance and all proceeds will go to St Augustine’s Building Fund.


Happy St Columba’s Day, everyone

June 9th is the Feast Day of St Columba. We, in the North West of Ireland, are part of a rich and shared Columban heritage.

In Gartan, where the saint was born, there is a Celtic cross inscribed with Columba’s last words: ‘Preserve with each other sincere charity and peace.’

Christians – whatever our denomination – have so much more in common than divides us, and Columba’s words are as relevant today as they were on his deathbed in 597 AD.

Happy St Columba’s Day.

Social Media Guidelines

Social media offers a wide range of opportunities for people to connect creatively and positively with others and share stories about Church life and the Christian faith as a whole.

At the same time, the nature of social media means that it is important to think about how we can communicate in this way and to manage the risks which can arise.

Our guidance is provided to help members of the Church to use social media well, whether in organising an online service or ministry, or in everyday life. You can read the guidelines in full at this link:<

Church of Ireland Board of Education (NI) Thanks Schools and Youth Organisations

The Church of Ireland Board of Education (Northern Ireland) has expressed its concern for the welfare of children and young people – who, as a group, have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – and its thanks to all schools and organisations that support children and young people.
The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell, Chair of the Board, said: “As a Board of Education and as a Church, deeply involved in education at all levels, we wish to commend the work of all principals, teachers, staff and governors in their work to maintain learning, and to support children and young people in their education at this time of great social upheaval. It is difficult to think of words which are emphatic enough to commend the achievement of our schools.
“The Board is also conscious of the vital work being undertaken by youth workers and volunteers (including those serving through activities run by the Churches) and other statutory and voluntary services. The Board wishes to particularly thank those involved in work to calm tensions and provide positive leadership to young people in areas where there has been a potential for violence.”
Dr Peter Hamill, Secretary to the Board of Education, stated: “For many years, youth workers and volunteers have been the unsung heroes of supporting young people with their mental health and many other issues.”
The Board welcomes the Independent Review of Education being undertaken as a commitment from the New Decade New Approach agreement, and looks forward to engaging with the panel once it is appointed.

Castlerock rector helps commemorate St Columba at Irish language Service in Donegal Gaeltacht

St Columba – Colm Cille – whose birth we commemorate this year, spoke and preached in Irish. Among all the celebrations of the 1500th anniversary of his birth, it was very fitting that a service was held ‘as Gaeilge’ – in Irish – at his namesake church, St Columba’s, in Gleann Cholm Cille in west Donegal.

The ‘Service of Celebration and Commemoration’ was held outdoors on a sunny Saturday 5th June. Among the congregation, parishioners of St Columba’s were joined by members of community organisation Lár-Chomhairle Pharóiste Ghlenn Cholm Cille (Glencolmcille Central Parish Council) and the local Irish language college, Oideas Gael.

The service was thoroughly Anglican, based on the Irish-language version of the Book of Common Prayer. It was led by the Rector of Castlerock, Dunboe and Fermoyle, Rev Chris MacBruithin, with participation also from local resident Fr Proinnsias Mac a tSaor.

Local musician, Ellie Níc Fhionnghaile, contributed psalms in plainchant as would have been sung in early Christian Ireland, as well as the locally composed hymn ‘Colm Cille’.

As an act of commemoration, three oak trees were planted, using soil from Gartan where the saint was born.

The Raphoe part of our United Diocese contains one quarter of all native Irish speakers. The service was a visible display of meitheal, or ‘community togetherness’, and a reminder that Gaeilge is part of our joint Christian heritage.

Only acquaintances renewed as Dungannon fundraisers arrive in Maiden City

It must have felt like the second ‘Relief of Derry’ for a group of weary parishioners from the Parish of Drumglass in Dungannon as they crossed Londonderry’s iconic Peace Bridge near the end of their 50-mile fundraising walk from their home church to the Maiden City.

The two-day walk was the brainchild of their Rector, Rev Bryan Martin who, on reaching his 50th birthday, challenged them to raise £5000 by trekking from St Elizabeth’s Church of Ireland, Moygashel, to St Columb’s Cathedral, in Londonderry.
Waiting to meet the intrepid group, as they arrived at the Peace Bridge, was their beaming former rector – now Bishop of Derry and Raphoe – Rt Rev Andrew Forster, who enjoyed renewing old acquaintances. Bishop Andrew completed the final stage of the journey with his former parishioners.
The ‘50@50 for £5,000’ initiative – 50 miles at fifty years of age for five thousand pounds – took them through Donaghmore and Pomeroy to the Sperrins on Friday’s 28.1 mile first leg, and from the Sperrins, through Claudy and Ardmore to the Walled City on Saturday’s 21.9 mile second leg.
“They thought we were clean mad,” the Rector said after they had reached their destination, “but we’ve done it.” Rev Martin said they had more than doubled their financial target. “There was incredible generosity shown to us along the route. The children in St Mary’s Primary School in Pomeroy gave us £50. A group of builders in Donaghmore gave us money. People in cars along the road handed us money.”
Rev Martin thanked all who contributed. He expressed his gratitude to Bishop Andrew for receiving them and walking part of the way with them. Most of all, though, he said he wanted to thank the walkers and their support team.
Bishop Andrew congratulated the whole team behind the ‘50@50 for £5,000’ initiative, which he said would benefit two deserving causes. The proceeds will be spent equally on the refurbishment of St Anne’s Hall in Dungannon and on boring a well in East Africa with Fields of Life.
Anyone who wishes to support the ‘50@50 for £5,000’ initiative can donate via the Just Giving page at – – or, alternatively, can send a cheque to Drumglass Parish, c/o The Rectory, 26 Circular Road, Dungannon. 

Property events for parishes (NI)

The National Churches Trust is organising a number of free online events in the next couple of weeks, aimed specifically at supporting places of worship in Northern Ireland.  Please see details of each event below, including booking details.

Our Parish Resources section includes information to assist parishes across the island in their work in maintaining and improving their land and buildings.

Every Church has its own Story to Tell (Wednesday, 9th June, 10.30am) – the first of three interactive communications and marketing workshops designed for places of worship in Northern Ireland and focussing on how Churches can tell their stories.  Bookings can be made here.

Church Storytelling and Interpretation (Monday, 14th June, 10.30am) – this second workshop explores the history and development of interpretation, in both the traditional and non–traditional senses, and will consider the best and most appropriate interpretation techniques, to put our own church stories into practice. Bookings can be made here.

Storytelling and Marketing (Wednesday, 16th June, 10.30am) – the workshop explores what is meant by a marketing toolkit and the steps can be taken to connect our church stories with new visitors, via a detailed and cost–effective marketing plan. Bookings can be made here.

Northern Ireland Places of Worship Forum – the next Places of Worship Forum will take place on Thursday, 17th June, at 2.00pm. This is an opportunity to hear about the latest developments in the Treasure Ireland project as well as discuss issues that relevant to places of worship in Northern Ireland. Bookings can be made here.

Shared on behalf of the RCB Property Department


“Gifted communicator” retires in Donemana

The Rev Dr Robin Stockitt has led his final Service of Sunday Worship in Donemana prior to his retirement as Rector of Donagheady (St James). He was joined for the occasion by another retiree, Rt Rev Ken Good, who preached the Sermon.

“I want to thank Robin and Joan for so many things,” Bishop Good said in his address, “but particularly for the generous way in which they have given of themselves to us as a parish, to us as a diocese, to us as a community and to us as a Church of Ireland.”

Bishop Good, who instituted Dr Stockitt into the parish seven years ago, talked about Robin and Joan’s legacy in Donemana. They had made their mark, the Bishop said, and their mark had been a very positive one. “My sense was that this parish was ready and willing to move forward, as evidenced by Jigsaw and the Monday Club and other things I saw at the time. I thought that there was a willingness there for creative and fresh approaches to ministry. Now, it is always a risk when a bishop institutes a new rector into a parish. But what about when you institute an English vicar who has never worked in Northern Ireland? Is that a risk? That is a risk. But he had, in his favour, wisely married someone from here who could at least soften the edges a bit.”

The Bishop praised the Rector’s skill as a “very gifted communicator” who was able to make complex things understandable. Robin was flexible and adaptable, and ready and willing to take on a challenge. “What I think people appreciate as your legacy, and there are many things, is your genuineness and authenticity,” Bishop Good said, “that there are no airs and graces – even though he might be a posh Englishman – there are no airs and graces about Robin, or Joan, they are real and without pretence; they are down to earth and easy to be with, and that’s an important part of a legacy, so that people feel that you understood them, you related to them, you were interested in them, you were part of their life and of their crises and emergencies and joys and sorrows.”

Bishop Good said that the Stockitts brought the Bible to life in a way that all of us could grasp and appreciate. “I think what they would love, certainly Robin as rector – I think, any rector – would say, ‘I would love my legacy in that parish to be where the people of Christ become more like Him and enjoy being Christians in a joyful, friendly, peaceful, outward way that makes an impact on the world’. That would be a great legacy to have and I think that will be your legacy.”

In his final words to his congregation, Rev Dr Stockitt reminded parishioners of the Diocesan vision statement – ‘Transforming Community; Radiating Christ’, which were displayed in St James’ Church. “I was intrigued by those two words, ‘transforming’ and ‘radiating’. They spoke of a message and a way of living that transformed whole communities and enthused them with the qualities of heaven. And for that motto to become more than just words hanging on the wall, there had to be change, and risk-taking, and growth and experimentation, and excitement, and kindness and joy. So, I tried in my own way, these seven years, to fulfil that vision.”

Robin recalled some of the things he and the congregation had done together: installing a screen in the church; experimenting with liturgy; launching a St Patrick’s Day ceilidh; taking a group to Barcelona; organising a cycle ride round the province’s cathedrals; Mothers’ Union activities; renovating the nearby parish hall; building a toilet block in the church; and improving the path in the graveyard. He said he had been heartened, too, to see the growth of shared education in the local primary school and the recent founding of the Donemana Men’s Shed. “All of these things have been done for the sake of a community that brings people together, a community that seeks to reconcile and heal, and above all to be a place of encountering God. As I look back on these seven years, I’m grateful for the way in which you have entered into these ventures.”

Dr Stockitt said he was glad that he and Joan had come to Donemana and glad that they had been accepted as blow-ins into parishioners’ homes. “The past year has been a very challenging one for all of us. Many businesses will not survive the pandemic and if there’s one thing that the pandemic can teach us it’s that we can take nothing for granted.

“Some churches, as well as businesses, may not survive, which leaves me wondering what is it about the church that makes it attractive, magnetic, [so that] people will be drawn towards [it]?

“At a spiritual level, it’s about a sense of the sacred, isn’t it? Church communities are always intended to be places where there’s something beautiful, something awesome, something tangibly ‘other’ about them. And on a human level, churches are all about kindness. They’re not about hierarchy, or position, or status, or power; they’re not about jostling and elbows. It’s just about kindness, that’s all. How simple is that? How difficult is that?

“So as Joan and I leave this place, we do so with gratitude in our hearts, to God, and gratitude to all of you who have enriched our lives. So, thank you. Thank you – all of you.”