‘We are people of faith, not fear” – Bishop Andrew

Bishop Andrew has urged clergy and parishioners in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe to support the most vulnerable in their communities while, at the same time, adhering to advice from public health authorities. He has encouraged clergy and parish teams to consider adopting or adapting an initiative shared by Archdeacon Terry Scott in Armagh, which seeks to help older and more vulnerable people in practical ways.

“As the COVID-19 Virus spreads around the world, we are, I believe, living through an epoch-defining moment in history,” the Bishop says. “For many of our loved ones, friends and neighbours – especially the elderly and vulnerable – this is a frightening time.

“In these days of darkness, we, as Christians, should let the light of Christ shine brightly. We are people of faith, not fear.

“Many of our more elderly and vulnerable parishioners and neighbours have begun self-isolating, and I expect many more will have to do likewise. Some of them live alone. Most are anxious. Many have practical needs. It is important that we – as a Church, as parishes and as a community – support the most vulnerable.

“This is a fast-moving situation and subject to change at a moment’s notice. It is essential that in everything we do, we abide by the guidance of our governments and public health services.

“’God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear’. (Psalm 46)

“God bless.”

+Andrew Derry and Raphoe

Statement from the Archbishop of Dublin and the Archbishop-elect of Armagh

Statement by The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson & The Rt Revd John McDowell

The people of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are passing through a period of considerable distress as the effects of the coronavirus are felt throughout the whole island.  We wish to add our voices to those of so many others to encourage a sense of solidarity and responsible citizenship as we help our Governments and our communities to plot a path through the various challenges which lie ahead.

We are confident that the people of the Church of Ireland will do all they can to act in the interests of the common good by following closely the guidance being issued, and regularly updated, by public health authorities in the respective jurisdictions.

Preparations in parishes

In doing so, we would urge parishes to do all they can to ensure that the necessary practices of self-isolation and social distancing do not leave already lonely and vulnerable people feeling abandoned.

That will require some ingenuity on the part of clergy and laypeople but may well be made easier by the many virtual ways of being alongside and remaining in contact with others that technology affords.  It will also provide an opportunity for a younger generation of tech-savvy people to reach out to those who are more immediately affected by isolation.

There will also be many new opportunities to do practical things for one’s neighbours.  Parishioners who have more freedom of movement may wish to volunteer to help out in practical ways.  Neighbouring parishes should consider how they can work together to best serve all those who will need assistance.

Above all, as people of faith, we should both pray and maintain a sense of balance and proportion. There is every reason to believe that, by acting together in solidarity, this challenging period can be humanely and effectively negotiated. We are confident that God, in the words of the Collect for Ash Wednesday which we use so often in Lent “who hates nothing that he has made,” will be present through his Church and in the gentleness of the Spirit to be a comfort and strength to all who are in need.

A Prayer for Peace of Mind

You will keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you

Heavenly Father, in your love and wisdom you know the fears and anxieties of all your children. Your Son, Jesus Christ, said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid, It is I,” and to the tempest: “Peace be still”.

We ask, not only for ourselves but for all others, especially our healthcare workers, that we may cast all our cares on you, for we know you care for us.

Give us peace of mind and unshaken trust in you and guide us into perfect peace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Statement from Rt Rev’d Andrew Forster, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, on the COVID-19 outbreak

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic poses an unprecedented risk to the lives and wellbeing of people all around the world, and requires specific responses from all walks of life – the Churches included.

The Coronavirus outbreak will have severe implications right across our United Dioceses of Derry and Raphoe: older people; those with underlying health conditions; health service workers; carers; and ministers – lay and ordained.

I am mindful of the fact that at a time of such grave concern on a global scale, there is a need for Churches to be there for people. We must also act responsibly.

As your Bishop, I believe our response should be pastoral, protective and prayerful.

I commend to you the following prayer which has been written by the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev’d Dr Michael Jackson.

A Prayer in the Time of the Coronavirus

Almighty and All–loving God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we pray to you through Christ the Healer
for those who suffer from the Coronavirus Covid–19
in Ireland and across the world.
We pray too for all who reach out to those who mourn the loss
of each and every person who has died as a result of contracting the disease.
Give wisdom to policymakers,
skill to healthcare professionals and researchers,
comfort to everyone in distress
and a sense of calm to us all in these days of uncertainty and distress.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord
who showed compassion to the outcast,
acceptance to the rejected
and love to those to whom no love was shown.

The Coronavirus outbreak has enormous implications for life and worship in our parishes, and I pray that people will be understanding.

There are things that all of us can do in this situation.

I would ask our parishioners to support the vulnerable and those who are self-isolating, and to do so in a way consistent with public health advice.

Those who feel unwell or suspect they are exhibiting symptoms of the COVID-19 virus should self-isolate in line with the guidance from both governments. This means staying away from church. Alternative pastoral support can be arranged.

For the moment, I do not intend to suspend Sunday services in our churches. However, as well as following Church and state guidelines, there are sensible and practical things that parishes and clergy can and should do. These include:

The use of retiring offerings instead of passing collection plates

Standing to receive Communion so as to stop potential transmission from touching the communion rail

Observe social distancing (by sitting at least 2 metres apart in church)

No gathering for refreshments before or after Services

In the current climate it will be difficult for the whole parish family to take part in significant celebratory occasions such as Confirmation services. As a Diocese we have no desire to exclude the most vulnerable and the most isolated from such joyful occasions. Therefore, in line with government guidelines in the Diocese of Raphoe, celebrations of Confirmation are suspended until further notice. In the Diocese of Derry, where parishes choose to postpone such celebrations until a more opportune time, we will facilitate that.

Where weddings and baptisms go ahead, services should be consistent with the appropriate governmental advice.

Funerals are particularly sensitive. Clergy will be available to conduct services and provide pastoral support to the bereaved, but once again this will be done in a manner consistent with the most up-to-date health advice for the parish concerned.

Pastoral visits – and especially home communions – are immensely important to those believers who, for whatever reason, are unable to get to church. These visits will continue at the discretion of clergy and in consultation with the individuals concerned and their families, and will be consistent with the appropriate health guidance. Visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and residential homes should also follow guidance.

I would ask parishioners to support and pray for those who lead services. I would appeal to clergy who find themselves in vulnerable categories to contact their Rural Deans, either of the Archdeacons or myself. We may well find ourselves having to introduce contingency measures in areas where numbers of ministers become depleted.

I implore you to pray for the scientists who are searching for a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus and for policymakers who are working to keep us all safe.

This is a fast-moving situation and there will be ongoing communication from the Diocese. I again encourage all worshippers and clergy to familiarise themselves with the advisory guidelines issued by the Church of Ireland regarding the novel Coronavirus (Covid–19). They should also be aware of the latest advices given by the British and Irish governments for their respective jurisdictions.

Finally, let us encourage each other with these words from Verse One of the 46th Psalm:

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.”

+ Andrew Derry and Raphoe


COVID-19 fears hit Church events

Fears over the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus are taking their toll on Church of Ireland events in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe.

Raphoe Cathedral was the first to announce the postponement of a major fund-raising – a Spring Gala Concert planned for St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry on Friday 13th March – which was called off at lunchtime on Thursday, minutes after the Irish government announced a raft of new measures to halt the transmission of the disease. These included a recommendation that there should be no gatherings of more than 100 people at indoor events until the 29th March at least. The Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev’d Arthur Barrett, had hoped that the concert would have raised a significant sum for the Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Appeal.

The Gala Concert postponement was followed quickly by the postponement of a Mothers’ Union Derry Area praise event, the ‘Big Sing’ on Wednesday 18th March; the postponement of ‘An Evening with Graham Kendrick’ – a fundraiser for St Canice’s Church in Eglinton – which had been planned for Waterside Theatre in Londonderry on Thursday 19th March; and the cancellation of a St Patrick’s Ceilidh scheduled for Donagheady Parish on Friday 20th March.

In a statement on behalf of Mothers’ Union’s Derry & Raphoe Trustee Board, the Diocesan President Jacqui Armstrong said: “In light of the unprecedented developing situation regarding Coronavirus Covid-19 across Ireland it would seem prudent and sensible that we show a duty of care and take measures to protect our members.”

The Derry & Raphoe Trustee Board has cancelled all diocesan and area events in March and April 2020, including ‘The Big Sing’, and recommended the postponement of all branch meetings until after the end of April. Ms Armstrong says, “The situation will be reviewed, and members informed as events unfold and guidelines change.

The Rector of St Canice’s, Rev’d Canon Paul Hoey, said the decision to postpone next Thursday’s Graham Kendrick event had been a response to public concern over the current Coronavirus situation. Apologising for the postponement, he said: “This decision has been taken only after extensive consultation, thought and prayer, and in the interests of the health of all concerned. We are hopeful that Graham Kendrick will be able to perform at a later date.”

If you booked your ticket for ‘An Evening with Graham Kendrick’ through the Waterside Theatre, it will be happy to provide a refund. If you booked through St Canice’s, please speak to the Rector or any of the Churchwardens about a refund.

Irish Inter–Church Committee congratulates new Archbishop of Armagh

The Co–Chairs of the Irish Inter–Church Meeting have released the following statement to congratulate Bishop John McDowell on his election as Archbishop of Armagh.
Bishop Brendan Leahy and the Rev Brian Anderson stated: “During his time as ICC President and Co–Chair of the Irish Inter–Church Meeting from 2016–2018 Bishop John led many important inter–church initiatives across the island of Ireland. His thoughtful contributions on the pastoral challenges arising from issues such as Brexit, commemorations and the unfinished work of reconciliation have shaped and informed our inter–church dialogue and we look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role. Bishop John will bring many gifts to the leadership of the Archdiocese of Armagh and we wish him every blessing for the future.”

Bishop John McDowell Elected as New Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland

The Bishop of Clogher, Rt Rev’d John McDowell, has been elected by the House of Bishops as the new Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He succeeds Archbishop Richard Clarke who retired on 2nd February this year.

Bishop McDowell, who is 64, was ordained in 1996 and has served as Bishop of Clogher since 2011. He was previously Rector of St Mark’s, Dundela, in East Belfast (2002-2011), Rector of Ballyrashane (1999-2002), and Curate of Antrim (1996-1999). He has also served as an Honorary Secretary of the General Synod (2008-2011) and is currently Chairman of the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue.

Speaking on his election, Bishop McDowell said: “I am overwhelmed by the confidence which my fellow bishops have placed in me to fill this ancient office. I look forward to working with them in the time to come and to serving the people of the Diocese of Armagh and the Church of Ireland in whatever way I can.”

The translation will take effect from Tuesday, 28th April, and the enthronement date will be announced in due course. Upon taking up his responsibilities as Archbishop of Armagh, Bishop McDowell will be the 106th in the succession of abbots, bishops and archbishops of Armagh since St Patrick.

Local Gideons meet Bishop Andrew

Members of the Foyle Branch of the Gideons paid a courtesy call to the Diocesan Office in Londonderry on Monday morning to meet Bishop Andrew for the first time formally.
William Roulston and Sean McClafferty presented the Bishop with a copy of the Holy Bible. The three talked about the Gideons’ work, locally, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Gideons International is an association of businessmen and professionals best known for placing Bibles in hotel rooms across the world. Less well known is its placement of Scriptures in other strategic locations so that the Word of God is available to those who want it, as well as those who may not know they need to hear it.

Guidance for central committees – Novel Coronavirus (Covid–19): updated

Please note that all meetings in Church of Ireland House, Dublin, on Monday and Tuesday (9th & 10th March) will take place, subject to any change in advice from the health authorities.

Anyone with an underlying condition should follow the advice of their GP and anyone who experiences cold– or flu–like symptoms should stay at home.
Anyone who may have been in contact with any person who has been tested for, or diagnosed with, a condition related to the Covid–19 virus should also stay at home and join the meeting by teleconferencing where possible.
Any further updates will be posted on the Church of Ireland website.

From the Honorary Secretaries of General Synod

First issued: Friday, 6th March 2020
Updated: Sunday, 8th March 2020

Double cause for joy as year of celebration begins in Fahan

There was double cause for joy in St Mura’s Church in Fahan, on Sunday evening, as the community launched a year of celebrations marking 200 years of worship in the present building and also a new history of the Parish of Fahan Upper.

Sadly, the book’s author, church organist Mrs Anne Moore, was unable to be present but members of her family were there to see their mother’s book launched and endorsed by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev’d Andrew Forster. Bishop Forster, who had had the privilege of reading the book in advance, had been invited by the Bishop’s Curate-in-Charge of the Parish, Rev’d Judi McGaffin, to preach at a Service of Evening Prayer which also celebrated the feast day of St Mura of Fahan.

Bishop Andrew said it was a great day because they had gathered together “to celebrate 200 years of this beautiful church and celebrate Christian witness in this place stretching back to the sixth century.” It was, he said, an occasion to be thankful to God that under Him, somehow, bricks and mere mortar became special, sacred places to us.

The Bishop recalled those disciples who “carried the cross in this place” and lived out their Christian witness in the parish. “We’re thankful for the past; we’re confident for today; and we’re filled with hope for the future because the God who inspired our forefathers to build this church, to worship on this site, is the God who blesses us this evening and who is with us.”

Bishop Andrew said Fahan Upper had a fascinating and ancient history, stretching right back to when Columba sent Mura to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the people of Inishowen. “The monastery was the mission station – that was Columba’s strategy, if you like – he founded mission stations, monasteries, all around and they were there to be places of light and love and Christian teaching to the community that they found themselves in. And I think it’s an inspiration for us today that in any and every parish, we can be mission stations, alive and vibrant with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Those are the words that matter: alive and vibrant. You know, sometimes we think it’s all about how big we are, or how many come. What really matters is life and vibrancy and this place is a church of life and vibrancy, and I’m very thankful for it.”

The congregation heard that the current church was built 200 years ago with a loan of £1,000 from the Board of First Fruits. St Mura’s was described as a barn and a tower attached. “Now, how could you just call this a barn? But that’s what it’s described as architecturally – ‘a barn and a tower attached’. But it becomes so much more than a barn, doesn’t it?” Bishop Andrew said it was the prayers of the people that beautified the Church of Jesus Christ. “That’s why this place is special. That why it’s beautiful. That’s why it matters to us.”

The Bishop recalled some of the “very famous” people whose faith had been nurtured in Fahan, including the hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander, her husband William – who became the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and then the Archbishop of Armagh – and the nursing pioneer Agnes Jones.

Turning to the second reading in the service, Luke 14: 27-33 – “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” – Bishop Andrew reminded the congregation that Mura’s cross marked the saint’s grave, just yards away from the church that bore his name. The Bishop said the carved cross was one of the great gifts of Irish Christianity to the worldwide Church. They were particularly associated with Columba – Colmcille – and one of the parishes that the Bishop served in previously, Drumcliffe in County Sligo, was on the site of one of Columba’s monasteries.

Bishop Andrew showed the congregation a miniature version of the Drumcliffe Cross which he keeps in his study. “All of us are the objects of the love of this cross,” he said. “And, do you know, the wonderful message of the love of the cross as it becomes part of our story is that we become those vessels of God’s love and sharing God’s love.”

After the service, Rev’d McGaffin invited the Bishop to launch the new parish history formally, which he did to the glory of God and for the benefit of His Church and His people in Fahan and beyond. The Bishop asked the Moore family to pass on the congregation’s prayerful good wishes to their mother for a speedy recovery. “We’re very sorry that she couldn’t be here tonight,” he said, “but please do tell her that she’s being very much honoured tonight for all that she’s done in the parish down through the years and particularly in the publication of this beautiful history.”

Bishop Andrew said parish histories could be very dense publications but that Mrs Moore’s was a very easy and very enjoyable read. He spoke admiringly of the author’s writing style and complimented the publishers on the attractiveness of the new book. “So, what I’m saying,” the Bishop continued, “is don’t just buy one copy: buy a few and give them away because it’s a really good gift as well.”

After the service, the congregation – which included the Parish Priest of Buncrana, Very Rev Francis Bradley and some of the Sisters of Nazareth in Fahan – enjoyed refreshments and fellowship in the church.