Raphoe Christmas Tree Festival Proves a Big Hit with the Public

The Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, knew his parish’s first ever Christmas Tree Festival had struck a chord with the community when he had to arrange for extra seating to be brought in to accommodate the large number of people who packed the Friday evening Community Carol Service which marked the formal launch of the festival.

St Eunan’s Cathedral in Raphoe was filled to capacity – and then some – with the church even running out of Orders of Service. Worship at Friday evening’s Service was led by Dean Barrett, Fr Eamonn Kelly and Rev Dr Brian Brown. The Finn Valley Men’s Choir performed a medley of popular Christmas numbers to complement the traditional carols sung by the congregation.

Raphoe’s Festival of Christmas Trees – the brainchild of two parishioners – features almost 50 trees designed by local people, organisations and businesses, with all donations and this evening’s retiring collection going towards the ‘Cathedral Restoration Project 2020’ – which will pay for a substantial renovation of the ancient church.

Dean Barrett thanked the congregation, the wider community in Raphoe and many beyond the town for supporting the festival. He said the event had provided an opportunity for the whole community in Raphoe to come together in worship at a special time of year. “I’m thankful for the friendship and collegiality of Dr Brown and Fr Kelly,” the Dean said, “and their ready acceptance and support of this idea of a Carol Service. Pastor Mervyn Carter apologises that he can’t be here this evening due to other commitments.

“But like this Christmas Tree Festival itself, I believe this – tonight – is a very special occasion and an important witness in the world at this time to our shared faith in the Jesus Christ.”

Dean Barrett expressed his personal gratitude, and that of the parish, to Gladys Barnett and Rosalind Patton whose vision the festival was. The festival will continue until Sunday.


Belfast launch of ‘Irish Anglicanism, 1969–2019’

A history of the Church of Ireland over the last 50 years was launched at Church of Ireland House, Belfast, on Tuesday evening (3rd December) by the Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson.

‘Irish Anglicanism, 1969–2019’ is published by Four Courts Press and co–edited by Dr Paul Harron and Dr Kenneth Milne. It features 20 essays ranging across themes as broad as youth work, art and architecture, education, liturgy, the Irish language, and music. The project forms part of the Church’s D150 initiative, to mark the 150th anniversary of its Disestablishment. Tuesday’s event followed an initial launch in Dublin in November.

In his remarks, Archbishop Jackson reflected on a quote in Irish Anglicanism by the architect Michael Whitely – ‘Poor design will hinder the expression and development of ministry rather than encourage it’ – and applied it more widely to life in the Church and in wider society.

“Many people think we just need to turn up in church but more is expected and more is asked of us,” the Archbishop stated.  “We stand on the inheritance of tradition; we look to the dynamic of engagement; we hold custodianship of the seedlings of the future of the Church of Ireland, in whatsoever ways it will express itself next.”

Dr Jackson welcomed Archbishop Justin Welby’s descriptions of the Church of Ireland, during his recent visit, as a bridge Church and a Church without borders, and drew out three ‘pictures’ of the Church from the chapters of book: reflective; reforming; and outgoing.

“I want to put on record my personal debt of gratitude to the Church of Ireland of my youth,” he added, recalling his upbringing in the Diocese of Clogher. “Initially, they were peaceful days, and then they became destructive days, and when I returned as bishop of the diocese they were once again peaceful days.”

He stated: “Glib binary divisions remain an affront to the people of Northern Ireland. People make power and money out of evil and they still do. We do not want to see a return to such violence and divisiveness again.”  Irish Anglicanism, he suggested, pointed to the ongoing work of “crafting and sharing with everyone an Irish Anglicanism that is confident, articulate, active … it gives an account of itself; it does things, good things for God and for others.”

Dr Milne, who serves as the Church’s Historiographer, expressed thanks to “the very many people who brought this book to fruition.”  Dr Milne discussed the concept of commemoration in relation to the current decade of centenaries in Irish history (1912–1922).  Commemoration has “frequently been a synonym for celebration” but the Irish Government’s historical advisors were determined that events in this period would be “marked in a manner as sensitive and inclusive as possible” – an approach with which the Church of Ireland’s working group on centenaries has concurred.

“Undoubtedly in past years, the teaching of history has frequently had a political purpose,” he noted, adding that this was also the case in Britain and many continental European countries.  Dr Milne continued: “Our understanding of Irish history has undergone a great change, as has our reason for studying it – a change that indeed owes much to historians in Northern Ireland.”

In conclusion, he remarked: “As those of us who studied history in TCD were frequently reminded, the Queen’s University of Belfast produced a notable and creative body of graduates who played a part in the renaissance of Irish historical learning that has its roots in the 1930s.  And so, it’s a particular pleasure to be in Belfast on this occasion and, on behalf of the editors, to thank you for coming.”

Irish Anglicanism, 1969–2019 runs to 324 pages and is available at €30 (or sterling equivalent) plus postage here.

Buses to Consecration Service in Armagh

Two coaches have been booked to facilitate transport to the Consecration of Bishop-designate, Ven. Andrew Forster, in Armagh this Sunday, 8th December. Both buses will leave St Peter’s Church, Culmore Road, Londonderry at 2pm and there are still seats available on both.
The first bus will travel via Strabane and Omagh. The first pick-up point will be at the junction of the A5 and the Derry Road in Strabane (beside the site of the old High School) at approximately 2.20 pm. The junction is currently closed due to road works. However, the bus can stop and the road closure means that there is a lay-by which can be used for parking. The second stop will be at the Ulsterbus Station in Omagh at approximately 3pm.
The second bus will travel via Dungiven and Maghera. The first pick-up point will be at the Ulsterbus 212 stop in Dungiven at 2.30pm. The second stop will be at approximately 3pm at the Maghera Park-and-Ride site on the Glenshane Road.
Both buses are scheduled to arrive at the Royal School Armagh at approximately 4pm, where shuttle buses will be available to take everyone to the Cathedral. After the Service, shuttle buses will convey people back to the Royal School  where refreshments will be available. The buses will then leave for home at around 8.30pm, following the same routes home.
The cost is £10 per person. Please do not give any money to the driver. All monies should be sent in to the Diocesan Office, with cheques made out to ‘Derry and Raphoe Synod Account’, or cash can be left in to the office over the next week or two.
Should you have any questions, please contact Gavin at the Diocesan Office on Thursday 5th December (as he will be on annual leave on Friday). Tel: 028 7126 2440 (00 44 28 7126 2440 from the Republic of Ireland).

Fun, food and faith at Alpha Youth event

Almost 40 young people took part in the last of this year’s Youth Alpha meetings at Glendermott Parish Halls near Altnagelvin Hospital.

The course for teenagers Is run by the interdenominational group, Youth Initiatives, on behalf of Derry Rural Deanery and mainly comprises youth from the All Saints Clooney and Glendermott parishes.

The rectors of both parishes, Rev David McBeth and Rev Robert Boyd, joined youth leaders for the final session of 2019. They were aided and abetted by the curate at Glendermott, Rev Nigel Cairns, who crosses the River Foyle in the new year to become Rector of St Augustine’s.

The Youth Alpha meetings take place most Sundays in the year and offer a creative way of Introducing young people to the Bible through activities and worship.

As we know, an army marches on its stomach, and that holds true for youth groups as well; the Rector of Glendermott’s wife, Mrs May Boyd, was on hand on Sunday evening to feed the multitude, none of whom went home hungry


Primate chairs his last Standing Committee meeting

The Standing Committee of the General Synod met in Church of Ireland House, Dublin, on Tuesday, 19th November 2019. Canon Gillian Wharton opened in prayer and with a reading from Matthew chapter 17.

The Honorary Secretaries reported that a new staff and volunteer guide, which replaces the old workers’ guide, is now available in relation to child and adult safeguarding. The following versions are available at the links below:

Child Safeguarding (RI)

Child Safeguarding (NI)

Adult Safeguarding (RI)

Adult Safeguarding (NI)

The Standing Committee was informed that the diocesan synods of Limerick and Killaloe, of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, and of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh had passed a resolution providing for the following changes under a statute approved by General Synod in May 2019:

– the transfer of a portion of the Diocese of Achonry within the United Dioceses of Tuam, Killala and Achonry to the Diocese of Elphin within the United Dioceses of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh;

– an alteration of the territorial boundaries of the Provinces of Armagh and Dublin by transferring the United Dioceses of Tuam, Killala and Achonry from the Province of Armagh to the Province of Dublin; and

– the uniting under one bishop of the two United Dioceses of Tuam, Killala and Achonry and Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh and Emly.

The above changes will come into effect on the occurrence of an episcopal vacancy for either Tuam, Killala and Achonry, or Limerick and Killaloe.

The Archbishop of Dublin and Bishop of Tuam outlined a discussion paper on marriage in church buildings and other locations, which has been considered by the House of Bishops. It was agreed that the paper should be referred to the Marriage Council for further consideration.

Dean William Morton was appointed to the Board of the Association of Church of Ireland Press Ltd. Ms Hazel Corrigan, Mr Roy Lawther, Ms Ashley Brown and Mr Billy Skuse were appointed to the Charities Registration Monitoring Working Group (with Ms Corrigan as an alternate member with Mr Ken Gibson). Canon Elaine Murray was appointed to the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue. The Revd Aaron McAlister was appointed to the Consultative Group on Disability.  Mrs Gillian Purser was appointed to the Bishops’ Appeal Advisory Committee.

The Standing Committee approved a call for expressions of interest for the position of a Church of Ireland director on the Board of Trustees of Christian Aid. This is available at www.ireland.anglican.org/vacancies

Archbishop Richard Clarke informed the committee that he would not be attending its January meeting and this would therefore be his last attendance at Standing Committee, ahead of his retirement in February. The Archbishop, who has been a member of Standing Committee since 1988, thanked members for their commitment and noted that he had enjoyed chairing the meetings over the last seven years. Archbishop Michael Jackson paid tribute to Archbishop Clarke on behalf of the committee.

Archbishop Clarke closed the meeting with a blessing.


Parishes urged to show their creative side

Around 70 people attended Tuesday evening’s diocesan-wide Creative Ministry seminar at Glendermott Parish Hall, organised by the Board of Mission and Unity.

Clergy and lay members from parishes across the diocese – from Castledawson to Dungloe – took part in the two-hour long event, which was led by the chairman of the Board of Mission and Unity, Rev Canon Paul Hoey.

The seminar showcased examples of pioneering ministry in parishes in Dublin, Newtownards and Sligo, as well as a new model of youth outreach in our own Stranorlar Group.

Canon Hoey gave a detailed presentation about the challenges facing the modern Church of Ireland, including falling attendances, ageing congregations and clergy, and wider societal changes such as a fall in Sunday observance.

Those present also listened to a video message from Ven. Andrew Forster endorsing the Creative Ministry event. The Bishop-designate encouraged those in attendance to see the challenges facing the Church as opportunities to reach out to people who see the Church as irrelevant or faith as peripheral. “As followers in Jesus we see faith as absolutely central to what we do and relevant to what we do. I think today is about seeing how we can reach out to people on the periphery and bring them into the family of God.”

Gender violence is a ‘class issue’ for local MU President

The President of Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union, Jacqui Armstrong, has urged first time voters at St Cecilia’s College in Londonderry to challenge local politicians who are seeking their support in the General Election about what they’re doing to get the Domestic Abuse Bill implemented in full in Northern Ireland.

Ms Armstrong was speaking to more than 100 Year 14 students at a special assembly in the school on Wednesday morning. In her 20-minute address, the MU President urged the young women in her audience never to accept domestic abuse or coercive control. “Don’t feel that you can’t make a difference,” she told the assembly, “because many drops of water make up a mighty ocean.”

Ms Armstrong also spoke to the pupils about the ‘Thursdays in Black’ campaign which highlights global issues of gender violence, including female genital mutilation and the use of rape as a weapon of war.

The Principal of St Cecilia’s College, Martine Mulhern, told the gathering that quite a few of them would have been impacted by domestic abuse and reminded them that there was a designated team in the college to advise and help them. Ms Mulhern also said she would be emailing students with Foyle Women’s Aid’s contact details.

After the assembly finished, Ms Mulhern and Ms Armstrong spoke to a number of students who expressed a wish to get involved in campaigning around the issues of gender violence and domestic abuse.

The St Cecilia’s visit was one of a number made by the Diocesan MU President to local schools this month. November is the highpoint of the MU’s campaign calendar when it places a particular focus on violence against women and girls. Ms Armstrong has already spoken to students in Royal and Prior Comprehensive (Raphoe), Thornhill College and Foyle College.

Good day at the ‘office’

Being a good snooker player has long been regarded in some quarters as a sign of a misspent youth, so what does his success in a golf tournament for Church of Ireland clergy tell us about Bishop Ken Good?

The retired Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has won the 2019 Milne Barbour Cup – which is competed for annually at Malone Golf Club – and he did it in some style. The tournament organiser, Archdeacon Terry Scott, said Bishop Good won this year’s competition comfortably, spread-eagling the field to run out an impressive winner. Another Derry and Raphoe ‘old boy’, Canon Raymond Fox, finished runner-up.

The competition is contested using the Stableford points system, so the ease of Bishop Good’s victory stunned the rest of the field. “It was an excellent performance by Bishop Good,” Archdeacon Scott said, and he should know – being a nine-times winner of the Milne Barbour Cup.

Opponents will be hitting the practice greens ahead of next year’s tournament to try and stop the Good juggernaut in its tracks but – considering how much time Bishop Good (who’s pictured above with Canon Fox) has been able to devote to his favourite pastime since laying down his crozier – this may prove to be something of a forlorn hope.