Tributes paid to retiring bishops

The Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Rt Rev Dr Kenneth Kearon, and the Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, the Rt Rev Patrick Rooke, have both announced their intention to retire on 31st October.

Commenting on the announcement, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, said: “There will be time and opportunity to say something more when the date of the Bishops’ retirement comes round, but for now I wish to thank Bishop Patrick Rooke and Bishop Kenneth Kearon for their respective and very distinctive contributions to the work of the House of Bishops and to the life of the Church of Ireland.

“When each was elected to the House, they brought with them a combination of wide experience and unique gifts. Bishop Rooke has worked tirelessly on an enormous range of projects on behalf of the Bishops with his characteristic thoroughness and energy. Bishop Kearon brought with him an unparalleled knowledge and experience of the Anglican Communion which he generously shared with many of us during the course of the last six years.

“Both Bishops, working together, with patience and pastoral care, successfully negotiated (in every sense of that word) the amalgamation of their united dioceses, which can now look to the future with confidence and optimism.

“May I wish both Bishops God’s continued presence and blessing as they prepare, over the coming months, to move into a new phase of life and vocation.”

The Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, remarked: “I would like to commend Bishop Patrick Rooke and Bishop Kenneth Kearon for their positive contributions to the life of the Church of Ireland in the dioceses of Tuam, Killala and Achonry and Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert and beyond. Geographically, the dioceses cover a large area along our western seaboard with a diverse population. Members of the Church of Ireland in the West of Ireland make a great contribution to their own communities and to the wider Church.

“The retirement of Bishop Rooke and Bishop Kearon will bring significant structural change to the dioceses. Both the Bishops now retiring and the people of Tuam, Killala and Achonry and of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert have done sustained work in building a firm foundation for their future together. They are to be commended on the spirit in which this work has been carried out collaboratively. There will be much to do in the coming months and years but I wish to assure them of my support as they travel this road together.”

The two bishops are pictured below with the former Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good.

It’s Columba’s story – but not as you know it

You’ve read about him; now it’s time to see the film. A new Horrible Histories-style video depicting the life of St Columba was launched at a special all age service of worship in St Augustine’s Church yesterday and will be made available free to local schools in the Londonderry area.

The video, Columba: A Tale from Bad to Good, was commissioned by St Augustine’s as part of the Columba 1500 year of celebrations, marking the sesquimillennial anniversary of the patron saint’s birth.

The film was scripted, directed and produced by Kieran Griffiths of the Playhouse, in Londonderry. The project was supported by Donegal County Council/Colmcille 1500, The Honourable the Irish Society and the Church of Ireland Board of Education.

St Augustine’s Church – the ‘Wee Church on the Walls’ – is believed to stand on the site where St Columba founded his monastery in Derry in the middle of the 6th century.


All Ireland Primate joins Sunday worship in Dunfanaghy Group churches

It was a special day in the Church of Ireland’s north-westernmost diocese as the Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev John McDowell, joined congregations at two separate services in the Dunfanaghy Group of Parishes.

The Archbishop joined the congregation at Holy Trinity Church, in Dunfanaghy, for the 10.30am service, at which he preached the sermon. Afterwards, Archbishop McDowell made the journey a few miles south to St Paul’s Church, in Raymunterdoney, where he was back in the pulpit to preach at the midday service.

On each occasion, the Primate was welcomed to the parishes by the local Rector, Rev David Skuce, and there were strict COVID protocols in place at each service.

(Photos by Moses Alcorn)


Call for thanksgiving and fundraising on special day at St Canice’s (Faughanvale)

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, has compared St Canice’s Church’s efforts to finance a new parish hall in Eglinton to the challenge facing David in Sunday morning’s first reading [1 Samuel 17], as he squared up to the giant Philistine warrior, Goliath.

During the service, Rt Rev Andrew Forster made a presentation – on behalf of parishioners – to Rev Canon Paul Hoey, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Rector’s ordination. Canon Hoey, who was applauded warmly by the congregation, joked that it was a one-way ticket to Outer Mongolia. He said the 40 years had gone in the blink of an eye, and that he felt an amazing sense of gratitude and privilege to have worked in all sorts of different places with wonderful people and for them to have shared the deepest things in their lives.

Bishop Forster was in church principally to endorse Faughanvale Parish’s drive to raise the finance to replace the church hall which was destroyed in the flooding which hit many parts of the North West almost four years ago.

The new parish centre would, the Bishop said, be a beacon for the village and beyond, and would provide facilities to enhance the life of the parish, bless the life of the wider community and provide facilities that would build up the Kingdom of God in this place. The Select Vestry had set the parish an exciting challenge, Bishop Andrew said, but a daunting one. They were building not just for this generation but for generations to come.

In his sermon, Bishop Andrew said today’s reading was “so appropriate”. It was about David and Goliath. “In many ways,” he told the congregation, “you might be thinking that we have a bit of a David and Goliath story ahead of us.” They have to raise a big amount of money to provide for this hall, just as they were coming out of difficult days.

Goliath was the giant who stood in the way of God’s people. He stood in front of the army every day and taunted them. “What a challenge Goliath was,” the Bishop said, “and what an obstacle he was to the people of God progressing. Maybe you feel, ‘What a challenge – we’re behind this hall, we want to do it but what a challenge trying to raise the money, trying to get there.’”

In the reading, Bishop Andrew said, all the Israelite soldiers were talking about the giant, Goliath, but David, the shepherd boy, turned up and he was talking about God. The soldiers feared the giant and David feared God. “Nine times in the chapter he brings them back to God and the power of God.” He goes down to the stream, picks up five pebbles, puts them in his pouch and boldly heads towards Goliath – he heads towards the challenge. “So, if we’re like David coming up against the challenge, and if God was giving us stones for our pouch, what are our five stones to help us reach this challenge?”

Bishop Andrew suggested five ‘stones’ the congregation should keep in their pouches:

  • Thanksgiving: “Look back at what previous generations have fulfilled in this parish”.
  • Generosity: “Whenever we’re generous, we’re actually living out what it means to be a child of God.”
  • Prayer: “Prayer is the foundation of this project, and if the foundations aren’t right the project will fall apart.”
  • Outreach: “This is a Good News-focused parish. You are people of good news; you have good news for Eglinton, you have good news for this community, you have good news for an increasingly fractured society, you have good news for people who are feeling vulnerable and insecure and uncertain, you have good news to build for the future because the good news is the love of God in Jesus Christ.”
  • Faith: “David put five stones in his pouch, but he only needed one to get rid of Goliath and ultimately the stone that he used was the stone of faith.”

Bishop Andrew told the socially-distanced gathering that God was always greater. “No matter how great you think God’s love for you is, it’s even greater than that. No matter how powerful you think God is, he’s even more powerful than that. No matter how wonderful you think God is, he’s even more wonderful than that.

“God is greater than the challenges that you face personally. God is greater than the challenges you’ve set before yourselves as a parish. God is always greater. Trust him. With faith in heart, with the stones in our pouch, we’ll build for the future – thanksgiving, generosity, prayer, outreach and faith. And you know what I can’t wait for? To come to the opening of your beautiful hall.”

A sun-kissed opening for All Saints Clooney’s new charity shop

All Saints Clooney became the latest parish to open a charity shop when Bishop Andrew Forster cut the ribbon on its new venture, ‘Reloved’, on Friday morning. The premises also boast a sizeable coffee shop.

Bishop Andrew was made to work hard for his money, as he also performed a formal cutting of a cake to mark the occasion.

Northern Ireland Executive Junior Minister Gary Middleton, of the DUP, was among the ‘politicos’ present – in glorious sunshine – to see the Bishop perform the honours. Ulster Unionist Councillor, Alderman Darren Guy, was also in attendance, although social distancing rules prevented any ‘rubbing of shoulders’.

The Rector of All Saints Clooney, Rev David McBeth, oversaw the celebrations, which drew a significant number of parishioners and shoppers. His former curate, Rev Rhys Jones – now the incumbent in Aghanloo, Balteagh, Carrick and Tamlaghtard – couldn’t resist a return to his old parish, and the Rector of St Augustine’s, Londonderry, Rev Nigel Cairns, crossed the Foyle to lend his support.

‘Reloved’ is located in the grounds of the Waterside Theatre, on Glendermott Road. It is a spacious property, with two large rooms of clothing and other items sharing a floor with the coffee shop, and a Men’s Shed occupying a lower floor.

Bishop Andrew congratulated the Rector and his team for getting ‘Reloved’ off the ground. He gave thanks for all who had made the venture possible and prayed that they would be blessed in their valuable outreach work in the parish and wider community.

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.

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