New canon “flabbergasted” by his appointment

The Rector of Castledawson, Rev Colin Welsh, has been appointed a canon of St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry, succeeding Rev Canon Sam McVeigh, who retired in January.
The decision to appoint Rev Welsh to the Chapter of the Cathedral Church of St Columb was made by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, and first shared virtually, with Castledawson parishioners, in yesterday morning’s Service.
“I wanted Colin to take up this role because of all that he does not only in the parish but in the wider diocese,” Bishop Andrew said. “It’s an acknowledgement of his faithfulness, his ministry and his goodness.”
Rev Welsh, who is the rural dean for the Maghera and Kilrea Rural Deanery, said he was “flabbergasted” by the appointment, which, he said, had never been on his radar. “When the Bishop phoned, I had no notion what he was going to ask me. I was shocked, flabbergasted, humbled.”
Canon Welsh recalled an occasion from his past. “A colleague once suggested, ‘Maybe you’ll be a canon some day.’ ‘A canon?’ I said. ‘I’ll not even be a water pistol.'”
“I’m not deserving of this,” Canon Welsh said today, reacting to his appointment. “It’s nothing I’ve done. It’s to God’s glory, not mine. But I accept it willingly and humbly on behalf of my own wee congregation in Castledawson. They’re smashing people – one of the best parishes in the Diocese.”
The ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic means the date and nature of Canon Welsh’s Service of Installation have still to be finalised.

Magnificent response to Eglinton churches’ food drive

People from the Eglinton and Greysteel areas came out in their socially-distanced droves, on Saturday, to show their generous side, as they donated a huge quantity of groceries and other essential items for the less fortunate in the North West.

They did so to support an appeal by the three main Christian Churches locally for contributions for food banks in Derry-Londonderry and Limavady.

Volunteers from St Canice’s Church of Ireland, Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church (Faughanvale) and Eglinton Presbyterian Church were on hand in Eglinton Community Centre to accept donations. The appeal got off to a great start – thanks to a generous donation from the village’s Credit Union – and scores of people arrived with shopping bags filled with non-perishable foodstuffs and other essential items.

The Rector of Faughanvale, Rev Canon Paul Hoey, thanked all who supported the churches’ appeal. “The people here in Eglinton and Greysteel, and in the surrounding areas, never cease to amaze me with their generosity,” Canon Hoey said. “They have dug deep yet again to demonstrate their concern for others. These are straitened times for many people, as our local foodbanks know only too well, and everything that has been donated will go to people who need it and who will appreciate it.

“On behalf of the local churches I’d like to thank the volunteers who helped gather the donations from the public; Debbie Caulfield for making the community centre available – yet again – for our food drive; and, of course, the families, individuals and business who supported our appeal.”

Completing census “a moral responsibility” says Bishop Andrew

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, has appealed to people in Northern Ireland to “do their civic duty” and fill in their census forms. The survey, which takes places once every 10 years, shapes vital decisions about public services such as new schools, health services and infrastructure. The 2021 Census has to be completed by Sunday 21st March or as soon as possible afterwards.

“I want to encourage households – from all parts of our community, of all denominations and none in Northern Ireland – to do their civic duty and take part,” Bishop Andrew says, “either by filling in the form or completing the census online.

“By law, all households have to do it and failure to complete it carries a fine of up to £1,000. That’s one good reason to do it but there are many other more positive and more compelling ones. The information collected shapes vital decisions about health, education and transport. Data from the last census, for example, has helped determine how many vaccines Northern Ireland is getting in the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I appeal to people – whatever their background – to be civic-minded and to make sure their household’s form is filled in. Completing the census is a very practical way of showing love for our neighbour. It’s a legal requirement and it’s a moral responsibility, so please do your bit.”

All households in Northern Ireland should have received their census pack or letter in the post by now and some may have already completed it. If you haven’t, please fill out your census by Sunday 21st March or as soon as possible after that.

The census is easy and safe to fill out online or on paper. If you need help doing it, visit the census website – – or call the census team for free on 0800 328 2021.



‘Love our neighbour – protect our communities’

The Archbishops of the Church of Ireland have issued the following statement in support of the Covid-19 vaccination programmes in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland:

‘We encourage all Church of Ireland members to take up the opportunity offered by the Covid-19 vaccination programmes currently being rolled out across the island of Ireland.  We believe, as Christians, that it is our civic obligation and duty to serve others and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

‘Vaccination against Covid-19 helps to protect individuals in our communities by preventing and reducing illness and death caused by the virus.  In the past, vaccines have made a significant difference in society, and they continue to do so.  The Covid-19 vaccines are already bringing hope and a possibility of a return to relative normality, and should be made available globally as a priority.

‘The Church of Ireland has, throughout the pandemic, advocated following public health advice from trusted sources, including the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland and Health and Social Care services in Northern Ireland.  All who have questions about vaccination are encouraged to consult those sources of information and discuss their questions with health professionals.’


Incidentally, trustworthy and updated information is available at the following links:

Northern Ireland –

Republic of Ireland –

New inter-faith role for former Moville Curate

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Most Rev John McDowell, has appointed Rev Suzanne Cousins as his Inter Faith Advisor. Rev Cousins, who is Rector of the Benburb Group of Parishes in the Diocese of Armagh, was previously Bishop’s Curate-in-Charge of the Moville Group of Parishes.


Archbishop McDowell said: “In recent years, the World Council of Churches has been developing its role in this area of theology and practice and it is keen to liaise with member Churches in this work. In an increasingly diverse community, here in Ireland and globally, it is important that we are aware of both the limitations and the extent of what can be achieved in inter–faith relations with integrity and love.


“Apart from her invaluable experience of living as a Christian overseas and engaging with Muslim people and communities, Suzanne is a member of the Inter Faith Working Group of the General Synod Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, and her MTh dissertation (subsequently published in the Braemor Series) dealt with a central Anglican approach to inter–faith encounter, outlined in the Anglican Communion document entitled Generous Love. I am delighted that Suzanne has agreed to act in this capacity.”


Mrs Cousins said: “I am delighted and honoured to be invited by the Archbishop to serve in this capacity. Inter–faith dialogue and the approach of the Anglican Communion and other Churches has developed significantly since the early days of its formal exploration, so that dialogue no longer belongs solely or mainly in the domain of theological academia. Rather, Christians in Irish society, north and south, can find themselves on an almost daily basis interacting with people of other faiths, who are a growing minority. Inter–faith dialogue is in many ways the domain of everyone, especially with the digitalisation of dialogue.”


The Revd Suzanne Cousins pictured at the launch of her Braemor Study, Generous Love in Multi-Faith Ireland, in March 2018 with (from left) Mr Shafqat Ayub, Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, (Head Imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Education and Cultural Centre, Ireland), and the Revd Canon Dr Maurice Elliott (Director, Church of Ireland Theological Institute). Credit: Lynn Glanville.


Statement from the Church of Ireland Bishops in Northern Ireland in relation to Public Worship

Following the Northern Ireland Executives decision to extend the current Covid-19 restrictions to Thursday 1st April 2021, representatives of the Churches met earlier this week with Ministers from the Executive Office, the Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer. At that meeting the Chief Medical Officer stressed that it would make a significant difference and be of huge benefit to public health and safety, if churches were willing to continue, for the time being, not to gather in-person for services and other meetings.

In the light of the Executives extension of the current restrictions, and on the basis of the continued and unequivocal public health message that people should continue to stay at home,  we have agreed that all in-person Sunday gatherings for worship, along with all other in-person church gatherings, should remain voluntarily suspended for the time being in all Church of Ireland parishes in Northern Ireland until Thursday 1st April 2021 – with the exception of weddings, funerals, arrangements for recording and/or live-streaming, drive-in services and private prayer (as permitted by regulations). 

 We have also agreed to further assess the situation immediately after the next NI Executive review of current lockdown provisions on Thursday 18th March 2021, in the cautious anticipation that, from Friday 2nd April (Good Friday) onwards, our parishioners in Northern Ireland could return to in-person gatherings for worship, with all necessary precautions and mitigations in place. This recognises the importance of Easter, the significance of which was acknowledged by the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer at their most recent meeting with Church representatives.

We welcome that a similar approach is also being taken by the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and, in a slightly different form, by the Roman Catholic Church.

+John Armagh

+Andrew Derry and Raphoe

+David Down and Dromore

+George Connor


Let’s Journey to the Cross – Jesus in the Temple

Let’s Journey to the Cross – Jesus in the Temple, age 12. (A reflection by our Diocesan Children’s Officer, Kirsty McCartney).
This is a Bible story that has always confused me – not Jesus being with the leaders and discussing the Bible – but the fact that Mary and Joseph did not realise that Jesus was missing for a full day, and then took another three days to find him! It is only when you think that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were travelling with a caravan of people – it was not just the three of them, but hundreds of people making this important journey to celebrate the Passover – that I can see how it could have happened.
Jesus knew what he was doing – he was not deliberately disobeying his parents, but rather spending time with God and learning more about him. When they returned home Jesus obeyed his parents, learned from them, and continued to grow, ready to take on his ministry.
Jesus travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. It has been a while since we have been able to travel for any celebrations, but we have hope that in the weeks and months ahead this will change again. Spring is coming and signs are everywhere to be seen – as you journey this week have a look for signs of Spring and thank God for them.
A Prayer for Let’s Journey to the Cross (Linda Hughes)
Lord, as we travel through this season, we are aware that Lent can be a difficult time.
We like to do things in our own time and find it hard to be disciplined.
Forgive us when we fail to do the right thing or when we find that we are eager to receive your love and forgiveness but are reluctant to return them back.
As we travel through Lent may we be encouraged to open our hearts and listen for your voice so we can discover what you want us to do and trust in your unconditional and everlasting love for us.

Transferor Representatives’ Council Thanks Schools for Commitment, Professionalism and Service

The Transferor Representatives’ Council (TRC) has written to the principals and boards of governors of all controlled schools in Northern Ireland to thank them and all of their staff for their continuing work.
In particular, the TRC thanks principals, teachers, all other school staff, and governors “for their commitment to pupils and their mental health and wellbeing, the delivery of education, their dedication to the schools and for their service at this time of global disruption and anxiety.” The letter adds: “Their professionalism is recognised and their service deeply appreciated.”
The Chair of the TRC, Miss Rosemary Rainey OBE, said, “At a recent meeting of the TRC Executive, many heartfelt tributes were paid to school principals, senior leadership teams, staff and governors for the manner in which they had all responded to the additional demands and extra workloads associated with the delivery of the curriculum to pupils throughout the current pandemic.
“In writing as we did, we wanted to commend principals and staff for putting in place arrangements to enable remote learning and for maintaining regular communication between teachers, parents and pupils. Together, the TRC recognises that boards of governors have continued with their responsibilities for oversight of the curriculum, finance, health and wellbeing of pupils, the provision of education for pupils with special educational needs, and maintaining links with the community. We also wanted to recognise those teachers who have undertaken further professional development to enable pupils to learn by means of online teaching and supervision over the past year – all of which is a credit to them and the profession.”
All school governors in Northern Ireland serve in a purely voluntary capacity and, in respect of controlled schools, boards of governors are representative of the Department of Education, the Education Authority, the TRC, and parents and teachers.
The TRC concludes by encouraging “everyone who believes in the power of prayer” to keep school principals, senior leadership teams, teachers, support staff, pupils and school governors on their regular prayer list: “All need support, encouragement and pastoral care at this time.”

‘Journey to the Cross’ – an initiative by our Children’s and Youth Ministries

The Diocese of Derry and Raphoe’s Children’s and Youth ministries have launched a joint venture for Lent. They are encouraging children and young people from Sunday Schools, youth groups, etc., to metaphorically ‘walk together’ to cover the distance from here to the Holy Land during the season of Lent.

It is essential, of course, that this happens in a manner consistent with the COVID guidelines appropriate to their parish’s jurisdiction and, where appropriate, with full parental consent.

People are asked to email to sign up.