We have seen ‘the very best of people’ – Bishop tells parishioners

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, has praised and thanked the parishioners of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, in County Tyrone, for their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bishop was the guest preacher at a drive-in service yesterday morning which took place in driving rain in the car park of St Patrick’s Church in Ballymagorry.

The Father’s Day Service was led by the local Rector, Rev Canon Paul Whittaker. It was the second time in a month that Bishop Andrew had preached at a ‘drive-in service’ in the diocese, although the first had taken place in searing heat, beneath a brilliant blue sky, in the car park next to St Augustine’s Church in Londonderry’s walled city.

Conditions could hardly have been more different yesterday. The sky was grey and overcast, and at times the two clergymen – who were standing on a trailer – were assailed by rain driving in from the south west. The congregation stayed in their cars throughout the Service – at one point the Rector urged them to “Remain seated” – and social distancing protocols were observed throughout.

Bishop Andrew said he was delighted to be with the parishioners of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong. “I suppose it brings new light to that saying, ‘Look what fell off the back of a lorry,’ he said. “The pair of us sort of fell onto the back of a lorry this morning.

“I want to say to the parishes of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong ‘Well done’, because during this time of lockdown you have really been able to innovate and do your best and help out. You have innovated with your worship, going online and coming for the drive-in services as well. You have done your best in serving your community hundreds of meals, cooked each week and distributed, and groceries given out to those who were home alone. And I want to say, ‘Well done.’

“The Parishes of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong have been a bright light shining through the darkness of this lockdown. Well done to all of you, and especially to Paul and to [his wife] Carol for the leadership that they’ve been giving through this.”

The Bishop praised the congregation for the Christian way they had responded to the public health crisis caused by the Coronavirus. “None of us expected ever to live through a time like this,” he said. “We never expected, even when lockdown started, that three more months later we would only slowly and tentatively be coming out of this. And, in many ways, what we have seen during this time is the very best of people, the very best of people seeking to do what is right, seeking to serve us and seeking to help us, and you’ve played your part in that as well, and I want to say thank you and well done.

“I’m sure you never expected to see a bishop preaching to you from the back of a lorry,” Bishop Andrew laughed, “but, sure, it’s great, isn’t it? It’s great that we can do this. It’s great that we can be here together to worship God together.

“I suppose for all of us this journey through lockdown has been an experience that has changed with time. It might have changed during each day. Some days we’re absolutely fine with it, we know that this is just what we have to accept at the moment. Other times we’ve found it a very rocky and difficult experience because we’re maybe fearful for our own health, fearful for other people’s health, fearful for our own future, fearful for our financial security. So, it’s been a really changing time: sometimes it’s felt fine and sometimes it’s felt very, very difficult as well.

“Do you know, whenever I became bishop, a couple of friends took me out for a meal – it was very nice of them to do that – and just as we were walking into the restaurant one of them said to me, ‘How do you feel about this?’ And I said, well, I feel excited but I also feel very fearful. And they said this to me: ‘Well, isn’t it interesting that in the Bible, 365 times it says, ‘Do not be afraid.’

“Do not be afraid. How many days are there in a year? 365. And 365 times in the Bible it says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ And I suppose it’s there so often because the Lord knows that fear is such a general emotion, an emotion that we experience all the time – virtually day and daily – and the Lord wants to say to you and me, ‘Don’t be afraid’.”

The Rector, Canon Whittaker – who is an accomplished guitarist – provided the music for Sunday’s service, during which he asked his congregation to remember the nine members of their two parishes who had lost their lives since the lockdown began in March.

Minister to make ‘guest appearance’ in Raphoe Group’s Sunday Service

The Minister for Education and Skills in the Republic, Mr Joe McHugh TD, will feature in the Raphoe Group of Parishes’ Sunday Service this coming weekend.

Since the lockdown began, the weekly Sunday Service, which goes out on the parishes’ Facebook page every Sunday at 12 noon, has included a ‘Community Interview’ with someone who is out working in the community, and getting their perspectives and thoughts about the coronavirus and how it has affected them.

They have already interviewed a Director of Nursing from a nursing home in Letterkenny, a shopkeeper, a national school principal, a GP – all of them highly-esteemed essential workers – and this Sunday, 2ist June’s guest is no exception.

Incidentally, Minister McHugh broke the news recently of a €80,000 award to the Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Fund, granted from the Republic’s Historic Structures Fund and Built Heritage Investment Scheme.

CIYD publishes guidance on resuming youth ministry activities

One of the positive trends for the Church’s ministry during the lockdown is that youth ministry, in its widest sense, has never stopped.  Many churches, leaders and youth workers across Ireland have supported – and continue to support – young people in creative and innovative ways.  It’s a testament to their faith in God, passion, and their resilience and commitment.

The Church of Ireland Youth Department (CIYD) has now published guidance on how – on a carefully managed and phased basis – churches can restart youth ministry activities over the coming weeks.

Introducing the guidance, Bishop Pat Storey writes: “As President of CIYD, I am delighted to support our new protocols for youth ministry on the gradual return to face to face youth work. Everyone has done an amazing job of trying to carry on and up skill on virtual means of communication! Some of this will continue but inevitably as the lockdown eases, we will be resuming some activities. Of course, these will always adhere to government guidelines in each jurisdiction. So, thank you for all your efforts and please read the document carefully.”

The 15–page document encourages leaders to look to restart youth ministry activities, however small, without any unnecessary delays, based on the latest government advice at the time – for the good of our young people’s socialisation, faith development and mental health.  It includes several practical for getting a group’s youth ministry ‘up and running’ again.

All guidance is indicative and is subject to ongoing public health advice and a step–by–step risk assessment which should be carried out on an ongoing basis by each organisation/group, in line with the Church of Ireland’s Return to In–Church Worship Protocols for RoI and NI resource.

All activities should have regard to all other relevant requirements and good practice, and all phases should be carried out in line with social distancing measures as advised by both governments, which may evolve over time.

The guidance from CIYD is available at https://ciyd.org/wp-content/uploads/GUIDANCE-FOR-RESUMING-YOUTH-MINISTRY.pdf


Funding opportunity for faith-based charities

A £15.5m COVID-19 Charities Fund has been opened by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland to provide grant awards to meet unavoidable costs for charities which have exhausted all other avenues of support and are facing imminent closure. Faith-based charities can apply as long as they meet certain eligibility criteria. You can find out more by clicking on the link below to the DfC’s website.




Double surprise for Rector on 25th anniversary of ordination

The Rector of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, Rev Canon Paul Whittaker, got a double surprise on Thursday when a number of visitors called to the rectory in Ballymagorry to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination.
First, two parish stalwarts—Dunnalong parish secretary Kaye Nesbitt (also representing the Mothers’ Union) and Leckpatrick treasurer Linda Huey—called with gifts from their respective parishes for their Rector and his wife Carol. Then, Bishop Andrew Forster, who has known Canon Whittaker for over 25 years, arrived to offer personal congratulations.
The presentations were made outside the rectory, in glorious sunshine, and social distancing protocols were observed throughout. Canon Whittaker reminisced briefly about his Service of Ordination which took place in Killowen Parish Church in Coleraine in June 1995 and those present then went their separate ways.

Funding boost for Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Project

The Cathedral Church of St Eunan’s in Raphoe is one of 13 projects in County Donegal benefiting from a Government scheme to protect historic structures and buildings. In total, €140,000 is being allocated to projects in the county, with the lion’s share – €80,000 – going to the St Eunan’s Cathedral Restoration Project. Taughboyne Church of Ireland Parish Church, in St Johnston is also among the beneficiaries. The funding was confirmed by the Republic’s Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh.
The Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, has welcomed the announcement. “It is wonderful to get this news from Minister McHugh,” the Dean said. “We are truly delighted to have received this significant grant. It is a major boost to our Restoration Project. Very many thanks, indeed, to all concerned.”
These latest allocations of funding for Donegal come from the Historic Structures Fund and Built Heritage Investment Scheme. Minister McHugh said it was always a great boost to see Government investment in heritage and history, and even better when there was a great story behind some of the places.
“The €80,000 investment in preserving the Cathedral Church of St Eunan’s in Raphoe is a great example,” the minister said. “It’s brilliant to see the work of Dean Arthur Barrett and those involved in the restoration project getting the reward for the impressive plans.”
Among the other buildings being supported are The Laurels, at Gortnamucklagh near Glenties – which Brian Friel visited as a child and which inspired his famous work ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ – and Taughboyne Church of Ireland Parish Church, in St Johnston, which is getting €2,500 towards the replacement of outdated services.
(Picture: Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, with pupils from Royal and Prior School at the entrance to St Eunan’s Cathedral, Raphoe)

‘On The Move’ in the Coronavirus age

The Diocesan youth outreach ‘On The Move’ is going ‘virtual’ this year as the Derry and Raphoe Youth Board adjust to ministry in the Coronavirus age.

Restrictions introduced by the two governments, earlier this year, forced the board to shelve the plan for a 5-day programme based in the Donegal Group of Parishes. But the DRY chairman, Rev Peter Ferguson, and his colleagues, have been busy reimagining the initiative and drawn up a contingency plan that will see ‘On The Move’ itself ‘on the move’ – going online for 2020.

“In this ‘new normal’,” Rev Ferguson says, “let us grab hold of the God-given opportunity before us to fulfil the great commission in every parish and community from Wednesday 1st July – Sunday 5th July. Each day will be clearly divided with morning, afternoon and evening sessions which can be used and enjoyed at home. On the Move 2020 will all be connected through our Diocesan Facebook page and website.

“Each day will begin with WORSHIP WIND UP – a devotional time of Bible-teaching and prayer to ‘wind us up’ and release us for the day ahead. In the afternoon, a variety of challenges and tasks, with several options, will be offered each day focusing on a certain area of community concern (there will be something for everyone). Each evening we will WIND DOWN as we put our feet up, enjoy pictures and videos from the day, and there may even be a movie or activity to enjoy.

“This will all lead up to a special On the Move Sunday across the Diocese. We will also be encouraging all who take part in On the Move 2020 to pray for our special SEEDS online Holiday Bible Club which will take place the following week.”

Rev Ferguson says with all activities taking place at home and in family groups, this year, it means ‘On the Move’ will be open to all ages and all can take part. “All tasks, challenges and activities can be adapted to suit local and family needs, he says. “All activities will be within current Covid-19 guidelines. We ask all parents and guardians to get involved and provide encouragement and oversight to under 18s. Let ‘On the Move 2020’ bring us all together as a Diocesan family.”

Different themes will be chosen for each day. On Day 1, Wednesday 1st July) participants will focus on those who are self-isolating; on Thursday the theme will be ‘Family and Friends’; Friday’s theme will be ‘Key Workers’; Saturday’s will be ‘Community’; and the final theme, on Sunday 5th July will be ‘Church’.

Rev Peter is inviting people to:

Join Derry and Raphoe Youth as ‘On the Move’ goes Virtual

Release a pandemic of Christian love in every parish and community

Wednesday 1st July – Sunday 5th July 2020

All ages are welcome to participate.

Sign up or register your interest: dryboard123@gmail.com

A simple consent form will be released in the near future, and an information form detailing all tasks, challenges and activities for each day will be publicised in advance of the week to help with preparation and prayer.

Death of Bishop Francis Lagan

Bishop Andrew has offered condolences to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Derry following the death of Most Rev Dr Francis Lagan, who was a former Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese. Dr Lagan, who was 85, resigned 10 years ago last month. His death was announced this morning.
Bishop Andrew said: “I was very saddened to learn of the death of the former Auxiliary Bishop of Derry, Most Reverend Francis Lagan. Bishop Lagan was a faithful servant to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Derry. He was a gifted pastor and distinguished educator, who will be remembered most of all, perhaps, for his great gentility and kindness to all. I offer my personal condolences – and those of the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe – to Bishop Lagan’s family; to my brother Bishop Donal; and to the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Derry.”
(Photo courtesy of Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference).

Tamlaght O’Crilly shares the love among NHS staff

An online concert hosted by the Parishes of Kilrea, Tamlaght O’Crilly Upper and Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower has raised £1,500 for the NHS.

The money was raised through donations for the online concert, follow-up DVD sales and a contribution from Group funds.

Leslie Finlay from Altnagelvin (left in photo) is pictured receiving a cheque from Mary Graham from the Parishes of Kilrea, Tamlaght O’Crilly Upper and Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower. It was the first of three cheques for £500 that’ll be handed over by the Group to NHS staff.