‘We thought we could manage the world, but now we know we can’t’ – Archbishop McDowell

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, has spoken of his pride in how the Church of Ireland has adapted ministry in the face of uncertainty, during the pandemic, and kept places of worship “as safe as following all the advice we were given could make them”.

His remarks came in his first Presidential Address to General Synod, which was recorded in advance and shared online. The Archbishop spoke on three themes: reconciliation; deepening the pastoral mission of the Church’s mission; and gratitude.

He said there were a number of forces at work within Ireland, between both parts of Ireland and between this island and Great Britain which had the potential to be more than a little disruptive of many decades of stable relationships. “It’s easy to exaggerate them,” the Primate said, “but also easy to ignore them. One thing we can be sure of – the task of rebuilding trust, the wisdom of knowing when to speak and when to keep one’s counsel, and the resilience of determined peace-makers will be needed more than ever.”

Archbishop McDowell said the pastoral way in which as Anglicans we had cast our mission in the world had been quietly unveiled over the past months, during what he called “a little Apocalypse all of its own”. We had been learning and putting into effect the truth which God set as the foundation of the whole world; that all are responsible for all. “As the Bishop of Meath said in her excellent sermon a little earlier, we thought we could manage the world, but now we know we can’t. That one of life’s smallest components, a microbe, can have the better of the best part of the world and the best that is in us.

“And that the only way to resist its atomising power is by being knit together. By the strong caring for the weak, by learning that most counterintuitive truth, that we are only as weak as our strongest person who doesn’t see his or her dependence on the weak.”

Drawing his first presidential address to a close, Archbishop McDowell expressed gratitude for the hundreds of letters, and cards and messages of support he had received. I” am grateful to God,” he said, “for calling me to this office in that little corner of his Kingdom, which we know as the Church of Ireland, and for its nurturing and forming me in the Catholic Faith. Being an Irish Anglican is only one way of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I don’t even know if it’s the best way. But it is our way, and we need to understand it in its fullness and to cherish it. I don’t know any more than you do what other challenges the future will bring, but I pray that we can travel together along those little paths of love and suffering which mark us as individuals and as a community of faith in the eyes of the Father, as we find our way out of this fog, and faithfully into the vocation which his Providence has laid out for us.”

The Presidential Address is in full below:

When I was translated to Armagh on 28th April, I had not anticipated that we would be able to meet as a General Synod in 2020. I don’t suppose many of us did. And it was for that reason at that time, I wrote and published a number of pieces, including one which was, to all intents and purposes, a Presidential Address to the General Synod that wasn’t going to meet. But here we are meeting as a General Synod, true to the pattern we have learned to live with in these Covid days, that it’s best to have (at least) plans B and C up your sleeve.

Of course, it’s immensely frustrating for all of us to have to meet this way. The only consolation for me is that I’ve some chance of getting into the history books as the Archbishop of Armagh who had the longest gap between his election and his enthronement. I think I’ve achieved that already, altnough the Bishop of Cork or of Cashel will soon let me know if I need to hold out for a little longer to beat some 14th century friar who couldn’t make it to Armagh because of the turmoil caused by the Hundred Years War or until he had a dispensation for some strange impediment.

This will be a foreshortened Synod. Two Bills and the Reports of the Representative Body and the Standing Committee. I’m banking on the hope that you won’t want me to dilate on the technicalities of the Charities Legislation, which prize has been given to some other soul. And I love our National Cathedral as much as any Irish Anglican, but, with the best will in the world, I’m not proposing to say anything much about the financial arrangements necessary to repair the roof. The two reports have very able Proposers and Seconders to lead you through them.

So, is there anything I can say about what has been happening in the Church and in the world, or particularly in Ireland, since 28th April which is worth saying or worth hearing?

First the continuities. I continue to think that all that has happened since 28th April underlines the need for gratitude, an emphasis on reconciliation and of deepening the pastoral nature of our mission.

Reconciliation

Turning to reconciliation. There are a number of forces at work within Ireland, between both parts of Ireland and between this island and Great Britain which have the potential to be more than a little disruptive of many decades of stable relationships. It’s easy to exaggerate them but also easy to ignore them. One thing we can be sure of – the task of rebuilding trust, the wisdom of knowing when to speak and when to keep one’s counsel, and the resilience of determined peace-makers will be needed more than ever.

And of course, there is reconciliation at a more basic level in Northern Ireland. We have tried many things in Northern Ireland. A lengthy peace process. An attempt to strengthen a very unbalanced economy. A wider and deeper tolerance of one another. Some attempts at shared schooling. But very very few of shared living or social integration. Reconciliation is still fresh in its wrapping paper. And setting Covid-19 aside for a few moments (because one way or another it will be laid aside) the question that we as individuals and as a Church, need to ask ourselves, is, do we really want to say to our children and grandchildren “I’m sorry, but this is the best I could do for you?” A society north of the border which is still divided in virtually every department of life and with much sectarian feeling still at its core.

There may be very little we can do as individuals and as a Church about these broad and deep seated problems in society; but there will always be something. Many many little somethings. It’s no harm to remind ourselves that this is an Advent Synod. I don’t want to turn this into a sermon, but Advent is the time of the year, when we talk of His coming again in “power and great glory to judge the living and the dead”. What the Scriptures call The Day of the Lord. A day which will be His, like no other has yet been. A day when each of us will stand before those searching eyes, to give an account of all we have done in the flesh. Every concealed act of condescension or cynicism; every hidden act of generosity. Every casual, clever, wounding phrase designed to sow division and enmity; every humiliation borne, though with tears, for the sake of peace. Every bitter word, that poisoned another well of forgiveness and reconciliation. Every hesitant gesture of goodwill which filled us with worry, in case it was misunderstood and thrown back in our faces. Although we may not recognise them at all, and have forgotten them altogether, we will have to acknowledge that they are our own. That they are what we contributed to the health of our society, but not always in the fear of the Lord much less in the love of Christ.

And within our Church, this Church of Ireland that we love, there is at least as much need for healing and reconciliation and even basic understanding, as there is in the world beyond our walls. Our shortcomings take many forms. An ignorance of how we live, north and south. A deeply unattractive sense of superiority from some; a repellent self-righteousness under the guise of piety in others. Both attitudes are cold and barren because there is no love in them. None. We are reconciled in one body by the Cross, but we are reluctant to share his peace. Can I suggest that it is time that we think twice before we limit God to our own experience of Him, and recognise that He has as many ways of dealing with us as a Father has with his varied children. Jesus Christ was the first man to conceive of mankind as a unity. It is a unity always in danger tearing itself apart in His world, but it is unity which is meant to mature in the household of faith. The unity of a family which gets its life and vigour from what is different about each member, at least as much as it does from what they have in common.

I have had to learn that lesson a little painfully and with some humiliation myself this year. You will all remember the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman and the flood of comment and condemnation which followed. I had thought of saying something at that time but hesitated and didn’t. That hesitation wounded a number of people in the Church of Ireland who had expected some words of solidarity from a senior figure within the Church. After they had written to me about that disappointment they were good enough to set up a meeting with a number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic clergy and readers to give me an opportunity to listen to them and get to know them better.

It wasn’t a revolutionary meeting, and in many ways it was a very heart-warming encounter. But it was also a sobering. I want to be careful not to overstate this. But here was a group of people who love the Church of Ireland, who are dedicated to the faith communities where they live and serve. They bring skills, insights and perspectives which we have not drawn upon. As I say, I don’t want to overstate this, but look at the colour of the faces on your screen. We still have a lot to learn, myself included, about what we mean when we say “I believe in the Catholic Church”.

Pastoral mission

There are many positives too. For instance, the pastoral way in which as Anglicans we cast our mission in the world has been quietly unveiled over the past months, a little Apocalypse all of its own. We have been learning and putting into effect the truth which God set as the foundation of the whole world; that all are responsible for all. As the Bishop of Meath said in her excellent sermon a little earlier, we thought we could manage the world, but now we know we can’t. That one of life’s smallest components, a microbe, can have the better of the best part of the world and the best that is in us.

And that the only way to resist its atomising power is by being knit together. By the strong caring for the weak, by learning that most counterintuitive truth, that we are only as weak as our strongest person who doesn’t see his or her dependence on the weak.

And to be honest with you, I’ve been proud of the Church of Ireland during these past months. Proud of how we’ve adapted our ministry in the face of uncertainty. Proud of the way we have gone to great lengths to make our places of worship as safe as following all the advice we were given could make them. Proud of the Christian citizenship which the Archbishop of Dublin and I spoke about in our joint Harvest Statement. Proud too of our patience and civic awareness when we have been prevented from worshipping in church, such as at this moment, in both parts of this island.

Not being able to meet together for worship and mutual encouragement and fellowship is not a small thing. As a Christian Church we are greatly reduced by not meeting together. It isn’t everything as we’ve proven, but it is a pretty big “something”, which we believe has many benefits, psychological and spiritual. But even when we’ve not been able meet in church for worship we have in so many places reached out into our communities and worked with all people of goodwill to be companions for the lonely and a support to those who were afraid. And there were many who were and still are afraid.

We tried to bring a variety of worship to people who would seldom have come to worship and I hope by doing so we have lowered the step into church a little for those who might wish to encounter us in the flesh and perhaps in our resumed worship, also encounter the holiness of God. Speaking personally, during the early days of the first lockdown when even some of the mainstream commentary was verging on the apocalyptic I found that the service of Compline, with its emphasis on God’s protection through the dark hours of the night, really came into its own.

Today is also a day when we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of passing the legislation which allowed women to be ordained as priests and bishops. I won’t say much about that now as we will soon be asking Synod to agree to a suspension of Standing Orders so that we can enjoy a video made by women serving in those orders in the Church of Ireland and reflect on how that ministry has enriched our witness and perhaps how we might let it better shape our mission. The number of women in active ministry, in formation or attending Selection Conferences is not as high as might have been expected 30 years on. Perhaps the working group headed by the Bishop of Meath will soon help us shed some light on why that is the case. May God prosper the work.

Sometimes people ask me what I think life, or even just church, will be like post-Covid. I usually say something along the lines of: ‘It’s too soon to say.’

But it will depend on what we have been doing and preparing for during Covid.

And in relation to the latter point, I think we were wise to hunker down for a while. It wasn’t possible to know if the storm would pass. However after a while, and although we weren’t always treated as responsible adults in terms of the data that was shared, it became clear that this was going to be a long haul. The likelihood of vaccines being made available rather sooner than predicted may bring the light at the end of the tunnel a little nearer. Yet I think we should be preparing by prayer and study to bring such evangelising as we will exercise, in that pastoral form I talked about earlier. We will need to prepare ourselves to have the word and the disposition to bind up the wounds of the psychological damage that living as we’ve had to do has caused. To be open in a way we have perhaps never dreamed of before, to care for those who the Good Shepherd carries to us on his shoulders; sheep not identified as of this fold, but His sheep nevertheless.

It may be that the mental health initiative being funded by the All Churches Trust will help us do some good in a situation which couldn’t have been envisaged when the bid was made.

I know there are those who have said that people will lose the habit of coming to church and they won’t come back. I thought that way myself, and to some extent still do. But if that is all it was – “a habit” then of course it won’t have survived the testing time we have been through. Crises such as this one, are just that in spiritual terms too. A sort of sifting process in our lives which call us back to our first allegiances and priorities.

On a much broader canvas governments will face enormous policy decisions. Where will the priorities be? On which policy areas will the best brains and the greatest resources be concentrated? Well, there are two groups (cohorts I suppose they would be called nowadays) who have suffered more than most and lost more than most in this supposedly indiscriminate pandemic.

The very old and the fairly young.

As a society our treatment of older people has been not far short of a disgrace. It is too easy to blame governments, but by and large governments have no policy preferences or big ideas any longer. They ask the focus groups what we want and then they give it to us. In a democracy every person is a politician to some degree and we have a great deal of responsibility for the shape which our society has taken and where it’s priorities lie. It will be interesting to learn just how much effort was put into finding ways for close relatives to visit very confused, frightened and in many cases dying residents, who had to make do with “she can’t visit, it’s for your own safety”. Safety is important but it’s not everything in such circumstances. People nearing the end of their lives, some of them barely able to understand why they were being abandoned (or so it may have appeared to them) by their loved ones. We rightly accept slightly increased risks to keep schools open so that children will not lose out on their education. Perhaps, on balance, there is a case for the benefit of allowing the physical presence of someone who the person loves, and who could provide a unique sense of reassurance to them, as against any threat to safety.  We can only hope that someone actually asked the question.

And if we don’t come out of this pandemic more determined than ever to devote our best brains and substantial resources to a properly integrated health and care system then I wonder when we ever will.

And the fairly young. Already saddled with a mountain of public debt as a legacy of the financial crisis of 2008 it has now grown to wartime proportions inside a mere eight months. And in a heartless symmetry we pile them high with personal debt as well.

Money is cheap now, but debt still has to be paid down, and it is the generation now at school and at university or in the early years of their working lives who will have to pay it down  either directly or by what they have to forgo. I have no idea what the public policy options are to help address that very demoralising problem. But I can’t help thinking that in terms of tax structures and investment some of us will need to be prepared to have less so that another generation can have something of the material comfort we enjoy. And similarly any recovery that will be worthy of its name, and which this generation will buy into, will need to be a green recovery, otherwise the effort needed to make it work simply won’t be there.

We know now who can be counted among our essential workers. The nursing assistant who, despite his or her own fears, went to work every day during the worst of these months. The staff in care homes who with courage and endless resourcefulness did everything they could with not much outside help to make them places of safety. Lorry drivers and delivery drivers and warehouse workers on the minimum wage. Very often on this island, migrant labourers in food factories, who kept working simply because they had to in order to feed their families. The people who kept us alive and kept us fed in the safety of our homes. And since they’ve reopened, all those who work in schools, who by their prodigious and patient efforts (and probably by a miracle of grace) have not only kept our schools open but have continued to teach and to learn.

There is one group of people who I haven’t mentioned yet-and probably everyone in this Synod will know one or more of them – people who were either gravely ill with Covid-19 or who had family members die in almost unimaginable circumstances, unable to be with the people who had loved them longest and deepest. I know many parishes will have had their own ways of helping those in that sort of need. Though heaven knows it was almost impossible, except through prayer, to know what to do. As I said earlier, I do not want to make this into a sermon, but this is an unusual Synod and please God I will have others to speak at in the future when I can be a bit more businesslike. To those people who have suffered so much, I can only point to the One who has gone deeper into innocent suffering than anyone ever has. And who died gasping for breath, while those who loved him had to stand “afar off”. And who was their companion in death.

Gratitude

Given what I have just said, it may seem a little incongruous that I want to end on the note I began with on the day of my translation. Gratitude. When I was ordained deacon, and the old Defined Benefit Clergy Pension Fund was still in full swing, I had intended to retire as a rector when I reached the age of 65 in January 2021. I ask myself “what went wrong”?

Joking aside, I am deeply grateful to you for receiving my minstry as Archbishop of Armagh and for the hundreds of letters, and cards and messages of support I have received. I am grateful to God for calling me to this office in that little corner of his Kingdom, which we know as the Church of Ireland, and for its nurturing and forming me in the Catholic Faith. Being an Irish Anglican is only one way of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I don’t even know if it’s the best way. But it is our way, and we need to understand it in its fullness and to cherish it. I don’t know any more than you do what other challenges the future will bring, but I pray that we can travel together along those little paths of love and suffering which mark us as individuals and as a community of faith in the eyes of the Father, as we find our way out of this fog, and faithfully into the vocation which his Providence has laid out for us.

Thanks be to God.

 

Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal Launches Mother and Child Advent Appeal

The Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal for World Aid and Development has launched a Mother and Child Advent Appeal, which seeks to raise support for four initiatives in the following countries:

  • Nepal – Sundar Dhoka Saathi Sewa, which is being supported through CMS Ireland, provides emergency food to pregnant and lactating mothers whose access to harvests, work and food has been decimated due to the pandemic;
  • Cambodia – Tearfund Ireland’s work to provide children in crisis situations with emergency foster parents to give them a safe, secure home as an alternative to going into an orphanage;
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo – Christian Aid’s support for families who have fled conflict and are now living in overcrowded shelters, mostly without water or electricity; and
  • Sierra Leone – refurbishment of health clinics alongside support in communities and education for women and their partners who are expecting a baby.

Lydia Monds, Bishops’ Appeal’s Education Advisor, says: ‘This Advent, how apt that as Christians follow the story of a heavily pregnant young woman on an arduous journey, going into labour in an overcrowded town and giving birth next to animals, that Bishops’ Appeal would focus on expectant and young mothers today and the challenges that they are facing in keeping themselves and their children safe.  In such difficult times, we are grateful to those who are in a position to support this Mother and Child Appeal.’

Donations to the appeal can be made by visiting www.bishopsappeal.ireland.anglican.org/give or by post to Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal (Mother & Child Appeal), Church of Ireland House, Church Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

In recent months, Bishops’ Appeal has also supported efforts to help communities in Lebanon as they recover from the explosion in Beirut’s port (Tearfund Ireland and Christian Aid); agricultural and forestry projects in Burkina Faso and Cameroon (Self Help Africa and Feed the Minds); support for education and girls’ health in six schools in Uganda (Fields of Life); vocational training for young adults who attend the Anglican Diocese of Egypt’s deaf centre in Cairo (CMS Ireland); increasing literacy and training women in business skills in Burundi (CMS Ireland and Mothers’ Union); and helping pea farmers in Malawi to access larger markets and strengthen their ability to sell their produce (Christian Aid).

 

Another Chance – “a vision borne into reality”

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, told a congregation in Londonderry on Wednesday evening that some people were being affected far worse than others by the coronavirus pandemic and that, for some, the fear and anxiety had been overwhelming. He was speaking at a Service of Thanksgiving in Glendermott Parish Church to mark five years of witness and outreach by the parish’s Another Chance charity shop and outreach centre in Tullyally.

Earlier, the Rector of Glendermott and Newbuildings, Rev Canon Robert Boyd, welcomed Bishop Andrew and the socially-distanced congregation of around 50 people to the Service of Thanksgiving. The Rector said he was very proud of Another Chance’s achievements and extremely excited about its future plans. “It has been great,” Canon Boyd said, “that the parish has taken the lead in such a venture. Another Chance is not just about making money. We see it as a service to the community and I intend for it to stay that way.”

Canon Boyd said he enjoyed hearing from customers and volunteers about the difference Another Chance had made in their lives. “That’s what it’s all about,” he said, “making a difference in people’s lives.”

In his sermon, Bishop Andrew described Another Chance as a vision that had been borne into reality. “You had the seed of a vision here, in that year of opportunity in the diocese, the seed of a vision for how we could reach out into the community, how we could be church in a different way, and you weren’t content just to leave it with the seed of a vision, you wanted to see the reality – and there the reality is in all its splendour. And floods wouldn’t put you off, floods wouldn’t knock you off course; you got back, and you got going again and I honour you for that.”

The Bishop praised the volunteers in Another Chance for the way in which they had responded to the 2017 flood – which had brought devastation to the local community – and, more recently, to the coronavirus crisis. “People say we’re all in the same boat, at the moment,” Bishop Andrew said. “I don’t think we are in the same boat. I think we’re all in the same storm but we’re not all in the same boat. We’re in very different boats, actually.”

For some it was like being in an ocean liner, he said. We just keep on going. We’ve been able to look after ourselves. It doesn’t affect our income. Everything’s been okay. For others – worrying about jobs, and finances, and health – it was like being in a rowing boat. Nobody wants to be in a rowing boat in the middle of a storm, because you’re going to feel every wave and all the fear that that storm brings.

“And yet for others in this storm, it’s as if they’ve just about been hanging on to a little bit of driftwood, and fear and uncertainly has felt overwhelming at times – the storm has been so strong. I don’t know what boat you’re in in this storm, but what I do know is that we follow a God who specialises in calming storms – that’s what we read about in scripture – and tonight, whether it’s been in the coronavirus or the five years before that, tonight I want to honour you as a parish, honour all of you as volunteers for how you have been the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears of God as you’ve sought to calm the storms in people’s lives through Another Chance.”

Bishop Andrew felt that – “really significant” as the past five years had been – it was only the beginning for Another Chance. “Do you know, Another Chance is an inspired name, isn’t it, because we can use it in all sorts of ways? But the thing that I delight in, tonight, is that our God is the God of another chance: whenever we get it wrong, whenever we mess up, whenever we feel useless at times – God is the God of another chance.”

The Bishop’s hopes for the future look set to be realised. During the prayers of thanksgiving, the coordinator of Another Chance, Joanne Miller, revealed that the outreach centre had plans to develop a men’s shed and support hub, including a social supermarket, employment training and other initiatives.

Lessons learned are lessons shared for St Canice’s fundraising parishioners

St Canice’s Church in Eglinton has produced a new book celebrating some of the things which have helped get people through lockdown. On Wednesday afternoon, its Rector, Rev Canon Paul Hoey, presented a copy of ‘Seasons of Blessing – Lessons from Lockdown’, to Bishop Andrew Forster, who had written an introduction to the book and contributed a short piece, extolling the benefits he got from his daily walks with the dog.
Bishop Andrew was visibly impressed by the book. ‘Seasons of Blessing’ is a varied feast, including reflections and verses from scripture, observations by parishioners and members of the wider community, poems, recipes, cartoons and photographs. “Some items will make you laugh,” Canon Hoey writes in the preface, “some will inspire you to try something new, and some will invite you just to sit and be still and to know that, whatever you face, you are never alone.”
The book has been produced to raise funds for the St Canice’s Hall Restoration Appeal, which aims to replace the hall destroyed in the August 2017 flood. Copies cost £7 each and are available from St Canice’s Church – email stcaniceschurch@outlook.com or ring the Rector on 07712 873322.

Bishop to Address Diocesan Synod Members Virtually

Bishop Andrew has expressed his disappointment that the 2020 Diocesan Synod has been unable to proceed as scheduled, this year, because of the pandemic but assured members that his first Presidential Address would be made available online in the near future.

Today – Wednesday 25th November – was earmarked for the annual gathering of clergy and parishioners after the original and traditional October date fell by the wayside. Now, even the revised date has fallen victim to COVID, meaning that this year’s Synod business will, for the most part, be completed online.

“I’m saddened that we can’t meet in person, this year,” Bishop Andrew said today. “This was to have been my first Diocesan Synod as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, and I had been looking forward so much to meeting people face-to-face and leading the Service of Holy Communion – I’d even been looking forward to delivering my first Presidential Address.

“Unfortunately, that won’t now be happening in the way we had hoped, but – despite the pandemic – the life of the Church continues, God’s work goes on, and the wheels of bureaucracy must keep on rolling.

“Synod business is being completed electronically. The Books of Reports will be sent out before Christmas; our triennial elections will be taking place electronically, on an online election platform; and I will be sharing my Presidential Address online, in the very near future.

“Sadly, this disruption to Synod is one of the prices we must pay for defeating the Coronavirus,” Bishop Andrew said. “While it’s not ideal, it’s a small sacrifice compared to that made by so many people – those who’ve buried loved ones in harrowing circumstances; those who’ve had to keep away from family (especially older, more vulnerable relatives); those who’ve been working at the frontline in our hospitals and care homes; our emergency services; our key-workers; and people in retail.

“God willing, we’ll be back to normal next year when I hope we’ll be able to look back on 2020 as something of an aberration.

“In the meantime, observe social distancing but stay close to God; keep safe; listen to the doctors and scientists; observe the guidelines; let’s do our bit to beat the virus.”

Death of Canon Mayes

The death has taken place of Rev Canon John Mayes, the hugely popular former Rector of All Saints Clooney and, previously, Rector of Kilrea and Aghadowey.

Canon Mayes, who was 76, died peacefully on Sunday at his home in Londonderry’s Waterside. He is survived by his wife Alison and children Rory, Victoria and Aonghus.

Canon Mayes was appointed a Canon of Derry in 1992 and served for a time as Bishop’s Secretary for Inter Church Affairs and as Rural Dean of Derry,

There will be a private Service of Thanksgiving in St Columb’s Cathedral for Canon Mayes’ life, with burial afterwards in Kilrea Parish Churchyard. Attendance at the funeral will be restricted because of COVID-19 regulations.

Family flowers only; donations in lieu, if desired, to St Columb’s Cathedral Restoration Fund, c/o Very Rev. Raymond Stewart, The Rectory, 30 Bishop’s Street, Londonderry, BT48 6PP or Foyle Hospice, c/o Mrs Ruth Hay, Funeral Director, 24a Church Road, Altnagelvin, Londonderry BT47 3QQ.

 

Bishop launches new diocesan prayer booklet for the COVID era

The Diocese of Derry and Raphoe has produced a new prayer booklet, ‘Hope in the Pandemic’, to encourage parishioners during the COVID-19 crisis. The pocket-sized resource is printed on recycled paper and is meant to comfort people and help them pray through what the booklet’s foreword describes as “one of the most challenging times of the modern era”.

“The darker nights are in some way a metaphor for the added anxiety and fear that many are experiencing,” Bishop Andrew Forster writes. “As people of faith we believe that ‘the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John1:5). I hope that you find these prayers and scripture readings helpful. Let us show our people at this time of great trial that we are people of faith, not fear.”

The new booklet includes prayers for those bereaved by the virus and those who are ill or suffering because of it; there are prayers for those in hospitals and nursing homes, for doctors and nurses, for family and friends, and prayers for peace of mind.

“I hope that this little booklet will become something that you can keep – either in your handbag or in your pocket or at home – and turn to and use,” Bishop Andrew said, “knowing that God has a role for you within this pandemic, to make things better because of your prayers.”

‘Hope in the Pandemic’ will be available from local parishes and from the Diocesan Office.

 

 

Elbow bump greets new Rector of Balteagh Group at institution in Christ Church Limavady

“If there’s ever a time that the Church needs prayer, and spiritual leaders need prayer, it’s now,” Rev David McBeth told the congregation in Christ Church, Limavady on Wednesday evening, at the Institution of his friend and colleague, Rev Rhys Jones, as Rector of Aghanloo, Balteagh, Carrick and Tamlaghtard.

Rev McBeth, who had been the new incumbent’s Rector at All Saints, Clooney in Londonderry for the last three years, had been invited by Bishop Andrew Forster to preach the sermon.

As is common, nowadays, the service went ahead under strict conditions imposed to limit the spread of the COVID virus. The attendance – which included Rev Jones’s wife, Samantha, and their children – was restricted to fewer than 80 people. Worshippers’ contact details were collected as they arrived at Christ Church; they were urged to use hand sanitiser as they entered the church; once inside they wore masks and sat in alternate pews, observing social distancing.

“Pray for the Church at this difficult time,” the preacher said, as he urged parishioners to support their new Rector. “For you the people of Balteagh and Carrick, Tamlaghtard and Ahanloo, show your leader mercy. Support him through this difficult time, until we get the churches up and running again.”

Rev McBeth told the congregation that it was never their choice that Rev Rhys had joined them as their new leader. “[It was] Never your choice,” he said. “You might have taken part in the process but that was God’s choice. Remember that.”

Wednesday’s Institution was led by Bishop Andrew, who was assisted by the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller; the Rural Dean, Rev Canon Harold Given (who organised the Service); and the Diocesan Registrar, Rev Canon David Crooks.

Bishop Andrew thanked the Rector of Drumachose, Rev Canon Sam McVeigh, and the Select Vestry for allowing Christ Church to be used for the Service. He welcomed the congregation – whether they came from the new incumbent’s grouped parishes, from the wider community or other Churches.

The Bishop said the refreshments in the church hall which were customary on such occasions, were being dispensed with because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The virus also put paid to the traditional handshake, to mark the institution of the new incumbent, with the Bishop and Rev Jones instead performing an elbow bump.

Capture ‘Anything but Covid’ in the CCB’s Photography Competition

The Church of Ireland’s Central Communications Board (CCB) is inviting members of the Church to enter a photography competition with the theme of ‘Anything but Covid’. This year, in a change to the annual communications competition (which traditionally focuses on print and online media), selected entries to this special photography competition win a prize and be featured on the Church of Ireland’s website (www.ireland.anglican.org<http://www.ireland.anglican.org>) and social media platforms.

The competition, which is kindly being sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance, calls for photographers of all ages and experience to take part.  The idea is to focus on humorous, hopeful or generally uplifting subjects, including people and places, which help to take our view away from the current pandemic, and change our perspective positively.

Bishop Pat Storey, the Chair of the CCB, says: ‘It is a delight to launch this photography competition to welcome a bit of light in the darkness. It would be great to have photographs submitted that simply make people smile. As we wait for the world to heal we take joy in the creativity of playful photographers all over this island. Good luck!’

Each entrant to the competition may submit one image which should be submitted via email to press@ireland.anglican.org<mailto:press@ireland.anglican.org> along with the entrant’s name, full contact details, and parish. Images must be jpegs, and at least 300 dpi in resolution and 3 MB in size but strictly not over 4 MB, and be submitted with the date on which the photograph was taken. The deadline for entries will be 12 noon on Monday, 14th December 2020.  Judging will be undertaken independently of the CCB and prizes will be announced in advance of the Christmas holidays.

New calling beckons for Dean of Raphoe

The Dean of Raphoe, Very Reverend Arthur Barrett, is to leave the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe early in the new year to take up a new appointment as Rector of the Arklow, Inch and Kilbride Group of Parishes in the Diocese of Glendalough. The news was announced to parishioners in the Raphoe Group after this afternoon’s Service of Morning Prayer from Clonleigh Parish Church in Lifford.
 
Commenting on his appointment, Dean Arthur said, “I am humbled and honoured to have been appointed to the Arklow, Inch and Kilbride Group of Parishes. Brigid and I are excited by the opportunity to serve in this new phase of ministry. While leaving the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe, and the Raphoe Group of Parishes will be difficult, we are greatly looking forward to serving and working with the people in Arklow, Inch and Kilbride, as we seek to discern God’s will for these parishes in south Wicklow and North Wexford.”
 
After ordination, Dean Arthur served as Incumbent in parishes in Dublin, Sligo and Enniskillen, before being instituted as Dean of Raphoe Cathedral in 2014. Two years ago, he launched an ambitious project to restore the cathedral, as a result of which a new roof was built recently.
 
“Having to break this news to you in this manner – looking into a camera and in an empty church – is by no means ideal, and certainly not the way that I would have wanted to be able to do it,” Dean Arthur told parishioners watching the service online, “but unfortunately, such are the times that we are living in.”
 
He asked parishioners in both the Raphoe and Arklow Groups of Parishes to hold the Barrett family in their prayers – “as we will be praying for them” – as they all entered a new time of transition and challenge.
 
The new appointment will take effect in mid-January, 2021 and the Dean’s ministry as Dean of Raphoe and Rector of the Raphoe Group of Parishes will conclude on Sunday 27th December.