New Bishop makes new friends in Derg and Termonamongan

One week after his consecration in Armagh, Rt Rev Andrew Forster chose the Parishes of Derg and Termonamongan in County Tyrone as the location for his first Sunday Services as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe.

The parishioners of St Bestius’ Church in Killeter made the Bishop feel immediately at home as he arrived to be met by a banner – bearing the legend ‘Welcome Bishop Andrew’ – adorning the gate into the churchyard. After worship in Killeter, Bishop Forster enjoyed some post-Service refreshments and fellowship with the congregation before heading on to nearby Castlederg.

In Derg Parish Church, the Bishop enjoyed what the Rector described as “the chaos of our Nativity Service”. Rev Peter Ferguson said Bishop Andrew, who donned a paper crown for the occasion, fitted right in and made an immediate impact with the congregation in Derg.


New Bishop Consecrated – Bishop Andrew Forster succeeds Rt Rev Ken Good

The new Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, was ordained by the Archbishop of Armagh at a Service of Consecration in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh on Sunday afternoon, in front of leaders of the other main churches in Ireland. He succeeds Rt Rev Ken Good who retired from episcopal ministry in May.

The stormy December weather did not deter scores of people from the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe, or from the parish where Bishop Forster had been Rector, from travelling to Armagh for the ordination, and the church was filled for the occasion.

The congregation heard the preacher, Revd Canon Maurice Elliott – who has known the new bishop since their first day at Theological College – describe Rt Rev Forster as a larger than life personality with an infectious sense of humour. “He will bring an immense range of gifts and abilities to this new role,” Canon Elliott said. “He is a man of deep conviction, yet he tempers this with an instinctive capacity to care.”

Canon Elliott said from the moment, just over 30 years ago, that he and Bishop Forster arrived “literally together” into Braemor Park, to begin theological training, they had struck up what had become a lifelong friendship. It was a singular honour, he said, to have been invited by the Archbishop to preach on this momentous occasion of Bishop Forster’s consecration.

Their long friendship did not prevent the preacher from sharing one story – at the Bishop-elect’s expense – from the rugby pitch at Trinity College during their first year of training together in 1989. “In the rather vain pursuit of fitness,” he said, “the Bishop-elect and I decided we would attend Monday evening rugby training and we were perhaps only five minutes into a warm-up when the coach told us to get into pairs. So, the two of us joined forces. The instruction then followed that we were each to piggyback our partner the width of the pitch and back which I, having opted to be number one, duly did. Then, as the coach shouted for a swift role reversal, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone move so fast in the direction of the changing room as he shouted back over his shoulder in my general direction, ‘Come on, we’re going.’ And to be fair, we never went back.

“So,” Canon Elliott said, “maybe on that occasion, Andrew didn’t quite demonstrate himself willing to carry a heavy burden but, in so many other ways, the Bishop-elect has proved himself more than able to bear significant responsibility: first through the years of his curacy at Willowfield; then as a chaplain at Queen’s; as Incumbent of Drumcliffe; and most recently as a much, much loved Rector of Drumglass.”

The preacher said he had never heard anyone express anything other than deep appreciation of every facet of the Bishop-elect’s ministry. “As a teacher, as a pastor, as an evangelist, as a leader, as an Archdeacon, through his involvement in the structures of the General Synod and the Representative Body, Andrew has shown himself to be diligent, capable, faithful, popular and loving. And in all of this he has been wonderfully supported by Heather, by Hannah, Patrick, Megan, by his wider family, and, not least, also by his late parents Victor and Joan. And Andrew, we all recognise how deeply proud they would have been to have witnessed this moment.”

So, Canon Elliott asked, how could this man be ready to carry the additional burden of episcopal oversight? The answer, the preacher suggested, was to be found in the words of St Paul, which were heard in the second reading, from 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4. “Andrew, all of us truly celebrate all that you have to offer. But the word of the Lord this afternoon reminds us soberly that none of what we may be called to, and certainly nothing of what we may accomplish, is ever of ourselves. You and we all know that it is not ultimately within our power to achieve this ministry or to be fruitful within it. From beginning to end it is solely, utterly and absolutely of the grace and mercy of the Lord. As the Archbishop will shortly remind you, none of us can bear the weight of this ministry with our own strength. And as you yourself will acknowledge in making your solemn vows, it is only by the help of God that you can even begin to countenance what you are about to undertake.”

Canon Elliott told Rt Rev Forster that, as a Bishop, there would be many, many demands made of him, and that there would a wide variety of differing aspects to his new role. “It will be about continuing to manage and engage with your own family; it will require administration; there will be conflicts; you will be expected to offer strategic leadership; you are to be pastor of the pastors; you will have civic duties; chairing church committees, much travelling, and so forth. I know from listening to you in our own conversations that part of your own heart is also to be like the lead evangelist in the diocese and if that is going to happen then most assuredly you need to keep the main thing as the main thing: you must stay true to your own convictions in this regard. That is to proclaim the word of the gospel. As you seek to do that our confidence is that the Lord will indeed bless you and enable you to flourish.”

Canon Elliott said as Director of the Theological Institute for the last 12 years he had had the great privilege of working in support of all our bishops and that he had observed that those who served in episcopal ministry sometimes got very little thanks. “The expectations are invariably high,” he said, “yet often there’s a distinct lack of either appreciation or encouragement.” He could only hope that such a culture may begin to change but wasn’t sure that that would happen quickly so the new Bishop needed to be ready to bear hardship.

“Bishop-elect Andrew James Forster,” the preacher said, addressing his friend directly, “on this day our deepest prayer for you is that you will stay close to the Lord who was willing to suffer on your behalf. We ask that you may remain focused on the message of the Cross and the empty tomb and that as you are able to do that you will prove yourself not only faithful but resilient and strong. Thirty years ago, you didn’t feel minded to run across a rugby pitch with me on your back but, as you learn increasingly to lean on the Lord’s word for strength and on the Lord’s spirit for stamina, our confidence is that you will run well the marathon of episcopal ministry and that in due course you will finish that race. You cannot do it in your own strength, so even now choose again to undertake it only in the name, and for the sake of, the one who laid down his life for you, and who alone is able to sustain you.

The Archbishop of Armagh, Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, was assisted during the Consecration by the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, Most Revd Patricia Storey and the Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, Right Revd Patrick Rooke. The three were joined for the laying on of hands by the other Church of Ireland serving and retired bishops present, including Lord Eames – a former Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. Next, the newly ordained bishop was vested with his episcopal habit, before being presented to the congregation by the Archbishop, with the words, “Brothers and sisters in Christ, I present to you Andrew, Bishop in the Church of God.” Bishop Forster was then acclaimed with warm and loud applause.

Among the many dignitaries from other Churches at the Consecration were the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Sam McGuffin; the President of the Irish Council of Churches, Rev Brian Anderson , the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin; and the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr William Henry. North West Church leaders present included the Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown; the Bishop of Raphoe, Most Rev Alan McGuckian; and the Methodist Superintendent, Rev Richard Johnston.

After the Service, members of the congregation made their way to the Royal School, Armagh – just over half a mile away – for a reception and refreshments. There, for the first time, the new Bishop spoke publicly. He thanked his family, “old friends” and those who had travelled a long distance for making the effort to come to the Consecration Service on such a dismal day. He also thanked the Dean of Armagh, Very Revd Gregory Dunstan for organising the Service and for planning everything “to perfection”, and the choir and the music group for providing music during a “memorable” service.

Bishop Forster paid tribute to three people whose example had moulded the ministry that he sought to live out. The first was his first Rector in Willowfield, Canon Norman Jardine. The others were Bishop Ken Clarke and Archbishop Richard Clarke. “If I can be any way like them,” Bishop Forster said, “I think I will serve you all well in Derry and Raphoe.”

The Bishop also thanked his family for their support. It was a wrench to leave Dungannon, he said, a parish where they had been immensely happy, but the family had been right behind him.

“I’m very excited about the next chapter of our lives together,” he said. “I’m very excited about coming to Derry and Raphoe to be the bishop. It’s a part of this island that I love already – I’ve enjoyed it for many years – and I look forward to being in the community and being part of the community in the Diocese. It’s so lovely to see a cross-section from the Diocese there today and visitors from the diocese, some of the other church leaders and so on, who made a point of being there.

“It is the most wonderful thing in the world to be a follower of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Forster said, “and that’s what we are and that’s what we’ll do together. As followers of Jesus Christ together we can win more for Him, and as followers of Jesus Christ together we can bring His light and love and grace into a world that needs it, and that’s what we’ll do together in Derry and Raphoe.”

(Additional photographs by Mr Peter Cheney, Church of Ireland Press Officer) 


Church Leaders meet PSNI Chief Constable

The Church Leaders, at their meeting in Armagh on Friday 6th December met with representatives of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, including its Chief Constable Simon Byrne. The Church Leaders expressed support for the work of the PSNI, particularly in the area of community policing.

The photograph below shows Mr Byrne, second from right, with (from left) the Rev Sam McGuffin (President, Methodist Church in Ireland), the Rev Brian Anderson (President, Irish Council of Churches), Archbishop Eamon Martin (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh), Archbishop Richard Clarke (Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh), and Dr William Henry (Moderator, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland).

Photograph provided by Mr Jonathan Hull, Communications Officer, Church of Ireland Diocese of Armagh.


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

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.