Double cause for joy as year of celebration begins in Fahan

There was double cause for joy in St Mura’s Church in Fahan, on Sunday evening, as the community launched a year of celebrations marking 200 years of worship in the present building and also a new history of the Parish of Fahan Upper.

Sadly, the book’s author, church organist Mrs Anne Moore, was unable to be present but members of her family were there to see their mother’s book launched and endorsed by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev’d Andrew Forster. Bishop Forster, who had had the privilege of reading the book in advance, had been invited by the Bishop’s Curate-in-Charge of the Parish, Rev’d Judi McGaffin, to preach at a Service of Evening Prayer which also celebrated the feast day of St Mura of Fahan.

Bishop Andrew said it was a great day because they had gathered together “to celebrate 200 years of this beautiful church and celebrate Christian witness in this place stretching back to the sixth century.” It was, he said, an occasion to be thankful to God that under Him, somehow, bricks and mere mortar became special, sacred places to us.

The Bishop recalled those disciples who “carried the cross in this place” and lived out their Christian witness in the parish. “We’re thankful for the past; we’re confident for today; and we’re filled with hope for the future because the God who inspired our forefathers to build this church, to worship on this site, is the God who blesses us this evening and who is with us.”

Bishop Andrew said Fahan Upper had a fascinating and ancient history, stretching right back to when Columba sent Mura to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the people of Inishowen. “The monastery was the mission station – that was Columba’s strategy, if you like – he founded mission stations, monasteries, all around and they were there to be places of light and love and Christian teaching to the community that they found themselves in. And I think it’s an inspiration for us today that in any and every parish, we can be mission stations, alive and vibrant with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Those are the words that matter: alive and vibrant. You know, sometimes we think it’s all about how big we are, or how many come. What really matters is life and vibrancy and this place is a church of life and vibrancy, and I’m very thankful for it.”

The congregation heard that the current church was built 200 years ago with a loan of £1,000 from the Board of First Fruits. St Mura’s was described as a barn and a tower attached. “Now, how could you just call this a barn? But that’s what it’s described as architecturally – ‘a barn and a tower attached’. But it becomes so much more than a barn, doesn’t it?” Bishop Andrew said it was the prayers of the people that beautified the Church of Jesus Christ. “That’s why this place is special. That why it’s beautiful. That’s why it matters to us.”

The Bishop recalled some of the “very famous” people whose faith had been nurtured in Fahan, including the hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander, her husband William – who became the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and then the Archbishop of Armagh – and the nursing pioneer Agnes Jones.

Turning to the second reading in the service, Luke 14: 27-33 – “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” – Bishop Andrew reminded the congregation that Mura’s cross marked the saint’s grave, just yards away from the church that bore his name. The Bishop said the carved cross was one of the great gifts of Irish Christianity to the worldwide Church. They were particularly associated with Columba – Colmcille – and one of the parishes that the Bishop served in previously, Drumcliffe in County Sligo, was on the site of one of Columba’s monasteries.

Bishop Andrew showed the congregation a miniature version of the Drumcliffe Cross which he keeps in his study. “All of us are the objects of the love of this cross,” he said. “And, do you know, the wonderful message of the love of the cross as it becomes part of our story is that we become those vessels of God’s love and sharing God’s love.”

After the service, Rev’d McGaffin invited the Bishop to launch the new parish history formally, which he did to the glory of God and for the benefit of His Church and His people in Fahan and beyond. The Bishop asked the Moore family to pass on the congregation’s prayerful good wishes to their mother for a speedy recovery. “We’re very sorry that she couldn’t be here tonight,” he said, “but please do tell her that she’s being very much honoured tonight for all that she’s done in the parish down through the years and particularly in the publication of this beautiful history.”

Bishop Andrew said parish histories could be very dense publications but that Mrs Moore’s was a very easy and very enjoyable read. He spoke admiringly of the author’s writing style and complimented the publishers on the attractiveness of the new book. “So, what I’m saying,” the Bishop continued, “is don’t just buy one copy: buy a few and give them away because it’s a really good gift as well.”

After the service, the congregation – which included the Parish Priest of Buncrana, Very Rev Francis Bradley and some of the Sisters of Nazareth in Fahan – enjoyed refreshments and fellowship in the church.

Great day for indomitable daughters of Garvagh

Friday was a proud day for Garvagh Parish stalwart, Helen Livingston, as she watched a blue plaque being unveiled on her local church to commemorate the woman who introduced the Women’s Institute to Northern Ireland.

Dorothea Florence Macausland, who worshipped in St Paul’s for many years prior to her death in 1970, formed Northern Ireland’s first Women’s Institute branch in the village in 1932. Her achievement was marked by the Ulster History Circle with the erection of one of its celebrated blue plaques on the east wall of the local church.

Mrs Livingston, who arrived in Garvagh two years after Mrs Macausland’s death, has written her predecessor’s life story for posterity and had campaigned for many years to have Mrs Macausland’s memory honoured publicly.

There was a glittering turn-out for Friday morning’s unveiling ceremony, which was performed by Mrs Macausland’s great-niece, Joanna Clark. Among those in attendance were the Lord Lieutenant for County Londonderry, Mrs Alison Millar; the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Sean Bateson; the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev’d Andrew Forster; the chairperson of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Cllr Sean Bateson; the President of the Federation of Women’s Institutes in Northern Ireland, Lady Anthony Hamilton; the Chairman of the Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland, Mrs Colette Craig; and another of Mrs Macausland’s relatives, Jack O’Sullivan.

Bishop Forster, whose late mother had been a member of the Women’s Institute, described the work of the Ulster History Circle as remarkable for the way in which it acknowledged people who made a significant contribution to building up community. “Dorothea Macausland clearly lived a remarkable life,” the Bishop said. “Born in India, she was a nurse during the war, she was on a ship that was torpedoed during the war. She was a woman of real substance and, as the Lord Lieutenant said, an indomitable daughter of Garvagh. For us, in the Church of Ireland, we’re delighted to be associated with such a special day and delighted that the plaque is part of the fabric of our parish, now, as well.”

Addressing the many WI members who had travelled to Garvagh for today’s ceremony, Bishop Andrew said, “Many of you, today, love Women’s Institute. Why? Because it brings you together. It’s about community. It’s about being a positive and good force in the community, and all of us know that our community needs positive and good people making an impact. And today we acknowledge one of our own and delight in sharing in this special day. For us, as a Church of Ireland community – if I may use the word in the right sense – we’re proud to be associated with Dorothea Macausland and delighted that the Ulster History Circle has graced us today by allowing this plaque to be placed on one of our buildings.”

After the ceremony, refreshments were served in the Parish Hall where grace was said by the Rector of Errigal and Desertoghill, Rev Carmen Hayes.


Courtesy call by Methodist President

The President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Sam McGuffin, paid a courtesy visit to the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, on Monday afternoon. Mr McGuffin and Bishop Forster are long-time friends, having first got to know one another during the Bishop’s ministry in the Diocese of Armagh.

The church leaders exchanged gifts – a Book of Common Prayer and a Book of Methodist Worship – before Bishop Andrew gave his guest a guided tour of the Diocesan Centre in Londonderry, a building once owned by the Presbyterian Church.

The Methodist President was accompanied on his visit by the Superintendent of the Methodist Church in the North West, Rev Richard Johnston. The two men enjoyed tea and coffee and fellowship with the Bishop; the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven Robert Miller; the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart; and the Bishop’s Curate-in-Charge of the Fahan Group of Parishes, Rev Judi McGaffin.

Bishop Andrew in reflective mood at DRY Invites Service in Raphoe

The weather outside was decidedly on the chilly side, but the mood inside St Eunan’s Cathedral in Raphoe was warm and inviting – which was appropriate – as scores of people arrived for the first of this year’s ‘Derry and Raphoe Youth Invites’ services.

The chairman of the DRY Board, Rev Peter Ferguson, looked pleased as Punch as the church filled up with worshippers of all ages and from all arts and parts. He had been at pains to point out that the service was for the whole Diocesan family, not just for young people.

Rev Ferguson and the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, were rewarded with a congregation that comprised men and women, boys and girls, leaders and clergy from parishes in both dioceses and representing counties Donegal, Tyrone and Londonderry.

Dean Barrett welcomed everyone to what he called “a special occasion”. It was special, he said, because it was St David’s Day, the first of March (there were no Welsh people in the congregation – the Dean checked); it was special because it was the first Sunday of Lent; and it was special, he said, because of the music they had, which was to be led by the Mark Ferguson Band.

A special feature of the ‘Derry and Raphoe Youth Invites’ services is the testimony of young people. Today’s congregation heard about the impact of the new Exodus youth outreach programme, which was introduced in the Stranorlar, Meenglass and Kilteevogue parishes last year; about the weekly Confirmation class in in Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, where the SPARK initiative – first pioneered in Garvagh – will be rolled out this summer; and details of the new interdenominational youth group which meets at weekends in Donegal Town.

The Archdeacon of Raphoe, Ven. David Huss, revealed details of this year’s ‘On the Move’ weekend, which will take place in Donegal Town and Laghey from the 24th to the 26th April. The weekend is for youth aged 13 years of age and upwards, who will stay in a local school and go out and about in the local community, performing public-spirited tasks such as litter picks and fence painting, blessing the community and showing the love of Christ to their neighbours.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, who gave the address at Sunday’s, was in a reflective mood. He said he had brought with him a ‘picture’ of the kind of people God wanted to speak to at Sunday’s service, those God was interested in, those God saw great potential in and, most importantly of all, those God loved. Bishop Forster then produced a large, circular mirror, which he held aloft before walking down the aisle of the Cathedral, showing members of the congregation their reflections.

The Bishop pointed out that the Scripture reading in the service, containing the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin from Luke 15, had three themes: being lost, being found and rejoicing. “For you and me, I think that tells us something about whenever we are found in Christ, found in Jesus, found in God, found by Him and His love, that there’s a rejoicing with joy that springs up within us, a joy that’s there that’s really special and important for us. Lost, found and rejoicing – that’s what we’re talking about today. That’s the God who loves you today. And that’s the God who wants to bless you today.”





‘Grub’s up’ this Lent in Innishrush Parish Church

Innisrush Parish Church, in the Parish of Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower, is hosting a series of Lent soup lunches each Friday, in the run-up to Easter, in aid of Christian Aid.

Everyone is invited to come along and enjoy homemade soup, wheaten bread and rolls. There’s a suggested donation of £5 which buys a fine lunch for you and could be a lifeline for somebody else.

Lunches will be served from noon till 2pm on Friday March 6th, Friday March 13th, Friday March 20th, Friday March 27th and Friday April 3rd.

Why not bring a friend?


Tobermore’s new Rector “may be small in stature but she is a dynamo”

“She may be small in stature,” the Reverend Peter Jones told the congregation in Kilcronaghan Parish Church on Friday evening, “but Rosie is a dynamo”. Rev Jones was preaching at the Service in his hometown of Tobermore during which Rev Rosie Diffin was instituted as Rector of Kilcronaghan, Ballynascreen and Six Towns, in succession to Rev Carmen Hayes who moved last year to the neighbouring Parish of Errigal and Desertoghill.

It was a measure of the affection the new rector commands that many of her former parishioners from Kilmore and St Saviour’s in the Diocese of Armagh had travelled through the Sperrins, on what Bishop Andrew Forster called a “dreich night”, to attend the Service. One of them, a teary-eyed Mrs Marlene Hobson, hugged Rev Diffin in the porch afterwards and told her, “There’s room on the bus for you.”

There was no change of heart on the part of the new Rector, though, and there was no room inside the church as the visitors from Armagh joined parishioners from Rev Diffin’s new parishes to see her being instituted. Sitting with the new incumbent were her husband, Ronnie, and their sons Ronnie, William and Wilson.

The preacher, Rev Jones, is Rector of the Parish of Mossley in the Diocese of Connor, but he knew Rev Diffin from their days together in the Armagh Diocese. “This is a significant Service,” he told the congregation, “not just in Rosie’s life, in her journey of faith, in her continued discernment of God’s call in her life. I think tonight is a significant moment for the parish of Kilmore in Dobbin.”

Turning directly to the those parishioners, many of whom were seated together to the preacher’s right, Rev Jones said: “As you say goodbye tonight to Rosie and to Ronnie, as you enter a season of vacancy, at the very outset I want to be heard to say tonight: please be assured that we are praying for you.”

For the local congregation, in “a place that I have known for years as home”, Rev Jones said it was a significant night, too, for the parishes of Kilcronaghan, Ballynascreen and Six Towns. “I know this parish well and I know Rosie and Ronnie well, and as such I say with honesty and sincerity tonight, that I’m excited by the prospect of Rosie’s ministry here, of what God has planned for this parish.”

There were great days ahead for the parish, Rev Jones said. “Rosie will love you. She will go the extra mile as she seeks to serve God in this place.” She would work relentlessly, doing all that she could to share the good news of the Gospel in this community and beyond.

Rev Jones told that community that the Gospel message was revolutionary. It required change and asked people to move beyond their comfort zone. “Rosie, I know you to be a biblically-focused person, both in your own personal walk with God and in your leading of God’s people. Please continue to keep and place the Bible at the very centre of all you do in this place.”

The preacher said biblical ministry and pastoral care should be inextricably linked. “What we believe we implement. What we preach we practise. Rosie, you are biblically-grounded but what I say to your new congregations here I say this: Rosie is also an outstanding pastor, someone who will go well beyond the call of duty.

“I would really have loved, over the years,” Rev Jones said, “to have kept a tally of the conversations that I have had with Rosie where she was out and about visiting parishioners, attending hospitals and, of late, even taking eggs to parishioners who were elderly and housebound. I have rarely, in my time in the Church, encountered anyone with such a level of pastoral dedication as you.

“And this can be a difficult and it can be a demanding aspect of Christian ministry,” the preacher said, “as our clerical colleagues tonight will attest. It requires great patience, persistence and even, dare I say it, a sense of collective responsibility within a parish. To the people of Kilcronaghan and Ballynascreen again, I say, as Rosie loves you, as Rosie cares for you, so you must love her and care for her. As we place the Bible and its values at the centre of our mission and ministry, so we must also live these out in practical ways.

“Paul speaks about the need for consistency whenever he calls Timothy to do three things, in verse 2 – correct, rebuke and encourage. He speaks of the need for patience in verse 5, and these are important traits as we together seek to be pastorally attentive and biblically faithful in equal measure. A parish is a community of faith, a place where the concept of collective responsibility should prevail, where patience, persistence and love combine to ensure that we can support one another, encourage one another and journey together. And our united intention, and the united intention of this parish under Rosie, will be to see the Kingdom of God advanced and grown.

“This is a call, isn’t it, to share successes, to learn from mistakes together? It is a call to be there for each other in the good and difficult times. Rosie will be the Rector – by the end of this Service – of this parish, the person at the helm of the ship. She’ll offer leadership, and I’d say tonight ‘quality leadership’, but she needs to be supported and she needs to be encouraged. Uphold her in prayer.

“Rosie, tonight, follow the example of the model between Paul and Timothy and be attentive – pastorally attentive. When the need arises, do correct and rebuke, but also encourage. Be patient. In this place do the work of an evangelist and discharge all the duties of your ministry. You’ve heard me say a lot directly to parishioners tonight and there’s one thing I want to say clearly: please make sure she takes time off, because she will work and work – and work and work and work, over the coming weeks. Make sure that she takes time off to spend with God and to deepen her own personal walk with the Lord.

“So, be biblically faithful, be pastorally attentive and finally, tonight, be God-honouring.” Rev Jones said Friday night’s readings were a reminder that everything happens in God’s timing. “But perhaps the most profound lesson of all for each of us tonight in this church is that we need to rely entirely on God: in all we say and all we do, in the good times and when the storms arrive, we need to put God first.”

Rev Diffin was presented for her commission by the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller. Bishop Forster was assisted in the Service by the Rural Dean Rev Colin Welsh and the Diocesan Registrar Rev Canon David Crooks. The Bishop’s Chaplain was Rev David Slater.

After the Service, the new Rector greeted her new parishioners in the adjoining parish hall where a fine supper awaited guests, and where tributes were paid to Rev Diffin. Robert Young, who spoke on behalf of Rev Diffin’s former parishioners, thanked her for her ministry and dedication to Kilmore and St Saviour’s. He assured the people of Tobermore that they were getting not just a fantastic minister but a fantastic person. “Our loss is definitely your gain.”

Margaret Johnston, from Ballynascreen, made presentations to Rev Tommy Allen – who looked after local parishioners during the vacancy – and to his wife Ina. Mrs Johnston sympathised with the people of Kilmore and St Saviour’s: “Only six months ago, we were feeling exactly like you’re feeling now.” She welcomed Rev Diffin and her husband, Ronnie, to their new parishes. “We know that you were God-sent,” Mrs Johnston told the Diffins, and she assured the preacher that the new Rector would not be allowed to work ’24-7’.

Church warden, David Watters, welcomed the new incumbent to KIlcronaghan Parish Church and said they looked forward to their fellowship together as they started a new chapter in the parish’s history with a new leader.

Rev Diffin thanked everyone who came to the Service of Institution. It was, she said, a night of mixed emotions. “I was exceptionally happy in Kilmore and St Saviour’s, Dobbin. And I love you all to bits and I’m going to miss you. And some day, I’ll be standing here and I’ll be looking at the people of Kilcronaghan, Ballynascreen and Six Towns and I’ll be saying, ‘I love you all to bits and I’m going to miss you’. But we’re one big Church family.

“It’s nights like this that remind us that there’s one church under Christ. We’ve come here together, and we’re from all different places and all different parishes and churches, and we haven’t met each other before. It’s a unique moment that God has drawn us together – His children – in under this roof at this moment, so it’s special, really special.”

Rev Diffin thanked the preacher, Rev Peter, for ‘bigging her up’, and thanked Bishop Forster: “You’re not a bad bishop, sure you’re not? You’re the best bishop I’ve got right now. And I do thank you for tonight and for making it so personal and so special.”

Bishop Forster described it as a special evening. He acknowledged the presence of two former rectors of the parishes, Rev Canon Walter Quill and Rev John White, and thanked them for their attendance. He also expressed gratitude to the Rural Dean, Rev Welsh, for organising the service and looking after the parish during the vacancy.

Bishop Forster expressed his appreciation to Rev Tommy Allen and Mrs Allen. “What a great couple and what great servants of God and His Church,” the Bishop said. “Thank you for all that you’ve done during the vacancy, Tommy. We’ll find you another one soon.” Bishop Forster also complimented the parish workers who had prepared a magnificent supper for the special occasion.

“As I was shaking hands with people at the door [of the church] I could’ve told you who were the people from Kilmore and the Dobbin and who were the people from the parishes here, because the ones from Kilmore and the Dobbin were going out with big long faces and the ones from here were smiling and joyful.

“First of all, I want to thank those from Kilmore and the Dobbin for travelling in such numbers tonight to be here. It says an awful lot about you and it also says a lot about Rosie and Ronnie, so thank you all for being here and thank you for giving her to us.

“Rosie and I have already served together because when I was Rector of Drumglass Parish in Dungannon, Rosie came to us for a year as Intern Deacon. Within a few days – literally within a few days – Rosie had endeared herself to the parishioners because of her openness, her warmth, her sincerity because with Rosie Diffin you get what you see. And her warmth and her sincerity and her love is evident, and very quickly the parishioners here and in Draperstown will quickly come to love her and see the treasure that they have in Rosie. I so enjoyed serving with her in Dungannon and we’ve been close friends ever since. I’m delighted that she’s now in the Diocese.”

The Bishop also thanked Rev Peter Jones for preaching “an excellent sermon” which spoke not just to Rev Diffin but to everyone present of the picture of what the Church of Jesus Christ should be like.

Rt Rev Forster said Kilcronaghan, Ballynascreen and Six Towns was a great group of parishes and now, in Rev Diffin, they had a great rector. “Peter reminded us that the best days are yet to come,” the Bishop said, “and that’s the truth for any follower of Jesus Christ – that the best days are yet to come. We’ve had a really super evening tonight, so many people worked so hard to make tonight such a special night. I thank each and every one of you. We’ve had a great night tonight but under God greater days and greater things are to come and we trust Him, and we’ll walk with Him, and well know His love and care into the future.”






















Church of Ireland issues Coronavirus guidance

The following advisory guidelines for the Church of Ireland’s response regarding the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) reflect previous advice provided by the Church as a response to pandemic flu.  The guidelines offer a general framework to parishes, subject to further approval or other advice that may be considered appropriate by the diocesan bishop.

  1. Follow all public health guidance provided by state authorities – the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland ( and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in the Republic of Ireland (
  2. Physical interaction during services, including the Sign of Peace, should be suspended.  Clergy may choose to give the congregation permission to carry out an alternative Sign of Peace that does not involve hand contact (e.g. a smile, nod or bow) if so wished.  Shaking hands on greeting and departure at religious services/ gatherings should be suspended.  Observe good hand and general hygiene – thorough hand-washing with soap or sanitisers and disposal of tissues.
  3. Stay at home if you feel ill and display influenza-like symptoms.  The symptoms to be aware of in the case of the coronavirus include cough, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, and fever.  Do not come to church services until you feel well.
  4. The Church’s duty of care extends to members of the clergy.  If you have influenza-type symptoms, do not call the clergy for pastoral visitation.  Pastoral support for parishioners who are unable to attend church services should be provided by telephone or online (e.g. Skype).
  5. Everyone administering Holy Communion should wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand gel before beginning.  Holy Communion should be administered only in one kind (bread) and placed into the hands only and not onto the tongue.  Only the celebrant should drink from the chalice.  Holy Communion is normally received in both kinds separately – bread and wine – but may be received in either kind, and those who are incapable of receiving the sacrament are to be assured that they are by faith partakers of the body and blood of Christ and of the benefits He conveys to us by them (Book of Common Prayer, p.440).  Intinction should be avoided.

Guidance for religious services has been provided by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and is available at the following link:

Any further guidance for either jurisdiction will be circulated as and when available.

Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Project – Work to Start Soon

A unique blend of music will fill the Londonderry air next month when two of Ireland’s most historic Church of Ireland cathedrals – St Columb’s, Londonderry and St Eunan’s, Raphoe – join together for a Spring Gala Concert.

The concert, in aid of the Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Fund, will take place in the magnificent surroundings of St Columb’s Cathedral on Friday 13th March at 7.30pm, with a programme that will combine the secular and the sacred.

Performers will include the Britannia Concert Band (under Musical Director Stewart Smith), St Columb’s Cathedral Choir (Musical Director Dr Derek Collins), the Raphoe Ulster-Scots Pipe Band (Pipe Major Mark Hassan) and two clergy of the diocese, the Rev Sean Hanily (Button Accordion) who will be accompanied by Rev. Nigel Cairns (Organ). Guest soloists will include Robert Goodman (trumpet), Gail Quigley (oboe) and Martyn Goodman (trombone).

The programme will include a variety of genres, with the music of Holst, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Saint-Saens, Philip Sparke and many others.

The Spring Gala Concert is part of an ambitious campaign to raise €650,000 to pay for the restoration of Raphoe Cathedral. Work will begin just after Easter 2020 on phase one of the restoration, and will continue throughout the summer.

The Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, is hoping people from across the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe, and people of all faiths and none, will lend their support to the fundraising effort. He said the Spring Gala Concert would be an unprecedented musical event. “The various performers (bands, choirs, organists etc.) will perform on their own, but will also be coming together to play and sing in various combinations. It will conclude with all performers joining together in an amazing finale. St Columb’s Cathedral is almost 400 years old and, as far as we are aware, nobody, in all that time, has done anything like this. It is going to be a magnificent musical feast.”

Dean Barrett has described St Eunan’s Cathedral as a site of enormous spiritual, ecclesiastical and cultural significance – regionally and nationally. “Christian faith has flourished in Raphoe for over 1,400 years,” he said, “and the Cathedral Church of St Eunan has been there for 800 of those years.

“It is our responsibility, Dean Barrett said, “to ensure the restoration and preservation of this magnificent – if modest – cathedral church, but we can only do it with the help of many others, near and far.”

The Dean is hoping that music-lovers will come from near and far, next month, and that they’ll be generous with their support for ‘Renovation Project 2020’. Admission to the Spring Gala Concert on Friday 13th March will be free but there will be a Retiring Collection in aid of the Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Fund.

Check out the video to see what’s planned.


Postponement of the Meeting of the House of Bishops to elect the Archbishop of Armagh

The meeting to elect the Archbishop of Armagh, due to take place on 27th and 28th February, has been postponed due to a bereavement experienced by a member of the House of Bishops. Please continue to support the Church of Ireland and the bishops as they prepare to meet in community to elect a new Archbishop of Armagh.

The following prayers may be helpful:


For the guidance of the Holy Spirit



who from of old taught the hearts of your faithful people

by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit:

Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things

and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;

through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour,

who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen


For the ministry of all Christian people


Almighty and everlasting God,

by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church

is governed and sanctified:

Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,

that in their vocation and ministry

they may serve you in holiness and truth

to the glory of your name;

through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen


‘The Wee Church on the Walls’ gets a new Rector with “a big, big heart”

’The Wee Church on the Walls’ was getting a rector with “a big, big heart”, Bishop Andrew Forster told the parishioners of St Augustine’s Church, on Friday evening, as he instituted Rev Nigel Cairns as their new Rector.

It was a night of firsts in the church built on the site of St Columba’s first monastery: Bishop Forster’s first Institution as bishop; Rev Canon Paul Whittaker’s first Institution as Rural Dean; and Rev Cairns’ first incumbency.

The service ended a vacancy which arose when the previous Rector, Rev Canon Malcolm Ferry, moved to Agherton Parish in Portstewart in May last year.

Rev Cairns was joined for the occasion by his wife Alison, their twins Megan and Matthew, and other family members, and the sermon was preached by his former Rector in the Parish of Glendermott and Newbuildings, Rev Robert Boyd.

Rev Boyd – who is the Diocese’s Director of Ordinands – began by thanking the Bishop for allowing him to preach on such an important occasion for the life of the Parish of St Augustine’s and for the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe.

“We all love to brag,” Rev Boyd said, “but I am not going to brag about your new Rector tonight, despite the fact that he comes to you in perfect condition, having been trained by a wonderful Rector and parishioners for the past two and a half years. If he has any faults, just remember: he was okay when he left Glendermott.”

The preacher joked that it was bad enough that St Augustine’s had ‘stolen’ one of his organists but to come back and take his curate was a step too far. Indeed, he wondered whether they might be coming back to take his wife.

“Why are we here tonight?” Rev Boyd asked. Was it that Nigel had got a bigger pay rise? Had he made a mess of his ministry in Glendermott and Newbuildings? Did he just need a change, to escape his dreadful Rector? “Why has Nigel put himself through the ‘torture’ of moving his family and himself half a mile up the road. Poor Alison no doubt had to wonder ‘Where are we going to get all the furniture to furnish a Rectory?’ and ‘Have I to clear out the attic again?’ This calling has resulted in the family’s third house move in under three years.

“Who knows maybe even Nigel and Alison heard a call from God? That is the simple answer. That call from God is one that we all hear; many don’t listen, but listen we must.

“The Christian life is a journey – a process of growth in which we seek to ‘lay hold’ of the fullness of that which has been given us – ‘that for which I was laid hold of by Christ’ as Paul put it. We, as Christians, that is, we are Christians by the profession of our faith and in our position in relation to the Lord. He calls us to various tasks, and it is often a real step of faith to respond to that call.

“Nigel and Alison have done that – for you will soon find out that they are a supportive team and Matthew and Megan are a part of that working team as well. We have been blessed by their teamwork within our parish over the past two and a half years.

“Nigel has given up a good career as a teacher and headmaster to go into this crazy but privileged calling as a Rector. It hasn’t been an easy step, but it was the right one for him and the family. They have sacrificed a lot over the past six years, watching dad head off to college in Dublin, only coming home for the weekend – not easy for a young family – moving home and the uncertainty of where they will end up. Yet they did it and now they have arrived at this adventure in their lives as they move to St Augustine’s and take up responsibility here. We, in Glendermott and Newbuildings, have been blessed by Nigel’s ministry amongst us. We will miss him, and I will certainly miss his support and friendship as my colleague.”

Rev Boyd told the congregation that when the new Incumbent was ordained a priest in the Anglican tradition, he was reminded that “as a Priest in the Church of God” he was being called to work with the Bishop and with other priests as servants and shepherds among the people to whom they were sent. He was to proclaim the Word of the Lord, to call those who hear to repentance, and in Christ’s name to pronounce absolution and declare the forgiveness of sins. 

“The list went on, and it is a scary charge to any of us who enter the ordained ministry of what our responsibilities are. Your new Rector is here to proclaim the Word of the Lord. That Word will challenge both him and you as parishioners of this place to change. To do all of this, he needs to be surrounded by prayer. He needs to spend time in prayer as he continues to develop his relationship with God, for without that relationship with the God who has called him his ministry will suffer, so give him space to develop that important relationship.

“We must remember our proper subject. If we burn with the passion of our higher calling of God in Christ Jesus, burn with the conviction that Christ Jesus has made us His own through our faith and trust in Him, we will not go through life looking back to some Mt. of Transfiguration in the past; our path will be marked by His constant presence, and maybe, just maybe, there will be occasions when in His presence He will become a dazzling light to keep us from settling into discipleship drudgery – to call us back to the stand of Paul: ‘Not that I have already obtained – or have reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because…because Christ Jesus has made me His own.’”

Rev Boyd said St Augustine’s new Rector was not there to replicate the ministry of former Rectors, he had come to follow the call of God and to build up the fellowship of believers in the Parish. “When I moved to Glendermott a short time ago, I banned anyone from saying ‘This is the way we always did it.’ Those may well be in your eyes ‘the good old days’, but you and your new Rector are moving on to greater things; clergy are called to follow the prompting of the Spirit – just as you are; we are not here to glory in the past, we are here to build up a Kingdom in the present for the future – remember that. There will be changes ahead. Support him.

“As Nigel is Instituted tonight as your Rector, I pray that you not only welcome him, Alison and their twins Megan and Matthew, but I urge you to pray with him and for him; to work alongside him as he discerns God’s will for this parish in the future. If you and he pray and remain faithful to the call of God, then this place will continue to blossom and be blessed by God.

“Nigel, I wish you well in this new calling. May you know God’s blessing, guidance and grace in your ministry here. Remember those words of St Paul: ‘Not that I have already obtained – or have reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because…because Christ Jesus has made me His own.’ Never forget that Christ has made you His servant, His child. He who called you will guide and equip you.

“Christ has made your new Rector His own through his faith. He makes each of us His own when we respond in faith. May you press on as a Parish and grow in faith.”

Rev Cairns thanked Bishop Forster for instituting him; the Rural Dean for organising the Service; the Diocesan Registrar for ensuring that all matters were done in accordance with the Constitution of the Church of Ireland; and the Rector of Glendermott and Newbuildings “not only for putting up with me for the last few years” but also for preaching the sermon at the Institution Service. He also expressed thanks to family, friends and clergy who had come to the Service to support him.

“It was a privilege to minister in Glendermott and Newbuildings,” the new Rector said, “and I have no doubt whatsoever that the same sense of privilege will continue as I do my best, under God, to pick up the mantle here in St Augustine’s. As a family, we feel blessed to be amongst you, and I know that your Christian witness on the Walls will be one that will glorify God.”

Bishop Forster also thanked Canon Whittaker for organising the Service and for being with the Parish during the vacancy, and thanked Rev Boyd for his “thought-provoking” sermon.

“To you, Nigel, and to you, Alison, and to Megan and Matthew, we just want to say tonight, God bless you. We’re thrilled that you’re here.

“I know we’re told that pride is a sin, but – but – as a Diocese we feel a sense of pride in you because you’re one of our own: you grew up here; you know the place; we all know you and love you; and tonight we feel a proper sense of pride in you as you begin this new chapter of your life and of your lives together.

“You have a wonderful family. It has been a real joy for me to meet Alison and the children. And can I say to the parishioners of St Augustine’s, I know that you’ll look after this family and help them and support them, and give them the space they need and the support they need, and bless them in the years that lie ahead.

“Do you know, the most important thing for all of us in Church – whether bishop, rector or parishioner – is that each one of us stays close to Jesus. That’s what matters. And as we stay close to Him we find His love, His support, His encouragement, His pushing us on and His blessing as He leads us home. So, I say to you, Nigel, tonight, stay close to Jesus and know His blessing as you serve Him here.

“I’m going to finish by telling you a little story. I’ve been in this church once before – well, I was here yesterday, for a wedding, actually – but I was here once before, it was about 14 years ago, and we’d come just on a daytrip to the city as a family and we walked the Walls. It was a beautiful summer’s day. My children – they were all quite small then – just always used to hate going out with dad in summer because they had to go into every church they walked past. And the great thing about me coming in here was they could play about on the Walls and I came in here.

“I do not know who the parishioners were but there were two of you and you talked me through the church and explained all about it, and told me the history of it, and I felt so welcomed here that day.

“And this is a place of welcome in the heart of this city to tens of thousands of tourists, to people who are part of our denomination and who are not. This is a place of welcome. What we found that day was that this Wee Church on the Walls had a big, big heart and it still does. And you have a Rector now who has a big, big heart, and he will lead you on and bless you in the future.”

The readings were delivered by the new Rector’s wife and by Rev Ken McLaughlin who assisted with ministry during the vacancy. During the service, parish stalwart Deirdre Amor presented huge floral bouquets to Mrs Cairns, to the Rural Dean’s wife, Carol, and to the Bishop, and afterwards the congregation crossed to the parish hall – the Old Schoolhouse – for a splendid supper prepared by members of the parish.