Prayers sought as Bishops prepare to elect new Primate

The bishops of the Church of Ireland will meet to elect a new Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland on Thursday, 27th February, and Friday, 28th February, 2020. The election follows the retirement of the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke on Sunday, 2nd February.
The bishops seek the prayerful support of the members, parishes and dioceses of the Church of Ireland, as they prepare to meet in community to elect a new Archbishop of Armagh. The following prayers may be helpful for people to support them in this way.
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.
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.

Archdeacon George Davison Elected as New Bishop of Connor

It was announced today that the Episcopal Electoral College for the Diocese of Connor, meeting in the Alexander Synod Hall, Armagh, has elected Archdeacon George Davison as the new Bishop of Connor.  He succeeds the Rt Revd Alan Abernethy who retired at the end of December.

The Venerable George Davison is the Archdeacon of Belfast, in the Diocese of Connor, Rector of St Nicholas’ Church, Carrickfergus, and an Honorary Secretary of the Church of Ireland’s General Synod.  He was previously Archdeacon of Kilmore and Rector of Kinawley, in the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.

The Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, President of the Electoral College and Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, said: ‘I congratulate Archdeacon George Davison on his election as Bishop of Connor. I am confident that he will be a popular choice and a wise and caring leader in a diocese he knows well. I look forward to working alongside him in the wider Church and wish him well as he prepares for this new phase of ministry.’

The bishop-elect said: ‘The members of the Electoral College for the Diocese of Connor have done me a great honour in electing me to serve as the next bishop of the diocese. I am very conscious of the great responsibility that is being entrusted to me. I am immensely thankful for the gifted colleagues who serve the Church in Connor Diocese and look forward to serving with them as we seek to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in the years ahead.’

Following approval by the House of Bishops, the bishop-elect will be consecrated as a bishop on a date to be determined.



The Priests go down a storm at launch of St Columb’s School of Music

The singing clerics, The Priests, brought the curtain down, metaphorically, on Saturday evening’s day of celebration marking the formal launch of St Columb’s School of Music in Londonderry. The school, at No. 1 St Columb’s Court, just off Bishop Street Within, was founded by Nicky Morton and Louis Fields, whose musical careers began as choristers in St Columb’s Cathedral.

The cathedral was an appropriate venue for two musical events which showcased young local talent alongside ‘big name’ performers to appreciative audiences who braved Storm Ciara to support the new venture.

The lunchtime concert saw the Foyle College Jazz Band perform with one of Ireland’s foremost jazz pianists, Scott Flanigan, on a specially erected stage at the front of the church.

Saturday evening’s gala was opened by the Thornhill College Chamber Choir, who won last year’s BBC Northern Ireland School Choir of the Year competition. They were followed by the renowned pianist Ruth McGinley, who performed a number of solo pieces, before accompanying the Derry-born tenor George Hutton, and finally The Priests on a number of sacred and popular pieces, as well as ballads.

Mr Fields and Mr Morton say the new school – which is self-funded – will give all young musicians in the local community the same opportunity they had to develop and pursue their art. The pair said St Columb’s School of Music was part of the legacy of UK City of Culture 2013. “This is a great time to be interested in music,” they said, “and an even better time to be learning it.”

The school already has a huge outreach programme and aims to provide a dynamic and supportive environment that can help young musicians to discover their talents and flourish.

(Photographs by Martin McKeown)

DRY youths get their teenage kicks at the Acorn Centre

More than 50 young people took part in this year’s Diocesan Confirmation Day at the Acorn Centre, St Peter’s Church, Londonderry, on Saturday. The teenagers, leaders and clergy came from parishes across the diocese, stretching from Aghadowey to Stranorlar.

The Confirmation Day was facilitated by the Church of Ireland’s Youth Officer, Simon Henry, who talked to the young people about prayer and the Bible, explained to them what confirmation involved, and discussed why church matters and why serving God matters. There were games and activities, too, and enough pizza to keep the spirits up.

Next on the agenda for DRY is the ‘Derry and Raphoe Youth INVITES’ event in Raphoe Cathedral on Sunday 1st March at 4pm. Worship will be led by the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, members of Derry and Raphoe Youth and the Mark Ferguson Band, and Bishop Andrew Forster will open God’s word.

‘Derry and Raphoe Youth INVITES’ is a Diocesan worship service, so it’s not just for young people but for the whole Diocesan family.

Farewell Service and reception for Archbishop Richard Clarke

The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke concluded his ministry as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland with a celebration of the Eucharist in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, on Sunday evening (2nd February). Archbishop Clarke was joined by a large congregation from across the diocese and beyond, including all serving bishops of the Church of Ireland.

In the course of his sermon, the Archbishop spoke of the importance of Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple – which properly concludes the season of Christmas. He remarked that on Christmas Day, the light of the world through Jesus “shines” on a small group of people – Mary, Joseph and the shepherds – and then goes “out into a wider world” at Epiphany, with the arrival of the Wise Men. In the words of the Nunc Dimittis, at Candlemas, it becomes “a light to lighten the Gentiles … the whole inhabited world is now to be shown the glory of Jesus Christ.”

The congregation was encouraged to carry the light of God to those “who do not encounter any light in their own lives.”  Dr Clarke said: “It is the great paradox of Christianity that the further you and I move out into the places of darkness and need, the closer we will be brought – face–to–face – with the living Christ.”

Simeon, who is mentioned for the first and last time in the account of the Presentation, had reached the point where he could let go of his responsibilities and also realised that “he can now be let go”.  Every one of us is called to “let go of aspects of our life so that you may go on further, carrying the cross, the light of Candlemas, deeper into the world” into lives that are broken, disfigured or empty.

“But there is one thing of which you and I must never let go,” the Archbishop added: “The hand of Jesus Christ.” He quoted Archbishop William Temple’s prayer that we may never let go of His hand but “walk in daily fellowship with Him and so shall we go forth, not without stumbling, not without weariness, but always towards the love of God that awaits us in our Father’s house.”

Members of the congregation gathered afterwards for a reception in the newly-refurbished Alexander Synod Hall, where presentations were made to the Archbishop on behalf of the diocese.

The Archdeacon of Armagh, the Ven Terry Scott, paid tribute on behalf of the clergy and readers and wished the Archbishop a long, happy and healthy retirement.

“You have shown us great kindness and generous hospitality,” Archdeacon Scott said. “You have opened your home to us on many occasions and frequently been with us in our parishes and rectories. You’ve made the effort and taken the time to get to know us and stood beside us on those occasions of great joy or heart–breaking sadness.

Archdeacon Scott said: “You have been yourself and encouraged us to be ourselves, and we’ve loved you all the more for that. You’ve sought to build up our confidence in ourselves and reminded us by word and example that the call we’ve each received from God is a gift to be cherished – and you’ve been great fun.”

The Diocesan Secretary, Mrs Jane Leighton, expressed gratitude for the Archbishop’s work with the diocesan staff, council and committees, and for ministering “in the widest sense of the word” to the parishes: “We have benefited greatly from his time in Armagh. “

The Archbishop said he was thrilled to see so many friends at the reception. He thanked God for nearly 45 years in the ordained ministry and “for the adventures and the experiences that I’ve had over those years”, and the diocese “for making the past seven years, years that I will treasure forever.” He had firstly envisaged his primacy as “the Armagh project” but soon realised it was “the Armagh adventure” and came to value the kindness, acceptance and generosity he had received from every part of the diocese. He added his thanks to the diocesan office staff, the clergy and archdeacons, Dean Gregory Dunstan, and his personal assistant, Mrs Pamela Hutton.

He said that he and Archbishop Eamon Martin, who was present in the audience, had “arrived at roughly the same time, both as blow–ins” but had got to know each other very quickly.

“The friendship that has developed between us, I believe, is something that models something that I hope is valuable for Northern Ireland and is valuable for this diocese because it wasn’t simply a professional relationship; it was in every way a friendship.”

He also thanked representatives from the central Church for their support and care during his time as Primate and recalled his request – in his enthronement address – for the Church to model a spirit of collaboration and a spirit of courtesy. He welcomed progress on this within the Church of Ireland especially as “the world outside doesn’t know a great deal about collaboration or about courtesy and perhaps we can teach many other people what it means to have both of those qualities.” The Archbishop also commended the bishops of the Church of Ireland for their loyalty, support and kindness.

The Archbishop concluded his episcopal ministry with a blessing: “Unto the Lord’s gracious mercy and protection we commit you. May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace, now and forever more. Amen. And thank you again.”

Photography by Jonathan Hull and Peter Cheney

Day of Prayer for Young People and Youth Ministry

This year, the Church of Ireland will be observing its sixth right across the Church. The House of Bishops has approved the Sunday before Lent as the date for this annual Day of Prayer for our youth, with this year’s date falling on Sunday, 23rd February.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4 verse 6)

‘Never give up on anyone’ Bishop tells new Diocesan Lay Readers

Two new Diocesan Lay Readers have been commissioned for the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe at a service in Christ Church, Limavady.

Eleanor Craig from the Parish of Aghadowey and Brian Robinson from the Grouped Parishes of Aghanloo, Balteagh, Carrick and Tamlaghtard were commissioned on Saturday evening in front of scores of relatives, friends and members of other parishes by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster,.

The service, which was led by the Diocese’s Warden of Readers, Rev Canon Derek Quinn, took place on the day the Church of Ireland celebrates the Conversion of St Paul.

In his sermon, Bishop Forster thanked Eleanor and Brian for “saying ‘Yes’ to God’s call and saying ‘Yes’ to the call of the Church”. He assured them that God would continue to richly use them and bless them and anoint them in what they sought to do in what lay ahead. He said the new diocesan readers had a heart for God’s word and a heart for sharing the truth of God’s word – and that was a wonderful calling.

“As the Bishop of the Diocese I say thank for you for saying ‘Yes’ to God’s call and the call of the Church,” Bishop Forster said. “And for each one of us, whatever our lives are, whatever our ministry is, it’s always about saying ‘Yes’ to the call of God and the call of his Church. And that ‘Yes’ doesn’t just happen once: again and again we need to say ‘Yes’ to God and ‘Yes’ to the call of his Church.”

Bishop Forster invited the congregation to think about the sort of people whom God chooses. This week, he said, the BBC had reported the execution of a Nigerian clergyman, Rev Lawan Andimi, by jihadists in Nigeria. In December, jihadists had also killed eleven Christians near Rev Andimi’s church. “Persecution is the daily experience of many followers of Jesus Christ.” The Bishop said. “I read about another young minister of the Gospel who – because of his faith in Jesus – was stoned to death by a group of extremists. We read about that in Acts, Chapter 7. His name was Stephen and we’re told that he was stoned to death by religious extremists.

“Standing there with the mob that cornered this young minister of the Gospel and stoned him was a man called Saul of Tarsus, and Saul of Tarsus decided that what he would do was hold the coats of those who were doing the stoning. Now, why would you hold the coats? Think about it for a moment: if you’re not wearing a coat you get a better aim, you get a better throw. So, Saul of Tarsus said let me hold your coat, you’ll get a better aim, you’ll hit him all the harder if I hold your coat for you.

“Now, today is the feast day when we remember the conversion of St Paul. In Acts, Chapter 9 we read of him going to Damascus to hunt down those who follow – it’s very interesting how the writer of Acts, Luke, puts it – to hunt down those who followed ‘the Way’. This is before followers of Jesus had been given the name Christian.

“I must say, I like that, ‘followers of the Way’, it’s a great phrase because it tells us that to be a follower of Jesus it’s not just about answering some questions, it’s about following the Way and saying ‘Yes’ to the Way of Jesus Christ, following the one who himself says he is the way, the truth and the life. We’re called to be followers of the Way.

“Now, what was Saul of Tarsus doing – the man we call Paul – what was he doing? He was on the road to Damascus because he had heard there were followers of the Way in Damascus and he wanted the same thing to happen to them as happened to Stephen. In fact, we’re told in Acts Chapter 9 he went to Damascus with murderous intent. He had murder in his heart, he had death on his mind. He wanted to kill those who were telling people they were followers of the Way. He went with murderous intent.

“And what happens on that road to Damascus? You know it, don’t you, because you know the story so well? But you know, I find it an amazing story because do you know what it tells me? It tells me that if God still had time for Saul of Tarsus, if God still wanted Saul of Tarsus’ life to change, God still has time for you, and maybe he wants your life to change as well. God wasn’t finished with Saul of Tarsus, and he’s not finished with you and he’s not finished with me.

“And Eleanor and Brian have seen this in their own lives, how God has drawn them to Himself, how God has called them to Himself. I wonder tonight, for any of us – maybe you’re not like Saul of Tarsus – but yet you feel that actions or motivations have pulled us away from God; well, if God wasn’t finished with Saul, he’s not finished with you either.

“And do you know what we call this? We call it the Gospel, and the Gospel is good news; it’s good news for you and it’s good news for me. It’s the Gospel of Christ that changes us and blesses us, that turns us around.

“Tonight, we celebrate two new readers sharing the Gospel of Christ because what happened to Paul that day on the road to Damascus – remember the story? The light shines on him and he falls down and he hears a voice from heaven, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ – what happened to Saul that night was redemption. And a reader’s ministry, a rector’s ministry, a bishop’s ministry is about the ministry of redemption, the good news of Jesus Christ that whenever we seem beyond hope, there’s hope in God; whenever we’re feeling messed up, there’s forgiveness in Christ. If God has time for Paul, He has time for you.

“Now, let’s think about this for a moment or two because whenever this light happens and Saul falls down, he hears the voice: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And Saul says ‘Who’s speaking to me?’ ‘It is Jesus who you persecuted.’

“You know, there’s something really profound in that, that in the hurt and pain of the followers of the Way, Jesus was in that hurt and pain; in their persecution He was there. And, if we follow that on, I believe it tells you and me something of the heart of the Gospel again, that in your hurt, in your pain, in my hurt and my pain, Christ is there. There are beautiful words in one of the psalms that says He counts all our tears and stores them in His bottle. He knows your pain, He knows our hurts. And His love is there.

“You know, a reader’s ministry is a ministry of leading a service and preaching God’s word, but as we do that, we pastor people who hurt, people in pain. And who of us doesn’t know what it is to be in hurt or pain? Who of us doesn’t know what it is to feel isolated or alone? Who of us doesn’t know what it is, at times, to feel misunderstood and taken up the wrong way? Jesus understands. He’s in the heart of it as He’s in the heart of all those who are persecuted for being followers of the way – it’s the tender heart of God. And as we minister – readers, clergy, bishop – we minister the tenderness of God into the hearts of those who are in hurt and pain.

“And isn’t it interesting that it was this light that shone from heaven? And maybe the light shone right into the darkest recesses of Saul’s heart and Saul realised things had to be different. And the light of Christ can shine into the darkest recesses of our hearts. Maybe there are things that need to be different for us.”

Bishop Forster drew the congregation’s attention to another figure in Acts 9, the disciple Ananias, whom he described as one of the great heroes of the New Testament. “I think Ananias is incredible because he’s so in touch with God that he hears the voice of God saying I want you to go to Straight Street – which was the main thoroughfare through Damascus – and I want you to find Saul there and I want you to go and pray for him.

“And Ananias – you can hear all the warning bells ringing – Ananias goes, ‘Hold on a minute. Are you talking about the man who’s coming here to kill us? Are you talking about the man who’s coming here to persecute the followers of the Way, to persecute your followers? That’s who you want me to go to?’ And God says, ‘Yes’.

“And dear Ananias walks along that street called Straight. I wonder what was going on? I wonder was his heart beating out of his chest. And he goes into that room where Saul was and what does he say? ‘Brother Saul.’

“Isn’t that beautiful? ‘Brother Saul’ – to this man who a few days before had been his enemy; to this man who had been out to kill him; to this man who had held the coats while Stephen was stoned. ‘Brother Saul.’ The Gospel of reconciliation. The Gospel that brings people who are apart together. The Gospel that brings people like you and me – all different shapes and sizes and stations of man – brings us together, because of the love of God that unites us under our heavenly Father.

“Think about that dear man that night, Ananias, crossing the road to go to that house. I wonder if, for any of us, do we have to cross the road? Are there people that God is calling us to reach out to and say ‘Brother, or sister’, and draw them in to the Kingdom of God because that’s what Ananias did? And as we pray – we’re told the scales fell from Saul’s eyes – the ministry of reconciliation: be an Ananias; cross the road; bring people together; share the wonderful reconciling love of Christ; it’s the ministry of a reader, it’s the ministry of the clergy, it’s the ministry of the bishop; and let me tell you it’s all of our ministry for followers of Jesus.

“Who do you need to cross the road to? Who do you need to reach out to? Who do you need to share that love with and say ‘Brother Saul’?

“Are we going to say ‘Yes’? Are we going to say ‘Yes’ to God’s call? ‘Yes’ to God’s call to be the ministry of redemption? ‘Yes’ to God’s call to realise that Jesus is in the midst of the hurts and the pains, and to bring His love into the lives of those in hurt and pain; and ‘Yes’ to God’s call to cross the road to those who may be your enemies, whom we need to reach out with love to?

“Let’s let the scales fall, just like they did for Paul. Let the scales fall and let us be the sort of people who, like Paul became, say it’s all for Christ, all for Jesus, we do it all for Him. And you think of this man – from murderous intent to be a man whose words were read for us tonight, to be a man whose words we read in scripture and who inspires us.

“Never give up on somebody. Never give up on anyone. God can do it with Paul. He can do it with you and me and whoever we’re praying for. Let’s be those people who say ‘Yes’.”

“Tonight that’s what I want us to think about: what it means for each of us – not just our new readers but for each of us – to say ‘Yes’ to the call of God in your life.

Rev Jonathan McFarland appointed Rector of Urney

The Rev Jonathan McFarland has been appointed Rector of the Parish of Urney in County Tyrone, almost two and a half years after arriving there as Bishop’s Curate.

Rev McFarland – who’s pictured with his wife, Jacqui – was one of five priests ordained at a Service in Glendermott Parish Church in September 2017. Confirmation of his incumbency was shared with parishioners on Sunday morning.

The Diocese offers its congratulations to Jonathan and wishes him, Jacqui, their children and the parishioners of Urney God’s blessing for the future.


Seamus Mallon: ‘a peacemaker who wanted to build a better future for all’

The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has issued the following statement following the death of Seamus Mallon:

“Seamus Mallon was by profession a teacher and then politician, a leader and risk taker. He was an outspoken opponent of violence, who saw a better way of living if the people of this island learned to understand each other better. He was a peacemaker firmly committed to building a better future for all.

“Sympathy and prayers are extended to his family and colleagues at this sad time.”