The Aghanloo, Balteagh, Carrick and Tamlaghtard Group of Parishes welcomed Bishop Andrew to St Lugha’s Parish Church, on Sunday morning (16th June 2024), for a special service at which gifts from the Church Wardens and members of the congregation were dedicated to the glory of God.

The service was led by the Rector, Rev Rhys Jones, who began by welcoming Bishop Andrew and his wife, Heather, to the service of worship, and by leading the congregation in prayer for the Bishop and his family.

During the service, a number of gifts were dedicated including new Advent and Lenten cloths in memory of all those who died in conflict; new Christmas and Easter colours in loving memory of Davey Moore; Pentecost cloths in memory of Robert Douglas; Trinity colours in memory of Dorothy and Rae King; and Communion linens on behalf of the Mullan and Smyth families. A new alms plate was gifted on behalf of the parishioners and a commemorative plaque was dedicated to the Glory of God and the honour of all our service personnel.

Also, during the service, a presentation was made on behalf of Rev Rhys and the Parish to Mrs Margaret Mullan, in recognition of her 12 years’ service as the Rector’s Warden.

Today’s Scripture readings – from 1 Samuel 15 v 34–35 and 16 1–13, and Mark 4 v 26–34 – related how David, Jesse’s youngest son who had been out “keeping the sheep”, was chosen as the Lord’s anointed one; and how “a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth…when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants”.

Bishop Andrew focused on these readings in his sermon, telling the congregation that each of us in the family of God had a role to play. “What is Jesus saying [in the Parable of the Mustard Seed]? He’s saying that small things matter. Small things are important. That Jesus Christ takes the small things that we offer him and uses them to build his kingdom: the kind word, the loving action, the faltering prayer – Jesus uses it.

“The small things matter,” Bishop Andrew said, “and it means that each of us, even if we feel inadequate, even if we feel we’re not like this one or that one, the small things – the little seed offered to God – he takes it and does something remarkable through it.”

Bishop Andrew said the parishioners of the Balteagh Group were blessed with four of the most picturesque parishes in the Diocese. Addressing the congregation in St Lugha’s, he said he wanted to thank them for the way they looked after their church and invested of their energy and care and love for the church.

However, the Bishop told the congregation that while the presence of God wasn’t bound up in a building, there was something about coming into a prayerful place – where generations had prayed and sung and worshipped and loved and cared for each other – that became really precious. “It becomes something that for you, and maybe generations of your family, this place – or Balteagh or Carrick or Tamlaghtard – have become really precious to you. And it’s more than simply bricks and mortar, stone and plaster; it’s a place that encapsulates for you what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to serve him.”

The Bishop thanked the parishioners for being present and ready to play their part in God’s family. “I want to thank you if – humbly, falteringly at times, maybe even frightened at times – that we’re prepared to take the step of faith, to follow Jesus and serve him because, let me tell you, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to be a follower of Jesus Christ and you and I are called to follow him.”

Music for today’s service was provided by the Aghanloo Combined Choir which comprised members of all four churches in the group and the wider community. After the service, the congregation moved to a nearby gazebo – erected in the church grounds specially for the occasion – to enjoy refreshments and fellowship.