Author: Paul McFadden

Words of encouragement and prayer for King Charles III in Armagh

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, was one of the Church leaders who met His Majesty King Charles III, this morning, when he visited St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral on the Hill of Armagh.

The King was greeted by members of the Church Leaders Group (Ireland) and other church representatives. On the site of St Patrick’s 5th century ‘Great Stone Church’, The King had the opportunity to hear something of the work of the Church in Ireland in relation to peace building, environmental issues, and work with the impoverished and with those from other places in the world now living in Northern Ireland.

A period of reflection and intercession followed, during which the Church leaders prayed for God’s blessing and guidance for The King.

The King was hosted by the Dean of Armagh, the Very Revd Shane Forster, who welcomed His Majesty to the ecclesiastical capital and to “this shared sacred space, where for centuries pilgrims have come to learn, pray and experience the loving presence of God.”

The Cathedral Choir, which was founded by a charter of King Charles I in 1634, was honoured to sing the words of ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’ upon the King’s arrival, and the gentle and calming words of the ‘Irish Blessing’ to a setting by Bob Chilcott during the time of prayer.

The Hill of Armagh has been a place of Christian worship since the 5th century AD. It has connections to both St Patrick and to another King as it is the burial place of Brian Boroimhe (Boru), High King of Ireland, who died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

As Prince of Wales, His Majesty was previously the guest of the Cathedral on a visit to Armagh in June 2000 and was hosted by St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral when he returned to the city in May 2019. The Cathedral was honoured to welcome Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, when it held the Royal Maundy Service in March 2008.

Archbishop McDowell said: “The King is no stranger to Northern Ireland, nor indeed to the whole island of Ireland, for which I know he has a particular affection and friendship. I know, too, that he comes today with words of encouragement to the Church leaders as we continue to work towards a reconciled future. Our prayers of blessing for The King and Queen today will continue as together they enter ever more fully into their vocation in the years ahead.”

Dean Forster said: “In this Coronation year, it was a great honour to welcome His Majesty The King to the Cathedral and have the opportunity to share something of the story of this ancient holy site and place of pilgrimage with him before all present joined in prayer with The King and for The King. It was also a particular joy for the Cathedral Choir to sing for The King as they are the current members of a foundation which is linked to one of His Majesty’s predecessors and namesake, King Charles I. A moment the young choristers will remember for a very long time to come.”

With thanks to Kelvin Boyes (PressEye) who took the photographs.

(The Church Leaders Group comprises the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Primates of All Ireland, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and the President of the Irish Council of Churches).

Huge congregation for Canon McBeth’s installation

Rev Canon David McBeth has been installed as a member of The Chapter of St Columb’s Cathedral, at a service led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart and attended by the Bishop of Derry, Rt Rev Andrew Forster. Members of the McBeth family, including his wife, April, were there to see Canon McBeth take his seat in the stall left vacant following the retirement of Rev Canon Paul Whittaker.

Worshippers filled the two centre aisles and spilled into the side aisles, and Cathedral staff ran out of Orders of Service well before the service got under way.

Canon McBeth wore the British Empire Medal awarded to him by the late Queen Elizabeth II, seven years ago. Members of his previous parishes – Glendermott and Newbuildings (where he served his curacy under Rev Canon Derek Creighton), and Dungiven and Bovevagh – mingled with those from his current parish, All Saints Clooney.

The sermon was preached by the Rector of the Balteagh Group of Parishes, Rev Rhys Jones, who was a former Curate of Canon McBeth’s in Clooney.

Rev Jones said that in the New Testament reading (Luke 4: 14-21), Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, had returned to Galilee, and a report about him was spreading through all the surrounding region. “‘He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.’ In the parlance of today,” the preacher said, “Jesus is trending. In the terminology of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok – not to mention the Twitterverse some among you may inhabit – Mary and Joseph’s son has gone ‘viral.’”

Canon McBeth – “the latest and newest member of this illustrious Cathedral Chapter” – was himself often the recipient of praiseworthy report throughout the parishes of our diocese and beyond, Rev Jones said. “On occasion, in fact, the Rector of Clooney has experienced something approaching ‘viral’ public expectation. During the Covid pandemic, the weekly online services of worship from All Saints were regularly being watched by thousands – literally. Then there’s the newest Canon’s exciting music career that has seen him perform throughout these six counties and beyond; and of course, there’s his Country Gospel album releases, such as this one I seem to have conveniently brought with me,” [at this point the preacher produced a copy of one of the new Canon’s recordings] “available, Bishop, from all good retailers or indeed, direct from his ex-Curate for but a small administrative fee.

“These and more are admirable gifts and traits that Rev David possesses in abundance. But, in and of themselves, they are neither his truest gifting nor greatest passion. For that we must return to Christ’s teaching and indeed to the message of our Old Testament lesson.”

How fitting, the preacher said, that the diocese’s “newest and shiniest” Canon’s truest function, truest gifting and passion, was to be found in the sharing of “the old, old story of the Good News of Jesus Christ…in the daily lives of an expectant and needful community to which he has been called to witness…for which he has been set apart and anointed by the Spirit and the Church he loves and serves.

“Having worked alongside David this I know to be his greatest strength: to make real and tangible to those on the margins, to those seeking relational healing with the God of their fathers, all that Isaiah [in the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 61: 1-4] foretold and all that is fulfilled in Christ… it is truly nothing less than recovery of sight to those once blind, liberty to those in captivity, and a foundation upon which the spiritually destitute might construct a temple of the heart from which the Holy Spirit of God can reign and radiate.

“For this work,” Rev Jones suggested, “alongside all in holy orders, and indeed the entirety of the priesthood of all believers, David has been anointed, set apart, and commissioned as a herald of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is the newest Canon’s truest strength and passion – not viral audiences, album releases, or the applause that greets the lighted stage – but simply Christ and the desire to make the Good News of Christ real and tangible to those on the periphery of God’s Kingdom.”

After the sermon, Canon McBeth was led to his stall by the Dean and other members of the Cathedral Chapter.

The Dean was assisted in the service by Rev Canon John Merrick (Pastoral Assistant in the Parish of Templemore), Rev Canon David Crooks (Diocesan Registrar) and by Bishop Andrew. Music was provided by Dr Derek Collins and Ms Joanne Higgins.

The Service of Installation concluded with a number of short speeches. Dean Stewart told the congregation that 44 years ago this year he became curate of All Saints Clooney, so he regarded it as “a personal pleasure” to have installed Clooney’s current Rector, Canon McBeth.

The Rector’s Churchwarden at Clooney, Charlie McGarrigle, congratulated the new Canon, saying that his installation was an honour not only for Canon McBeth but for the whole Parish.

Canon McBeth thanked Bishop Andrew for appointing him and the Dean for conducting such a beautiful service. He said God had blessed him by leading him into ministry. “I know my mother and father are not here tonight – but they’re here in spirit – and they’d be so, so proud of me standing here as a minister.”

Canon McBeth thanked Canon David Ferry for his encouragement and support. “Without his encouragement, without his leadership, without his strength I wouldn’t be here today.” He thanked Canon Derek Creighton for the example he had set during Rev McBeth’s curacy in Glendermott. The “number one person” who Canon McBeth said had guided him “through good times and bad times” was his wife, April. He thanked April for her encouragement and the rest of their family for their support. There were acknowledgements, too, for his current Curate in Clooney, Rev Andrea Cotter, and for his “friend and former Curate”, Rev Rhys, who preached the sermon.

Bishop Andrew said the size of the congregation spoke volumes of the esteem, respect and love in which Canon McBeth was held in All Saints Clooney and in his previous parishes. “David, you are a blessing to the Church,” the Bishop said, “and you are a blessing to God’s world as you seek to serve him in that.”

Creation’s splendour captured on Binevenagh

The Rector of the Balteagh Group of Parishes (Aghanloo, Balteagh, Carrick and Tamlaghhtard), Rev Rhys Jones, led a group of parishioners to the top of Binevenagh Mountain, on Tuesday evening (23rd May) on the second of their Rogation Walks. This year, the Rector had decided to revive an old tradition dating back to medieval times called ‘Beating the Bounds’, during which they will travel throughout the four parishes, giving thanks for creation and praying for those who live and work in the community.

“The word ‘rogation’ comes from the Latin rogare, ‘to ask’,” Rev Jones says, “and in times-gone-by it was a festival in which parishes asked God’s blessing on the land, its people, its crops, its livestock, and on all that dwelt upon and within God’s Good creation.”

The first ‘Beating the Bounds’ walk took place on Tuesday evening, 16th May 2023, in the Tamlaghtard Parish, beginning at the Old School in Bellarena. Unfortunately, illness prevented Rev Jones from leading the first walk – his place was taken instead by Diocesan Reader and Tamlaghtard Parish stalwart Brian Robinson – but the Rector was in rude health for the second walk, in which he and his companions walked along the top of Binevenagh, looking out over the Roe Valley and, specifically, the parish of St. Lugha’s, Aghanloo.

As they walked, they prayed for the various families of the parish, praying for God’s love, His comfort, His strength and His guidance to be with them each.

The photographs of the Binevenagh walk were taken by Brian Robinson.

Archbishop McDowell encourages reconciliation and citizenship in Synod Address

The Church of Ireland’s General Synod opened in Wexford this morning with Archbishop John McDowell delivering his Presidential Address shortly after the start of business.

Archbishop McDowell recalled the themes of reconciliation and gratitude on which he chose to focus in his first General Synod as Primate of All Ireland in 2020. “There is much on our island that needs to be reconciled and much to give thanks for,” he remarked.

The Primate drew on the example of the humility or sacrifice of Senator George Mitchell in chairing the multi-party talks which led to Northern Ireland’s peace agreement in 1998.

“The spirit in which we do such things is so important because sacrifice is at the heart of the nature of God, and is therefore at the heart of all things,” he added. “Sacrifice is the ultimate reality. At the heart of the new city, the heavenly Jerusalem, a King sits on a throne – and that king is the Lamb that was slain to bring reconciliation and peace; to put back together things that were broken apart.”

Sacrifice, he continued, is the inner structure of love – “the yielding up of something so as to possess it more deeply” – and brings a peace which is “a mighty confidence that equips us for every task we have been given at the hand of the Prince of Peace.”

Archbishop McDowell also reflected on the meaning of being a citizen. “Part of the purpose of Christian community,” he said, “is to learn to treat people as capable of civic dignity and freedom; as people capable of contributing to their nearer and wider social and political environment by free decision taken in consultation.”

He highlighted the modern revival of pilgrimage as an opportunity for local churches to re-engage with people who may be distant from church life but who may also be receptive to what the Church has to say. He also welcomed discussions to reflect the ethnic diversity of today’s Ireland more fully in the life of the Church, and the consistent, nuanced and pastoral work of the Centenaries Working Group over the island’s Decade of Centenaries, and recognised the efforts being made to welcome people fleeing the war in Ukraine into communities across our island.

In outlining the Church’s developing commitment to looking after the environment, Archbishop McDowell encouraged dioceses and parishes to create projects which find more ways to care for creation, following the example of the Lighten Our Darkness youth group, from Mullingar Union of Parishes, which will make a presentation on this theme tomorrow afternoon at General Synod.

The full text of the Presidential Address is below:

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

I’ve begun my General Synod addresses over the past three years by saying either how strange it was to be meeting as a General Synod wholly online or, last year, how strange it was for the Synod to be meeting wholly in person. So, in the interests of consistency I should now say how strange it will be to chairing a General Synod which is in person for two days and online for one or possibly two nights later in the month. You might also have noticed the cunning plan to keep the Synod from meeting in Armagh for as long as possible, until the Honorary Secretaries are satisfied that I can chair it competently and won’t make a fool of myself in front of the home crowd. As you can tell, there’s no end of the varied excitement which being President of the General Synod brings.

However, I can say without any sense of irony that it is very good to be meeting here in Wexford as guests of the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory. We are very grateful to Bishop Adrian and all those from this part of the world who have welcomed us so warmly, not least the rector, the Revd Norman McCausland. and his colleagues in St Iberius’s for facilitating the General Synod Eucharist.

Although, unlike in the majority tradition on this island, it’s not usual for a bishop or archbishop to choose a theme for his or her tenure of office, I had said at that rather weird General Synod in 2020 that I wished to focus on reconciliation and gratitude. There is much on our island that needs to be reconciled and much to give thanks for. Of course, there is also a huge amount of straightforward, ordinary, boring work to do for each of us – lay and ordained – and there is such a thing as the grace of efficiency.

Both as Primate and as a diocesan bishop, I am acutely aware of the dedication of Church of Ireland people (by the way there is no such thing as an ordinary Church of Ireland person) in not only making the wheels turn, but also in their sheer dedication and commitment to their parishes and communities. It will not be the first time I’ve had to say that the work of compliance alone has increased exponentially and that clergy and officeholders of only twenty years ago would hardly recognise the ‘compliance landscape’ which their counterparts of today have to negotiate. For some small parishes and voluntary organisations, it can be a form of slow attrition until no volunteers can be found to meet the significant bureaucratic burden.

However, all of that has to be set in the wider perspective of the task we have been given to exercise our vocation in contemporary Ireland, north and south. It has become a bit of a cliché to say that, as the Body of Christ, we are his hands and his feet in the communities where Providence has placed us. But it is also true that we are his lips and his heart. That is to say, the people who speak with his voice into a world which hasn’t yet managed to find its bearings after three or so years of unforeseen turbulence; and the people who see so many sheep without a shepherd and who want not to criticise them, and make them feel even worse than they are feeling already, but to care for them.

I can remember saying back in 2020-2021 that when I was asked what sort of church we would be as we emerged from lockdowns and many restrictions on our activities, I usually replied that it was too early to say. Perhaps it is possible to say a little bit more now. On the positive side we have come through the slow motion cataclysm much better than we had anticipated, though not without scars and a couple of open wounds. Indeed to a large extent we are almost exactly the way we were but with fewer people. Not drastically fewer and not radically changed. In almost every sense that is a good thing, and the one way in which it is not so good is not fatal.

The older Churches on this island, including the Church of Ireland, have been in numerical decline for many years. As yet there is no way to measure whether we have increased or decreased in faith, hope and love but my own experience has been the former; that we have deepened our witness in these ways. However, numbers matter too. They are not everything, but in light of the Great Commission, they aren’t nothing either. Fortunately, God has heard our prayer and has indeed “gone before us…with his most gracious favour”, so that we are not frantically scrambling around looking for an answer.

Long before Covid the seeds were being sown around the idea what we are now calling Pioneer Ministry. The long-term trends of attendance were being noted and formal and informal conversations were taking place in the House of Bishops, in conferences and seminars and of course, in this Synod. A great deal of that seed sowing was done by Bishop Patrick Rooke, before his retirement as Bishop of Tuam, Killala, and Achonry, and I want to pay tribute to Patrick for his vision and his drive in taking the conversation from a theoretical to a very practical one through the most inaptly named IDLE (Inter Diocesan Learning Experience) process.

If you’ll forgive the mixing of metaphors, the seeds have been sown, and now the foundations are being laid for the “mainstreaming” of this initiative into the DNA of the Church of Ireland in the form of the terms of reference of Pioneer Ministry. I am not going to go into detail in this address about this subject which will be very ably laid before Synod later in our proceedings, except to say that, as well as coming in various stages of development to successive General Synods, it has been the subject of rigorous scrutiny and debate by the Standing Committee, the Representative Body and the House of Bishops. The fact that it is the Church Army with whom we as a Church are to be partners for the formation and training elements of the Pioneer Ministry Initiative is a source of much gratitude and reassurance. I know that Synod will give the initiative its close attention.

Pioneer Ministry is one of the outcomes of what might be described as an honest look at ourselves – where we fit into the world we are called to serve and what form that service might take – because if we are not a blessing to the communities in which we live, then history seems to suggest that we will be a curse, or at best an irrelevance. And we must work this out for ourselves as we come to the realisation that history is not simply a discipline to be studied or a process to be endured. Instead, it is a thing to be made – made by our conscious choices, by our importuning voices which express the compassion of our Lord.

You see there are no models or precedents. Small as we have become, we are not in the same position as the early Church. The influence of the Church may not be very great, but we are in no sense in the position of complete civic insignificance and vulnerability as was the Church as portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles or the Letters of St Paul. We cannot simply wish away that great thousand-year experience and experiment which was called Christendom.

But of course, neither are the Churches one of the great engines of the civic world or of the State which we once were in Ireland until not that long ago. We need both a realistic understanding of how we are viewed in the modern world and a realistic grasp of the spiritual gifts we bring. Above all, we need to place a very high value on spiritual freedom – by which I mean a free response to the appeal of God’s love in His Son. We have been given limitless spiritual resources but the minute they are used in any even remotely coercive or overbearing way, then they turn to dust in our hands and to ashes in our mouths. It is the meek who inherit the earth and not those who are proud of their humility.


I recently came across an example of that meekness, by which I mean acknowledging the depth one’s gifts but only ever using them for the common good rather than for personal prestige.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a conference at my alma mater, the Queen’s University of Belfast, to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It was attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and three of his predecessors, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and many of his predecessors, right back to Peter Mandelson and a host of other luminaries.

But the highlight of the event was a speech given by Senator George Mitchell who had chaired the multi-party talks which led to the signing of the Agreement on 10th April 1998. He is in his ninetieth year and has been suffering from leukaemia for the past three years. He told us of how he had flown home to the United States in October 1997 so he could be with his wife Heather, for the birth of their only child, a son.

Things had not been going well in the negotiations in Belfast. Indeed in typically brusque style someone from Belfast had said to him not long before: “You haven’t managed to broker an agreement, so when are you going home?” He told his wife that he was going to ask for a meeting with the President to say that he had failed and that it was time to call it quits.

His wife had been aware of his concerns and she reminded him that on that same day when their son was born, sixty-one children had been born in Northern Ireland. “George, I will take good care of our son. But in the meantime you have to go back one more time for the sake of those children.”

He did come back and a few months later the multi-party agreement and the international treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland were signed. The multi-party agreement was achieved at least in part because of the sacrifices offered by George Mitchell and his wife Heather. Sacrifices of mind and soul and body.

Of course you may not agree with the political assumptions in that story, but that is not the point. We can all make good, bad or indifferent political assumptions and decisions and only time will tell how good they were. But the spirit in which we do such things is so important, because sacrifice is at the heart of the nature of God, and is therefore at the heart of all things. Sacrifice is the ultimate reality. At the heart of the new city, the heavenly Jerusalem, a King sits on a throne…and that king is the Lamb that was slain to bring reconciliation and peace; to put back together things that were broken apart.

Love and sacrifice are the hidden things that lie at the foundation of the world, and faith – your faith and mine – is the disruptive bringing to bear of the sacrifice which lies at the heart of the Trinity, on the spurious stability of civilisation. Sacrifice is the inner structure of love; the yielding up of something so as to possess it more deeply. And the peace which it brings is not a glassy calm; it is a mighty confidence that equips us for every task we have been given at the hand of the Prince of Peace.


Speaking for myself and my own role in occasionally having to say something in the public square, I can only say how conscious I am of being Primate of All Ireland, and how what I say will be heard in Coleraine and in Cork. No doubt I do not always get it just right, yet I am convinced that the voice of the Churches, especially when we speak together, is a voice that has something to contribute.

During the course of public debate last year on a fairly controversial subject across these islands I tried to outline the mode of address which I felt was appropriate to how as a Church Leader (although that is itself a problematic term) should use when participating in debates on public issues:

‘As a disciple of Jesus Christ who also happens to be a Church Leader, the principal questions which I need to ask myself at this time are, “how will what I do or say express my discipleship of Jesus Christ?” and “how will it contribute to the common good?”

Church Leaders are not party political figures nor are we the accredited representatives of any political community. I would guess that the majority of Church of Ireland people in Northern Ireland are unionists of one sort or another and most Church of Ireland people in the Republic of Ireland are broadly nationalist. Probably there is also a substantial minority (particularly) of under-40s in both jurisdictions who would class themselves as “neither” or “other”. Fortunately there are a large number of elected representatives from political parties or political communities who are able and willing to speak for all these groups.

So as a Church Leader I do not speak for, with, or to the Church, or to broader society in that way. It is not for me as a Church Leader to parade the political affiliation of Church of Ireland people in those terms. In many ways, their political or constitutional affiliation is none of my business. This alignment of denominational and political affiliation has been a feature of our history and has only succeeded in making many in society suspicious of where the Church’s conclusive loyalty really lies. In doing so, it has impeded the Church’s usefulness in the world and has at times also cheapened the Gospel and its implications.

The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ is not a Unionist or a Nationalist, or a ‘Neither’. He is the Sovereign Lord of all peoples, a God of justice and generosity, who desires the good of all. For those of us whose churches are organised on an all-island basis, this is especially important to remember.’

However, in order to be a blessing and not a curse to the world, and to help shape the communities and countries in which we live, we must reshape our own life and for that reason perhaps it is worthwhile reflecting on the common interests of church and society, or where these concerns overlap – that is in the area of citizenship. Of what it means to be a good citizen. What are the distinguishing characteristics of a citizen in the modern world? In the ancient world, the world, say, of the New Testament, the answer was obvious enough. A citizen was someone who was not a slave. He or she was someone whose choices and identity weren’t owned by someone else.

Or, as the lawyers today would say, someone who had the liberty to dispose of his or her own acts. Just like a citizen in the ancient world a modern citizen is someone who has a voice in the community, who has certain legal protections and who has a significant say in the choices of his or her own life. So the citizen has the personal dignity of making a contribution to the community or society where they live – in the vision shared by the community. To be a citizen is to be responsible for maintaining your environment, both your personal and social environment.

And the idea of citizenship was very important in the early days of Christianity. The Greek word which we translate as ‘church’ was the word used in the ancient world for an assembly of citizens. The Church didn’t make up a new word for what they understood themselves to be when they gathered for worship or for debate; they simply used the familiar word that meant a gathering of citizens – of people who were guaranteed a voice and guaranteed responsibility. From the very start the Church said to its members that, regardless of the political arrangements around you, there is another civic space in which you have non-negotiable rights and a gift to share, a place where you have the dignity of being a decision-maker, able to contribute to the place where you live. And all of this had consequences for the wider community. Today it still has consequences for the communities you and I are part of.

Early Christianity was not an opting out of political or social life and conversation. It did not aim to remove people from civic responsibility, but Christianity is where the deepest kind of civic responsibility was nurtured and carried out into the world. In some cases, the depth of that citizenship came into conflict with the political expectations of the State with very tragic results. That is one of the reasons why Christianity almost disappears from the official record between the ending of the canonical period until the reign of Constantine, surfacing only sporadically in the record of martyrdoms.

Part of the purpose of Christian community is to learn to treat people as capable of civic dignity and freedom; as people capable of contributing to their nearer and wider social and political environment by free decision taken in consultation. From that point of view, the citizen assemblies which we call ‘the Church’, including this General Synod, are places where we argue and debate about what we understand is good for the whole of society.


And the new things we have to bring need not be and should not be in conflict with our older gifts. There has been a growing interest recently in spiritual tourism and in what might be thought of as the original form of spiritual tourism – pilgrimage. In a world full of speed and deadlines, fast food, transactions, and consumerism, people seem to be waking up to the need to slow down and for being relational rather than transactional. Pilgrimage, an activity where one engages in a journey of meaningfulness, is an antidote to a materialistic world.

We are blessed in the Church of Ireland to have many places of pilgrimage in our care, these places are witnesses to the good news that have spoken quietly through the generations, their very presence proclaiming our connection to something greater. Many people who have wandered away from church institutions are seeking such a relational experience as the Church is called to proclaim and offer. The very people who may be receptive to what the church has to say to the world are those who are drawn to this modern revival of pilgrimage.

As well as many of our churches being destinations of pilgrimage, we also have many churches that are close to or alongside historic pilgrim paths whose popularity, having waned for so long, are now growing again. These churches and this new popularity of pilgrimage offers us a wonderful opportunity for engagement and maybe many opportunities for pioneer ministry to those who may have wandered away from the Church or been brought up away from the Church, who might be receptive to our message, to whom we have something to say and whom may have the ears to listen.

I know that Máirt Hanley and the people behind the Community of Brendan the Navigator (Cumann Breandan Naofa) are planning to do some work to connect churches with an interest and perhaps a role to play in such an outreach. This should fit in neatly with the Church’s Pioneer Ministry work and the community hopes that some of the Pioneer Ministry projects would have a pilgrimage aspect, which they will keenly support.

The Body of Christ. His voice and His Heart; remembering that Jesus spoke with such power because He loved silence.


Pioneer Ministry, pilgrimage, and civic involvement are all ways in which a Church like ours, which expresses its mission largely in terms of pastoral engagement, can be reshaped for its contemporary vocation by deepening our Catholic and Apostolic inheritance. Another test of our seriousness in that vocation will be to ensure that our organs of governance and the general life of our Church reflects the ethnic diversity of this island more fully.

It has been said again and again that the ethnic and cultural make up of this island has changed almost beyond recognition. That begs the question of why so few people of colour are in our Sunday congregations or on vestries, committees and synods. Even we try to excuse ourselves by noting that there are few enough people from other ethnicities in our Church, we need to ask why that is the case. People from such backgrounds come to this island with a lively faith and with fresh ideas and, being honest with ourselves, many try us and end up going elsewhere.

At Confirmation services Sunday by Sunday, I say that it will be the parish’s “responsibility to encourage the newly confirmed in their faith so that the whole church may be built up recognising the diverse gifts of all its members”. The same should be true of the ‘newly arrived’ – at the very least to ensure that they don’t spend the whole of their time in the Church of Ireland in the waiting room.

I make many excuses to myself about why this is so and have come to the conclusion that prejudices – including my own – are very deep seated and therefore out of view. As such I should treat prejudice a bit like I treated Covid: assume I have it, realise how poisonous and infectious it is, and do everything to guard against it in order to eradicate it.

It has been a privilege to convene the little reference group of clergy, readers and others from a great diversity of ethnic backgrounds and from all over the Church of Ireland to help and advise me in this task as we try to ‘mainstream’ the work so that it becomes less of a project and becomes more and more part of the ordinary business of every committee and responsible body within the Church.


The ethnic diversity challenge is a newish one and the work of integration is really only beginning. However one very specific area of work which has been reported to the General Synod over the past ten years has now come to an end in the winding up of the Centenaries Working Group. In Ireland, the past is not a foreign country. It is often tight on our heels and we have a peculiar genius for finding a reason from the past to stop the present from becoming the future. We turn political debate and sometime turn even the worship of the living God into a form of ancestor worship.

For that reason, back in 2012 when the Decade of Centenaries began we, as a Church approached the whole project with a good deal of caution. However over the past ten years, we have engaged very constructively with the historical events under consideration and with the many community, academic and civic bodies which have been involved in a similar task.

Our engagement has been consistent and nuanced and, most importantly, it was shaped out of our authentic pastoral experience. In the many events, lectures, publications and seminars which we organised as a Church we respected the nuances and complexities of the past and were never afraid to be surprised by history. Many of the events which we considered had the potential to flare up again in quite destructive ways in the present. I think we are all indebted to the judicious chairmanship of the Bishop of Cork in how the most recent commemorations have been handled.

Another aspect of our past which can suddenly resurface in the present is around the subject of Safeguarding. I think it is fair to say that as a Church we have been doing our best to ensure that our current policies and practices for safeguarding both children and adults who find themselves vulnerable are modelled on good practice worldwide. We have professional staff working at the centre of the Church to advise and to provide guidance. The Safeguarding Board, which includes a number of outside experts, meets around eight time a year to consider and update policies; it has a high degree of independence in its latitude for action. The Representative Body and the Allocations Committee are alive to the resources needed to carry out the work of Safeguarding both efficiently and compassionately.


The last topic I wish to touch on before I mercifully conclude may well be the most important of all, because it affects the good of all: creation care. This will require inspiration and engagement at all levels of the Church. For instance, we have had an environmental policy in relation to our investments for many years and it is regularly updated and presented to General Synod for amendment and approval.

In a further development the RCB as a whole has devised a Climate Change Policy to cover all of its operations (not simply investments) which no doubt will be discussed during the Report of the RB in one of our online sessions later in the month.

One of the theological contributions of the Anglican Communion to global mission is our Five Marks of Mission, summarised as to: tell, teach, tend, transform and to treasure. This last mark of mission, treasure, is explained as safeguarding and caring for creation. Over the last decade, many of us have come to realise the impact our lifestyle is having on the planet, and as we are reminded this is the only planet that we have and share with other peoples and with God’s creation. The Five Marks of Mission recognise our duty as God’s people to safeguard and protect God’s creation. Yet, we are left with the question of how to live, work and worship in a manner that protects and respects creation. Specifically for the Representative Church Body: what role can we play in leading, encouraging and resourcing parishes in their fulfilment of this mission?

Following consideration by the RB Executive Committee it was agreed to focus on the four high impact and tangible categories of energy usage, transportation, waste, and biodiversity. In terms of leadership, the RCB will seek to share stories from across the Church of Ireland to show what can be done. In terms of guidance, the office will prepare resources to be published on Parish Resources, and in terms of grants, the Church Fabric and Development Fund will provide financial support for diocesan initiatives (such as the Flourish project in Armagh), conferences (such as the Care for Creation Conference), and enhanced property grants to support energy efficiency initiatives for churches. But the RCB can’t do this on its own and we are grateful to all those, some of whom are members of General Synod, who share a passion for protecting creation and on whom we rely to partner with the RCB in this shared mission.

The work of the RB is of course central to our mission as a Church. But it is not everything and in many ways will be ineffective if the whole practice of creation care does not take hold in our parishes. In many ways the backbone of the Church of Ireland continues to be the rural parish or group of parishes. I have said before that farmers and the farming community are the most visible agents of creation care but are also the most vulnerable when it comes to getting the power balance right between the farmer, the processor, the supermarket and the state. And that is a power imbalance which we as a Church should at least have a say in addressing.

We cannot change the world, but we can change what we are responsible for. It is for that reason that I am looking forward to hearing from the group of young people from Mullingar who have been working on and developing the Lighten our Darkness creation care programme in and around Mullingar. They will have much to say to us in their creative enthusiasm and no doubt Canon Alastair Graham will tell us anything that they have left out.

We have begun a bit of a copycat programme in the Diocese of Armagh, and called it Flourish. Like Lighten our Darkness, it is an intentional way of trying to involve parishes in creative ways to care for the creation which God gave to us as “good” and which we are in danger of leaving to our grandchildren as “very bad”. It would be my heart’s desire that dioceses and parishes throughout the Church of Ireland would adopt similar projects adapted to their own circumstances so that we can say we have done our little bit to allow “the whole earth to praise His Name.”


Before I make brief closing remarks, I do not want this Presidential Address to pass without acknowledging the continuing bravery and suffering of the people of Ukraine in their fight against unprovoked aggression, not to overlook the assiduous work and dedication of the many people on this island to welcome, accommodate and provide for refugees. May God prosper the work.

In closing I have to say that this has been a year in which I have been involved in some momentous occasions and events in Northern Ireland, Ireland and in Great Britain, not least in the memorial services and funeral of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth and at the recent Coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla. As part of the Irish Church Leaders Group, I have also had meetings with Uachtaráin na hÉireann and engagement of one sort or another with members of the Irish Government and members of the Oireachtas, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Office. In all of these engagements, both formal and informal, I have tried to reflect the unique perspective which the Church of Ireland brings.

So, in closing if I could thank you for words of encouragement, advice and critical comment which you have given me since we last met; I have no doubt I will hear a few more over the next two days.


Coronation ‘Celebration Service’ at St Columb’s Cathedral

Church leaders from the four main Christian denominations in the North West joined the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, in St Columb’s Cathedral, this evening, for a Service of Celebration for the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla. The distinguished guests present included His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the County Borough of Londonderry, Mr Ian Crowe MBE DL, and the Deputy Mayor of Derry City and Strabane, Cllr Angela Dobbins.

The sermon was preached by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster who, only four days earlier, had been in Westminster Abbey for the Coronation Service. Bishop Andrew told the congregation that the Cathedral they were sitting in had been built almost 400 years earlier, during the reign of the first King Charles. The reign of King Charles III was, he said, “light years away” from the 17th century religious conflicts on this island.

“Now, in this Cathedral, built in the reign of Charles I, we come to celebrate and to pray for the reign of Charles III. And, as he begins his reign, these are certainly less violent times on these islands but, nevertheless, they’re times of great challenge and times of division.”

Bishop Andrew specified a number of these: the cost of living crisis, concern for our future, and challenges with how government acted and behaved. And he said that division seemed to be the hallmark of modern day society.

“On the eve of her own Coronation, the Late Queen Elizabeth said this: ‘Coronations are a declaration of our hope for the future.’ Saturday’s Service, in all its grandeur and pomp and majesty and splendour, I think shone a light of hope into days of challenge and days of division. It shone that light of hope in great clarity through some of the themes that were highlighted during the Service.”

The heart of last Saturday’s Coronation Service, Bishop Andrew said, was the call to the monarch – and, indeed, to every one of us – to be people of service, just as Jesus had been. King Charles had shown his devotion to service over many, many years. “That willingness of the King to lend Royal support and presence has lifted up and blessed many. He tells us that he has come not to be served, but to serve. Our greatest dignity, and even our greatest majesty, is found in service because it is in service that you and I are most Christ-like. As we seek to serve, as we seek to help out, as we seek to put ourselves in the place of others and lift them up and support them we are at our most Christ-like. When we are prepared to serve, we put aside pride and self-interest, and we look to the needs of others, [to] the greater good of society and the world around us. Saturday’s Service was a reminder of that, of the dignity of service, of the majesty of service, and a challenge not only to the King but to each one of us in a world of challenge and division.”

The light of hope in the Service also shone brightly, Bishop Andrew suggested, because it was a celebration of the diversity of our nation.”We saw young and old, the cultural diversity of these islands celebrated and on display. It celebrated the diversity that is actually a God-given gift. Whenever we open scripture, we find diversity everywhere. We find it in the very early days of the Church, whenever the Church was born on the day of Pentecost, we hear about Parthians and Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya beyond, in Cyrene, and visitors from Rome. It was the known world and yet it talks of difference, it talks of diversity and it celebrates diversity in the life of God. And in the very heart of God, we see diversity yet unity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three persons, yet one God. And we’re told that in Christ there’s no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. We could add to it today that in Christ there’s no Protestant or Catholic. Diversity and the celebration of diversity shone a beautiful light of hope in that Service.”

Bishop Andrew said the city of Derry-Londonderry was at its best when we celebrated or even cherished our diversity, when we valued and honoured the place of each other’s culture within our city. When we didn’t do that, we were all diminished. “My hope is for a city where each of us, each of our cultures, each of our traditions are valued and cherished by all of us, as we share this place that we love so much. We are at our best when we are building relations rather than tearing them down. We are at our best when we pull people towards us rather than push them away.”

The third sign of hope from Saturday’s Coronation Service was the fact that it placed worship and reverence for Almighty God at the heart of all that happened. “In our increasingly secular world, where faith is often sidelined and often – let’s be frank – looked down upon, I hope the Coronation showed us the colour, the texture, the grounding, the hope, the equipping, the blessing that faith alone brings to life, that will simply not be found in the desert of antipathy and scepticism. That faith in Christ can make all the difference. That worship of Christ brought that sense of awesomeness to what we witnessed on Saturday. And that faith in Christ can make all the difference to you and to me.”

This evening’s Service in St Columb’s Cathedral was led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, assisted by the Cathedral’s Pastoral Assistant, Rev Canon John Merrick. The readings were delivered by the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev Dr Donal McKeown; the Moderator of Derry & Donegal Presbytery, Rev Gordon McCracken; and the Superintendent of the Northwest District of the Methodist Church, Rev Dr Stephen Skuce.

The Service was sung by The Cathedral Choir, The Cathedral Chamber Choir and The Cathedral Girls’ Choir, directed and accompanied by the Organist and Master of the Choristers, Dr Derek Collins, and the Assistant Organist Nicky Morton.

Coronation Vigil Service at St Columb’s Cathedral

A Vigil of Prayer was held in St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry on Friday evening – on the Eve of the Coronation of King Charles III. The Service was led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev’d Raymond Stewart, who was assisted by the Pastoral Assistant at the Cathedral, Rev’d Canon John Merrick.

The Service was sung by the Gentlemen of the Cathedral Choir, accompanied by the Organist and Master of the Choristers, Dr Derek Collins.

In his reflection, Dean Stewart harked back almost 3,000 years to Solomon, who – at the age of 20 – succeeded his father, David, as King of Israel. Fabulously wealthy, and renowned for his great building skills, Solomon’s 40-year reign was known as the Golden Age.

“One night Solomon had a dream,” the Dean said, “and in this dream God spoke to him. God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’

Solomon could have asked for anything. He could have asked for a long life, for more riches, for success ov er his enemies. But he didn’t. His response to God was this: ‘Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.

“Scripture tells us that God was impressed that Solomon had asked for wisdom and he said, ‘I will give you a wise and discerning mind. No one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked – both riches and honour all your life. No other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’

“On tomorrow morning, almost 3,000 years after the birth of Solomon, Charles Philip Arthur George will be crowned King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Head of the Commonwealth, and his wife Camilla will officially become Queen. The Coronation ceremony – the 40th to have been held at Westminster Abbey – will follow a form that has remained largely unchanged since 1066.

“This evening,” Dean Stewart said, “as we and many other people throughout the nation and Commonwealth meet to pray for King Charles III and for Camilla, the Queen Consort, I wonder what thoughts will be going through his mind? I wonder particularly if he will be re-reading and reflecting on the Biblical account of Solomon’s dream? If God was to speak this evening to our King, as he spoke to Solomon thousands of years ago, and say, ‘Ask what I shall give you,’ I wonder what his response would be?

“I suggest that he might not need to ask for more palaces and houses; he has them in abundance. I suggest that he might not need to ask for more riches. It is said that he is one of the wealthiest men on this earth. According to The Guardian, his personal wealth is estimated to be £1.8bn.

“So, I suggest that like King Solomon, his response should be, ‘Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.’ I suggest that any prayer that King Charles might make at this time should include a request for the gifts of wisdom and insight.

“For the past number of months, Charles has been the King. He became King on the 8th of September 2022 following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. While he has been fulfilling many engagements as Head of State, the full significance of his role and office may not have yet sunk in, and it will only be in the solemnity of tomorrow’s ceremony that he might venture to ask himself, ‘What have I done?’

“This is a role and office that from an early age he knew would one day be his. He has been heir apparent to the throne since he was three years old. For the past 71 years, he has been preparing himself for this great occasion – an occasion that, I suspect, will be tinged with some sadness as he recalls his dear mother. It was from her that he learned all that he needed to know about being King. She was his role model. In her long life he saw Christian faith in action; he witnessed her popularity and saw how people from all over the world and from all of the countries of the Commonwealth, loved and respected her.

“As he reflects on her long life and reign as Queen, he will hopefully be seeking to follow in her footsteps and, at the same time, placing his own unique stamp on the monarchy.

“When he was the Prince of Wales, King Charles had many interests and was involved in many projects. He was known to speak his kind and to comment on things that he liked and disliked. As King and Head of State, he will have to keep his views and opinions to himself. He may, however, share his views and experiences with the Prime Minister when they meet each week, and we can look forward to his Christmas message, shared with the nation and Commonwealth on Christmas Day.

“In public, the wisdom that has been gained over seven decades will be silent but in private I’m certain that individuals and groups will continue to benefit from his wide range of interests. The charities that he founded in the past will continue, in one way or another, to receive his support, and the environment – about which he is so passionate – will not be forgotten either.

“During the Coronation Service, King Charles will take an oath promising to rule according to law, to exercise justice with mercy, and to maintain the Church of England. One of the titles that he holds is Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. As Supreme Governor of the Church of England, King Charles plays a part in its life and governance. Although his authority over the Church of England is largely ceremonial and is mostly observed in a symbolic capacity, the position is still relevant to the Church. He formally appoints archbishops, bishops and deans of cathedrals on the advice of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

“The Christian faith was not only important but was the bedrock upon which Queen Elizabeth II lived her life. We trust that King Charles will also find spiritual insight in the Christian faith and in his personal relationship with God and His son, Jesus Christ.

“It is well known that King Charles also has a love and respect for people of other world religions and those of none. While living in accord with Christian teachings and principles, his hand will continue to be extended in friendship and solidarity to all people who are made in the image and likeness of God.

“This evening, as we meet in this part of the realm, we pray sincerely for King Charles III and for Camilla the Queen Consort that God would bless them and that they in turn would be a blessing to others as they serve their God and people for many years to come.”

The Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla will be shown on the big screen in Saint Columb’s Cathedral on Saturday 6th May, beginning at 10.00 a.m. Light refreshments will be served.

Then, on Wednesday 10th May, the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Right Reverend Andrew Forster, will preach at a Special Commemorative Service for the Coronation which will be held in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, beginning at 7.30 p.m.

Coronation celebrations begin at Cathedral Youth Club

The Coronation weekend celebrations got under way in Londonderry’s Fountain area, on Friday afternoon, with a street party for young and old, organised by the Cathedral Youth Club.

Young people – many of them in royal fancy dress – paraded from the youth centre to the Interface, where a tree was planted to mark the occasion of King Charles III’s Coronation on Saturday. The Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Angela Dobbins, the Dean of Derry, Very Rev. Raymond Stewart, the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller, and the youth club’s manager, Jeanette Warke MBE, took part in the brief ceremony.

Outdoor fun and activities were laid on, with Kidz Farm, a pony and trap, a barbecue and, of course, ice cream and a slushie van to keep everyone cool.

Two of the youngsters were crowned King and Queen of the festivities and were presented with medals by the Deputy Mayor.

This evening, The Parish of Templemore will hold an eve of Coronation ‘Vigil of Prayer’ in the Cathedral, beginning at 7.30pm.

From Limpopo to Donegal: new Rector instituted in Inver

The new Rector of the Grouped Parishes of Inver, Mountcharles, Killaghtee and Killybegs in south Donegal was instituted on Wednesday evening at a service in St John’s Church, in Inver, during which the preacher, the Archdeacon of Raphoe, Ven. David Huss, urged the new incumbent to let hers be a ministry of peace in the parishes.

Rev Susan Elliott was instituted by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, who welcomed the new incumbent and her husband Don to the service, along with clergy from other denominations locally and children from Inver and Killaghtee National Schools, who sang at the event.

Bishop Andrew extended a particular welcome to local parishioner Willie Mackey, whose wife, Jennifer passed away just over a week ago. “Jennifer would have been in the thick of all this,” the Bishop said. “Her loss is felt so much by her dear family and by all of us as the family of God in this diocese.”

Rev Elliott’s husband, Don, sat beside her during the early part of the service, and clergy and readers from throughout the Diocese of Raphoe travelled to Inver to take part in the Institution.

In his sermon, the Archdeacon said it was an honour to preach the word of God on this great occasion, to welcome Susan and Don to “this wonderful part of the world”, and to introduce cleric to congregation and vice versa.

The Institution of a new Rector was a moment of supreme importance in the life of a parish and the life of a priest, Archdeacon Huss said, a time full of hope and expectation, a turning point, a new beginning – full of possibility and tinged with uncertainty.

“The scriptures tonight were suggested by Susan,” he said, “and these readings bear particular relevance to your journey to this point: growing up in Durban, the descendant of Lutheran missionary ancestors; training as a teacher and then working in interior design; sensing a call to ministry through your local Anglican church; Ordination in 2018 and service in St David’s Church in the province of Limpopo; involvement in training and ministry development in the diocese; and then, in 2022, a new call – to Ireland, a different county and continent but also the land of your husband Don’s ancestry.

“From a place where it rains a lot and gets very warm to a place where it rains a lot and stays pretty cold. From a land of warm welcomes, of faithful rural people in small but vibrant congregations, to the same. Tonight, we pray for St David’s, as they have said goodbye to a pastor while Inver, Mountcharles, Killaghtee and Killybegs have gained one.

“I’m sure over the weeks and months to come, as Susan gets to know the flock – which takes time – she will unfold more of the calling to come here and the meaning of these and other scriptures on that journey.”

The preacher highlighted one verse in one reading, Colossians 3:15, ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.’

“There are so many wonderful things in all of these passages,” he said, ”but try as I might I couldn’t get beyond this verse: ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.’

“We are at a challenging moment for the churches in Ireland. Seldom, if ever, have Christians had so much work to do just to persuade people of the relevance of what we are about. Christianity, which dominated every aspect of life on this island for 1,500 years, is in decline if not in retreat. Many are saying: ‘What does it have to offer?’

“Well, one thing we have is peace. What a shortage there is of peace in our world. I don’t just mean the conflicts in Sudan and Ukraine and countless other places; but in communities and workplaces, in homes and in hearts, there is little peace. And if there is one thing Christians know about – or should know about – it’s peace. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.’

“This little verse, these nine words, are truly a message for God’s people and their pastors in these times. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.’”

What is this peace, Archdeacon Huss asked? First of all, he said, it was peace with God. “That’s the fundamental peace, without which there is nothing. A doctor knows well that they have to tackle the root cause of an illness and not just the symptoms. Christians know that the root of it all is finding peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Secondly, he suggested, there was inner peace: peace with God leads to peace with self. “What a witness it is to a watching world when Christians are calm and controlled in crazy circumstances. When we don’t flap or snap but pray and thank and trust.

“This inner peace has to be nurtured. If there was any advice I was to give to Susan, it would be to nurture your inner life of devotion to Jesus Christ. Soon you will be drawn into a whirlpool of vestries and boards of management, hospital visits and school assemblies, weddings and funerals, and it will be wonderful and hectic. Never neglect that inward life of prayer. Let ‘the peace of Christ rule in your heart’.”

“Finally,” Archdeacon Huss said, “this leads to peace with others. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace…’

“Our Christian community, our parish family, is to be marked by peace. That peace is nurtured through worship. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another and sing psalms and give thanks…’

“One great place where God grows true peace is in corporate worship. Failure to attend to worship will lead to failure of peace. Joyfully and thankfully joining together in song and scripture will grow that peace of Christ, which will ripple outwards into the world.

“Susan, let your ministry be a ministry of peace. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule’ in this place. Nurture that peace with God, with self and with others through the teaching of the scriptures and through caring for the flock.

“As the old bishop who ordained me summed up the task: love the people and give them good teaching.”

Bishop Andrew was assisted during the Service by the Diocesan Registrar, Rev Canon David Crooks, the Rector of the Stranorlar Group, Rev Adam Pullen and wardens from all four grouped parishes.

Afterwards, the congregation made their way to Doorin Hall for speeches and presentations to clergy and readers who had assisted during the vacancy following the departure of Rev Lindsey Farrell.

The new incumbent thanked the parishioners for the warmth of their welcome for her and her husband, Don. “We feel so blessed. And in terms of being here, this is beyond our wildest dreams. We can’t believe the Irish welcome. Everybody talks about the cold weather, but the Irish welcome is so warm. It’s hotter than the hottest South African day.”

There was some gentle ribbing of the couple – Don in particular – during the speeches of welcome. Local Methodist minister, Rev John Montgomery, had one eye on the Rugby World Cup later this year, telling the couple that one rule of residency here was that they had to pray for Johnny Sexton’s health and wellbeing in the run-up to the tournament.

Introducing Bishop Andrew, Archdeacon Huss told those present that the Bishop would be in London next Saturday for the Coronation of King Charles III, “so, I’m thinking, Bishop, that’s going to be the second most exciting thing that you will do this week – but it won’t eclipse being here.”

Bishop Andrew told the Elliotts that the people of the Inver Group would be watching and praying for them. “But the big test, Don, is the Rugby World Cup. We don’t want any Springbok supporters in this parish, and we’ll be checking up on that and we might have to arrange flights back to South Africa.”

Bishop Andrew to attend Coronation Service

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe will be among clergy in Westminster Abbey this coming weekend for the Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort. The Service, on Saturday 6th May, 2023 will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. As previously announced, it will reflect King Charles III’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry.

The Coronation Service will take place on the morning of Saturday, 6th May 2023 and will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Coronation is a solemn religious service, as well as an occasion for celebration and pageantry.

Bishop Andrew, who will be there in his role as President of the Irish Council of Churches, said he was looking forward to being part of such an historic occasion. “It will be an immense honour to represent the Irish Council of Churches at the Coronation of Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort. The sense of history will be writ large during the Service and throughout the day. On a personal level, it is a great privilege to have been invited to attend the Coronation and be part of such an historic occasion. I pray God’s richest blessing on the Royal couple on their Coronation day and, indeed, throughout their reign.”

Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort will arrive at Westminster Abbey in procession from Buckingham Palace, known as ‘The King’s Procession’. Afterwards, they will return to Buckingham Palace in a larger ceremonial procession, known as ‘The Coronation Procession’, on which they will be joined by other Members of the Royal Family.

At Buckingham Palace, The King and The Queen Consort, accompanied by Members of the Royal Family, will appear on the balcony to conclude the day’s ceremonial events.

Across the Coronation Weekend, there will be opportunities for people to come together in celebration of the historic occasion. On Sunday, 7th May 2023, a special Coronation Concert will be staged and broadcast live at Windsor Castle by the BBC and BBC Studios.

(Note: the photo, below, of The King and The Queen Consort in the Blue Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace was taken by Hugo Burnand and shared by the Royal Family.)

New mental health handbook available online

Bishop Andrew has commended a new online resource which will help clergy to ‘signpost’ parishioners experiencing mental health needs to groups and organisations which can help them get treatment and support.

The Mental Health Handbook has been compiled by Rev Claire Henderson, who has only recently finished training as a mental health coach. It includes an extensive list of organisations in both dioceses – and in both jurisdictions – which provide help in addressing issues such as addiction, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and in tackling problems such as depression, anxiety, loneliness and loss. The handbook also includes ‘wellness tips’ which offer advice on each of the problems featured. 

Rev Henderson says the handbook was produced in response to a need identified by clergy. “Lots of clergy have been asking for it, so it’s very much needed,” she says. “I started working on it last summer. It’s a resource for clergy to enable them to help their parishioners with their mental health. If somebody says they’ve got a problem with addiction, or they’re depressed, or maybe they’re struggling because they can’t afford to put food on the table, there are all those resources in the book that clergy can point them to. ‘My parish is in Derry. Let’s look down that list and see what support is available for them here.’” 

The handbook has one chapter which deals specifically with young people’s mental health. “We’re seeing such high rates of suicide among young people, nowadays, and I think it’s important for young people to be supported with their mental health and for adults to know that there is tailored support out there for young people – that it’s not all adult-based.

“There’s so much pressure on young people since Covid. Young people’s lives were curtailed for about two years, so they missed that social interaction, they have more anxiety with going to school, going out, the pressure to do well.

“People are scared to have conversations about mental health and don’t know how to approach it in a way that allows the young person to open up. I did a session in Glendermott recently where we had a really interesting discussion about how kids were bottling things up and adults didn’t even know how to start the conversation. I was able to make suggestions about how to do that – it mightn’t even be a conversation, it could be a text message, a voice note – anything that opens conversations about mental health is beneficial.”

Rev Henderson says she is alarmed at the lengthening waiting lists for accessing support, something she herself experienced after being referred for therapy. She shared her personal perspective over five weeks of workshops in the Glendermott parish, where people “could see the vulnerability of the trainer but at the same time that created a sense of openness and opened up conversations”.

Claire managed to secure funding under the Church of Ireland’s Mind Matters mental health initiative for two projects in her own parish, Derg and Termonamongan, but would like to see something being done at a Diocesan level. “I think there should be somebody assigned to mental health and to promoting how to manage mental health, how to support people with their mental health – even going out and running courses. From a parish level, we’re noticing an awful lot of hurting, broken people but there’s only so much that you can do at parish level, whereas, if you’re ‘hitting’ something at diocesan level you’re ‘hitting’ it harder.”

Bishop Andrew has thanked Claire for compiling such an extensive resource “on her own initiative”.  In a foreword to the handbook, he encouraged clergy to use it to find help for their parishioners and even for themselves. “The pandemic has brought to our attention the strain that can so easily affect everyone’s mental health. We now realise that caring for our own mental wellbeing is every bit as important as caring for our physical wellbeing.”

The Bishop wrote that we were blessed in the north-west to have so many organisations there to help us in life’s more difficult days. “It is my prayer that all of us would know God’s help found through His spirit and through the goodness of His people.”