Author: Paul McFadden

DIOCESAN REVIEW COMMISSION – EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST

At its last meeting in October 2023, Diocesan Synod resolved that a Commission should be established to conduct a strategic review of our dioceses. We are now seeking expressions of interest from individuals who would like to be considered to become members of the Commission. 

Diocesan Council has agreed that the Commission should consist of the Bishop, the two Archdeacons, and up to 9 other members.

Further detail including information on the remit of the Commission is in the attached document. 

To express an interest in being a member of the Commission, please email bishopsoffice@derryandraphoe.org including the words ‘expression of interest’ in the subject line and giving:

– a brief description of your role(s) held in parish & diocese.
– a brief outline of your special interests or areas of expertise.

Expressions of interest need to be received by 5pm on Friday 19th April.

Thank you very much for giving this matter your prayerful consideration. May the Lord continue to guide his Church for his glory.

With every blessing,

The Rt Revd Andrew Forster

Bishop of Derry and Raphoe

The Ven Robert Miller

Archdeacon of Derry

The Ven David Huss

Archdeacon of Raphoe

Tributes paid following death of former Diocesan Architect, Miss Caroline Dickson

Tributes have been paid to the former Diocesan Architect for Derry and Raphoe, Miss Caroline Dickson, who passed away in hospital last Friday after a short illness.

Miss Dickson retired from the diocesan role last year after 40 years’ service. Throughout those four decades, she worked diligently on the Diocese’s behalf, displaying formidable expertise when it came to work on buildings of great historical significance.

Last year, at the Diocesan Synod, a special presentation was made to Miss Dickson by Bishop Andrew to acknowledge the outstanding service she had given Derry and Raphoe.

Miss Dickson’s funeral will take place in her beloved local church, St Mura’s (Fahan) on Thursday afternoon at 2.30pm.

She was predeceased by her parents Christine and Peter Dickson and is sadly missed by her cousins, her fellow parishioners, her many friends and colleagues, and by the wider community in Fahan.

(Photo: last October, at the Diocesan Synod, Bishop Andrew made a presentation to the late Miss Caroline Dickson to mark her retirement after 40 years’ service as Diocesan Architect. The Bishop was accompanied by Ven. Robert Miller, Archdeacon of Derry)

Bishop Andrew congratulates “friend” and “brother Bishop” Alan McGuckian on new appointment

Bishop Andrew has congratulated the Bishop of Raphoe, Most Reverend Alan McGuckian, on his appointment as Bishop of Down and Connor, saying that he would miss their friendship greatly. The announcement was made earlier today by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Most Reverend Eamon Martin.

Bishop McGuckian had served in Raphoe since his consecration in 2017. Bishop Andrew said his “friend” and “brother Bishop” would be greatly missed here.

BISHOP ANDREW’S STATEMENT IN FULL:

“I congratulate Bishop Alan on his appointment as Bishop of Down and Connor and pray that God will continue to bless and guide him as he steps out in a new direction in his ministry to God’s people.

“As a brother Bishop, Alan has been an immense support to me, during good times and bad, witnessing faithfully to God’s calling. He is a man of profound spirituality and integrity, of great wisdom and discernment, of deep compassion and humility, with a keen pastoral heart. He has worked unstintingly to develop and improve relations between the different churches – both at home and abroad – and on a personal level, I will miss his friendship greatly.

“Alan will bring considerable gifts to those he will serve in his new role. Raphoe’s loss is Down and Connor’s considerable gain.”

Bishop thanks lay readers for their spiritual depth and commitment

Readers from as far away as Castlerock and Ballyshannon, and many parishes in between, converged on Raphoe this evening for a Service of Holy Communion for current and serving Readers, many of whom had led services this morning.

The Service was led by the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Liz Fitzgerald, and organised to acknowledge and celebrate the Readers’ contribution to ministry in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe. 

The Dean was joined by Bishop Andrew Forster (who preached the Sermon); the Diocesan Warden of Readers, Rev Canon Derek Quinn; Rev Canon Robert Clarke (who is responsible for training Parish Readers); the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller; and the Rural Dean for Raphoe, Rev Canon David Crooks. Many clergy from both dioceses were in the congregation.

Bishop Andrew began his sermon by acknowledging the many gifts Readers share in churches here, week in and week out. “I want to say thank you to all of you for your commitment, for your love, for your energy, for your spiritual depth, for the life that you’re bringing to parishes across the length and breadth of this Diocese because of your ministry as Parish Readers and Lay Readers. I want to say thank you. And in saying thank you, I hope you realise both the importance and the significance of what you do – the importance of what you do in leading the people of God in worship, and the significance of what that means not just for the people in the pew but in the wider community. I want to say thank you tonight for all that you do and all that you continue to do. And as you use your gifts – just as our Gospel reading explained – as you use those gifts, it seems to me that God increases those gifts, uses them all the more, allows us to reach out in even greater ways in ministry for him. So, thank you.

“I honestly believe,” the preacher continued, “[that] it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and it’s the most wonderful privilege in the world to serve him. Now, we can serve him with many different functions in many different places, but tonight I want to give thanks to God for all of you, for how you serve him in the context of liturgical ministry, leading, reading, praying and preaching. Thank you.”

Bishop Andrew told the congregation that what they were called to be were people “who shared the story”. It was like a modern-day page turner, he said. It was exciting, It was interesting. We wanted to see what happens. “For you and me –­ for all of us in ministry – I think God calls us to be people who ‘turn the page’, who keep the story going, who share the story in the world around us, because we know it’s a life-giving story; we know it’s transformative; we know it’s a story that is exciting and wonderful, and a story that the world needs. And in your ministry, as a Parish Reader, or as a Lay Reader, or for those of us who are ordained, never simply think of it as just about making sure a service happens. What you’re doing is making sure the story is shared, the story is told – the story that brings life and love and hope and peace and mercy into a needy world – we keep the story going.”

The Bishop drew the congregation’s attention to a verse in the New Testament reading from 1 Corinthians 14: ‘If you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in the gifts that build up the church.’ “Now, all of us are in leadership in the church, and our great call is to build up the church – the church of which Jesus says I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it. But yet there is much that seems to pull down the building of the church nowadays. We’re smaller. We’re smaller in numbers – we know that – that’s why we need you so much. And sometimes when we’re smaller, we feel it’s just about holding on. We’ve a secular culture around us that in many ways wants to demean faith or, if not demean faith, ignore it completely. We live in a world that is suspicious of authority – sometimes for the right reasons – but has become suspicious of the authority of Scripture, for instance. Scripture says when the foundations shake, what will the righteous do? Well, try to excel in the gifts that build up the church.”

Bishop Andrew focused on three themes in his sermon: place, privilege and power. Place matters, he said. Columba saw the importance of place, building monasteries right across our Diocese – places that became mission stations sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ within those communities. “Place matters. The places that you serve matter. They’re important to God. They’re important to you. I really want us to recapture that Columban vision, to allow Columba’s spiritual DNA that is within us as a Diocese to come to the fore, that we would see all our parish churches as mission stations, places bringing light and hope and love into the community. That’s what you do.”

Often, the Bishop said, when he thanked Readers for leading a service, they responded by saying it was a privilege. “And it is a privilege, isn’t it?” he said. “It is a privilege to lead the people of God, to pray with the people of God, to open God’s Word with the family of God.”  Bishop Andrew said he would hazard a “fairly accurate guess” that the reason why the Diocesan and Parish Readers present were involved in “this great privilege of leading God’s people in prayer and in praise” was because they had been touched, blessed and overwhelmed by love – by the love of God, and by how his love had accepted them and won them over, had forgiven them and helped them and been gracious to them. “What a privilege it is to experience that love and then what a privilege it is to share that love in these places that matter, in these places that count, in these mission stations right across our Diocese.”

How do they do it, the Bishop asked? “We do it in the power of the Spirit…I want to tell you, whether you think it or not, you are gifted by the Holy Spirit of God. You might feel I don’t deserve those gifts or I didn’t ask for that gift – maybe, in fact, I didn’t even want that gift – but you are gifted by God. Ask God for his gifts so that you will build up the church…Gifts given by God – that’s what will make the difference, even in a culture that seems to turn its back on the Church. We will be found to be faithful because the place matters, because we understand the privilege, and because God empowers us through his Spirit to serve him.”  

Bishop Andrew had further words of gratitude, this time for Canon Derek Quinn and Canon Robert Clarke for all that they continued to do to see lay ministry grow and expand in our Diocese. And he thanked Dean Fitzgerald for organising Sunday evening’s service. 

Music for the service was provided by the Cathedral Organist, Renee Goudie, and by the men and women of the Cathedral Choir. And afterwards the congregation enjoyed fellowship and light refreshments at the back of the church. 

A video conversation for Holocaust Memorial Day 2024

The Archbishop of Armagh has in recent years marked Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January) with a recorded conversation on the theme chosen by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

This year’s theme is the ‘Fragility of Freedom’ and Archbishop John McDowell met with Rabbi David Kale, of the Belfast Jewish Community, Mrs Shirley Lennon, from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and Revd Suzanne Cousins, the Archbishop’s Inter Faith Advisor.

If you wish to find out more information about Holocaust Memorial Day, please visit www.hmd.org.uk

Pioneer Ministry – a brief introduction

Pioneer Ministry is writing a new chapter in the Church of Ireland’s mission to reach people with little or no connection to church. With the endorsement of the House of Bishops and generous funding secured from the Representative Body, the initiative is being led by a National Director, the Revd Rob Jones, assisted by Archdeacon Barry Forde and Ingrid Brennan.

The initiative will encourage, support and release volunteer and paid pioneers and new ministries to share the good news of Jesus Christ in new places and in different ways.  

For further updates and all the information about Pioneer Ministry  please see their new website – www.pioneerministry.org – or email info@pioneerministry.org to sign up for their new monthly newsletter.

Incessant rain fails to dampen spirits on Letterkenny’s Christmas Carol Trail

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 5 v 45, that God – our Father in heaven – “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”. The first part of that observation was borne out in Letterkenny this evening as incessant rain fell on the couple of hundred people who took part in the town’s 10th Christmas Carol Trail.

This unique festive event is organised by Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter and Letterkenny Community Development Project and the Carol Service is facilitated by Trinity Presbyterian Church, St Eunan’s Cathedral and Conwal Parish Church.

The participants gathered first in Trinity Presbyterian Church on Main Street where they were welcomed by the minister, Rev Tommy Bruce. The congregation – including Bishop Alan McGuckian, Rev David Houlton and Rev Heather Houlton – listened to readings from the Bible and sang Christmas Carols together, before making their way in a candlelit procession along Main Street and up Church Lane for more hymns and readings outside the Gospel Hall.

Umbrellas were opened throughout the walk, and the rain seemed to fall almost horizontally, as the group wend their way to the former Methodist Church (Mount Southwell). From there it was on to St Eunan’s Cathedral, and the last stop – with Carols and readings at each destination – was Conwal Parish Church, where the event concluded with a special rendition of ‘O Holy Night’ by singer Jean Curran.

Afterwards, the bedraggled participants walked the few short steps to Conwal Church Hall for some welcome refreshments, including mince pies and hot drinks.

Bishop Andrew’s Christmas Message

Christmas Day is one of the great feast days in the Christian calendar, and probably the most eagerly anticipated. Children will be on tenterhooks, waiting to see whether they get the presents they’ve asked for. For most adults, it’ll be a chance to enjoy some time off work, visit family and friends, and share a fine meal together. Even non-Christians appreciate the opportunity – or the excuse – to have a celebration, and who would begrudge anyone a day of happiness and joy, especially in these troubled times?

Recently, our television screens have been filled with images and reports of carnage in Gaza, slaughter in Israel, bloodshed in Ukraine, the furore over migrant boats arriving on British and other countries’ shores and, of course, the cost-of-living and energy crises (which present very real challenges for many people in our parishes and communities). The world is a very dark place, at present, so one might reasonably ask, ‘What is there to celebrate?’ 

For Christians, the birth of Jesus – the arrival of God on earth – is undoubtedly something to be enormously thankful for. Matthew 1 v 23 tells us, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). For me, the Incarnation is tremendously reassuring, as is Christ’s promise – in Matthew 28 v 20 – that he is with us always, “to the very end of the age”.  

Our Christmas Day liturgies are peppered with references to ‘light’. In our Morning Prayer on Christmas Day, we’ll be invited to “come to the light of Christ”. The liturgy for Evening Prayer will say, “To dispel the darkness of our night you sent forth your Son, the firstborn of all creation, to be the Christ, the light of the world.” One of my favourite prayers begins with the words, “Lighten our darkness”. And Jesus himself told us, in John 8 v 12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Light is comforting and reassuring. It guides us along the right path. It enlightens us and helps us to see more clearly. Often, in the darkness, it’s difficult to see the good that’s being done around us. But it is happening – in our parishes, schools and hospitals; throughout our healthcare services; in workplaces, charities and the community and voluntary sector; and wherever our emergency services personnel are at work. We are truly blessed by this generosity of spirit. 

This Christmas, I give thanks for the Incarnation of God on earth. I pray that we will all come to Christ – the light of the world. I pray that his light will illuminate the road to a better future and enlighten people all around the globe. I pray that all of us – here in our homes and parishes; in war-torn places like Gaza, Israel and Ukraine; wherever there is pain and anguish and turmoil – will come to know the peace of Christ — the greatest gift that any of us could hope for this Christmas.

I wish you all a joyful, prayerful and peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.+Andrew, Derry and Raphoe

St Canice’s presents gifts to local charities

The distribution of cheques from the proceeds of sales at the Parish of Faughanvale’s thrift shop, New Beginnings, has become part of the Christmas tradition at St Canice’s Church in Eglinton and this year has been no exception.

The shop, on the Benbow Industrial Estate, just outside the village, reinvests in the local community through the St Canice’s Hall Restoration Appeal – which aims to replace the parish hall destroyed in the devastating flood six years ago – and by supporting local charities.

The Rector, Rev Canon Paul Hoey, was joined at today’s cheque presentation by the coordinator of New Beginnings, Roberta Sinclair, and by its administrator, churchwarden Elaine Way. Roberta says the shop is supported by people from right across the local community and the chosen charities are likewise representative of the wider community.

This year’s beneficiaries were the Northwest Methodist Mission, Londonderry Orphan Society, Bishops’ Appeal, St Vincent de Paul and Foyle Search & Rescue. Representatives of the latter two organisations were there in person at New Beginnings’ premises, this lunchtime, to collect their donations.

Canon Hoey thanked all of the charities for the tremendous work they do. “It’s a drop in the ocean, I know,” he said, “but it’s something to encourage you. It’s so easy for churches to get caught up in thinking we’re only here for ourselves but we see it as important to be here to thank you and to support you in the really important work that you are doing.”

Choirs ‘steal the show’ from blue light heroes

There was rapturous applause for members of the PSNI, NI Fire and Rescue Service, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and other emergency services, in St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry, on Monday evening (11th December 2023), but the warmth of the ovation paled in comparison to that which followed the performances of Foyle Down Syndrome and Ebrington Primary School Choirs. Their joint rendition of ‘Jingle Bell Rock – featuring Conor Collins on saxophone – may not have brought the house down but it brought the huge congregation to their feet.

The cathedral was packed almost to overflowing for the annual ‘Joint Emergency Services North West Community Carol Service’. Indeed, so large was the attendance that the cathedral ran out of orders of service.

This year’s service was supported by the Royal Foundation of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Among those in attendance were the Lord-Lieutenant for the County of Londonderry, Ian Crowe MBE and his wife, Christine, and the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Cllr Patricia Logue and her husband James.

The Lord-Lieutenant shared a message from Her Royal Highness, The Princess of Wales, with the congregation, in which she recognised those who had gone above and beyond to help others throughout the year – and especially to help children. The Princess says foundations we lay in early childhood shape the rest of our lives and the adults we become.

This evening’s service was one of 12 Community Carol Services taking place across the UK this year, hosted by Lord-Lieutenants and supported by The Royal Foundation.

The service was led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, who was assisted by the four local Church leaders: the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster; the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev Dr Donal McKeown; the chairperson of the North West Methodist Mission, Rev Dr Stephen Skuce; and the Moderator of the Derry and Donegal Presbytery, Rev Gordon McCracken. The congregation included senior officers of the three main ‘blue light’ services, among them the recently-appointed Chief Constable of the PSNI, Jon Boutcher.

Music was provided by the Cathedral Girls’ Choir, directed by Nicky Morton, and accompanied by Dr Derek Collins on the organ.