The King’s Lord-Lieutenant for County Londonderry, Mrs Alison Millar, has formally launched the Parish of Tamlaghtfinlagan’s four-day long Festival of Remembrance in Ballykelly.
It was standing room only in St Findluganus’ Church as the Rector, Rev Canon Harold Given, led the festival’s Opening Service at which music was provided by the North-West Choir. Canon Given welcomed the congregation, which included members of the Armed Forces past and present.
The highlight of the evening was the dramatic ‘launch’ of the parish’s ‘Poppy Net’, which is made up of thousands of woollen poppies knitted and crocheted by Tamlaghtfinlagan parishioners, people in the wider Ballykelly community and members of parishes throughout the Diocese. The poppy net, which is suspended from the church tower, measures almost 19 metres in length. It was inspired by the ceramic poppy installation at the Tower of London, in 2018, which marked the centenary of the ending of the First World War.
After Thursday evening’s service, Mrs Millar – who was accompanied by the Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet for the County of Londonderry, Cadet Chris Johnston, Royal Artillery – planted a rowan tree in front of the church. It was one of only 300 Queen’s Canopy trees distributed throughout the UK to mark the late sovereign’s Platinum Jubilee. The tree was presented to the parish last month and came in a pot bearing Her Late Majesty ‘s cypher. The Lord-Lieutenant was assisted in the tree-planting ceremony by one of Tamlaghtfinlagan’s longest-attending parishioners, Mr Albert Hepburn.
The Festival Of Remembrance will continue until 6pm on Sunday evening. Collection buckets will be in place in the church and hall throughout the event, and donations – in aid of the Poppy Appeal and Church Funds – will be much appreciated. The parish’s annual Remembrance Service will take place at 10.45am on Sunday morning.
(NOTE: The daylight photographs of Tamlaghtfinlagan Parish Church and the poppy net were kindly provided by Nigel McFarland.)
A statement from the Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland:
‘A few months ago, I wrote an article in the Belfast Telegraph pointing out that the difficulties arising from Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol and the looming cost of living crisis were coming together to create a moment of real jeopardy for these islands and for Northern Ireland in particular. I had also suggested that working together, rather than pushing for more extreme remedies, would provide the basis of a longer-term solution and longer-term relationships.
‘I mentioned then, that there were people of ill will who, insofar as they represent anything, represent drug dealers and extortionists, whose only contribution to civic life is to exploit people’s fears and concerns at a time of crisis. Although such people may fly under old paramilitary flags of convenience, they are simply criminal gangs, seeking to shore up their influence in the communities which they terrorise. They form no part of a democratic society, nor are they part of the democratic culture which is the foundation of all stable democracies. “Sound and fury, signifying nothing” as the world’s greatest dramatist reminds us.
‘At a time of such sensitivity, it is of ultimate importance that those in government or in any elected office distinguish which voices (no matter how forcefully reasoned) carry a sense of responsibility and hope, and those which offer only unprovoked malice and fear. Not only what we decide and do, but the voices we listen to in arriving at our decisions mark us out as either an evolving, civilised society or a morally empty and broken polity.’
The Late Queen Elizabeth II’s “significant” contribution to reconciliation and peace building in Ireland was recalled on Thursday evening, 29th September, at a service in Londonderry. The tribute was paid by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, in his sermon at a diocesan and civic Service of Reflection and Thanksgiving for The Life of the Late Queen, which was held in St Columb’s Cathedral.
The service was led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, and leaders from the four main local Christian denominations took part. During the service, His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the County of Londonderry, Mrs Alison Millar, and His Majesty’s Vice Lord Lieutenant for the County Borough of Londonderry, Mr Ian Crowe MBE, jointly lit a candle in an act of commemoration.
Bishop Andrew told the congregation that St Columb’s Cathedral was the oldest building within the City Walls and that among its many historical treasures – “padlocks and cannon balls, bibles and chalices, prayer books and paintings” – was a visitors’ book, signed by King George and Queen Elizabeth and their daughter, the then-Princess Elizabeth, in 1945, when they flew to Northern Ireland during a V. E. tour and visited the Cathedral for prayers of thanksgiving for deliverance from war.
In remembering the Late Queen, Bishop Andrew evoked a prayer of Saint Columba’s. “This evening, we give thanks to God for a life marked by duty, service and devotion, and all of us recognise that Her Late Majesty’s long life was motivated by and empowered by her faith in God. For her, as it can be for each one of us, God truly was ‘a kindly shepherd behind me, today, tonight and forever’.”
Bishop Andrew said the late Queen’s faith had been a key factor in her peace building. “I’m sure all of us would understand and believe that it was her faith that both inspired and compelled her to make such a significant contribution to peace and mutual understanding in this island. She showed us that seemingly small steps can open the door of significant engagement and change – a handshake, a few words in another language, the crossing of a street – it was an example, an inspiration for us and for others to take large steps, important steps, to realise that reconciliation matters. And I wonder what [are] those small steps in her example that we can make to make our community a better place?
“In 2014, reflecting on some of her work in peace building, she said this: ‘For me the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is an inspiration and an anchor for my life, a role model of reconciliation and forgiveness. He stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing, and Christ’s example has taught me to respect and value all people of whatever faith and none.’
“Do you know, in this city that we all love, no matter what our background or story is, and in this county that we all love, we are seeking to write a better history, a new history, not defined by division and distrust but built on reconciliation and peace building. And we have to realise and to understand that peace and reconciliation is a very delicate thing, to be handled carefully, to be underpinned – as the Queen said – by respect and value of all people.
“And as we gather tonight to reflect and give thanks for Queen Elizabeth, it would be good for each of us to reflect on the example that she was in this land and ask ourselves how we follow that example in our everyday life? I think Queen Elizabeth inspires us to continue to play our part in society. And she shows us that characteristics such as duty, service and devotion should never go out of fashion.
“Sometimes those words are seen to be old-fashioned and ‘out of touch’. Duty, devotion and service have been shown in the life of the Queen to build a better society. When we respond to the call for duty to God and our community, to service to both neighbour and stranger, to devotion to Christ and to his will, we build a better society. That’s what Queen Elizabeth calls us to do and that will be her lasting legacy in this land and much further afield.”
The shadow of the Creeslough tragedy loomed large over the Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Synod, on Wednesday 12th October, as people remembered the victims and prayed for those affected by last Friday’s disaster, which claimed the lives of 10 people.
Before delivering his Presidential Address, to the diocese’s first ‘in person’ synod in three years, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, reflected on the events of recent days which had brought heartbreak to Donegal.
Bishop Andrew told delegates that he hadn’t expected to be uplifted in Creeslough, when he visited the village on Saturday, and yet, as bleak and desperate as the situation was there, there were “remarkable shoots of love and tenderness breaking through, which touched the heart”. As the Bishop spoke, one of the victims, James O’Flaherty, was being laid to rest in Derrybeg.
“I am mindful,” Bishop Forster said, “that as we gather and prepare to conduct the business of the diocese, and do the routine but necessary work required to keep the wheels of diocesan life turning, there are people and there is a community not very far from here for whom ‘normal life’ has been shattered and put on hold. I am referring, of course, to the people of Creeslough and other parts of Donegal whose lives were visited by tragedy last Friday.
“Ten people died following an explosion at the local service station. Shauna and Robert, Leona, Hugh, Jessica, Martin, James, Martina, Catherine and James. Their ages ranged from 5 to 59. The victims included a mother and son, and a father and daughter.
“I was in Creeslough, on Saturday, with my good friend Bishop Alan McGuckian. I was there long enough to see the rescue operation become a recovery operation as the last vestiges of hope were extinguished for waiting relatives. The pain of that will stay with me forever.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be people of hope and are called to spread the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. And good news has been thin on the ground, recently, but we are people of God’s hope.
“I certainly didn’t expect to be uplifted in Creeslough. And yet, as bleak and desperate as the situation was in the village, there were remarkable shoots of love and tenderness breaking through, which touched the heart: the remarkable compassion and warmth and generosity of the good people of that village; the grim determination of rescue workers – including neighbours – who defied exhaustion in the search for victims and survivors; the prodigious effort put in by the emergency services – firefighters, paramedics and ambulance crews – as they went about their duties in the most challenging of circumstances; and the sheer professionalism and sensitivity shown by gardai. Most impressive and humbling and indeed heartbreaking of all was the dignity and the faith of some of the relatives I spent time with.
“God’s love is honed by pain and, no matter how dark the morning may be, the light of his love is never extinguished. And as the Creeslough families lay their loved ones to rest – there are three funerals today – I hope they come to see and know clearly the light of God’s love deep within their lives.
“Two of our clergy are not here today because they are attending the funerals of victims of Friday’s tragedy: Rev Liz Fitzgerald, the Bishop’s Curate in the Gweedore Group of Parishes, and the Rev David Skuce – David is the Rural Dean – the parish in which Creeslough is is vacant at the moment and David has been giving support to that parish group.
“David was there through most of the night, on Friday – after the explosion – and most of Saturday, giving comfort and support. Yesterday evening, I spoke to Bishop McGuckian and he commented to me about the support that David has been to the people most directly affected, and said that he was a tower of strength to the clergy who are conducting funerals at this time.
Ladies and gentlemen, all of us are struck by the randomness of such a terrible and awful disaster – and it is truly a disaster. I would ask you all to stand, now, as we observe a moment’s silence.”
After the period of silence, Bishop Andrew shared a prayer for those affected by the Creeslough tragedy.
“Almighty God, father of all mercies and giver of all comfort, deal graciously, we pray, with those who mourn. Casting all their care on you, they may know the consolation of your love. Give faith and comfort, O Lord, to the bereaved of Creeslough. Strengthen them to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience, not sorrowing as those without hope but in thankful remembrance of your mercy in the past and waiting for a joyful reunion in Heaven. We remember, today, those who this day, at this moment, are laying to rest loved ones. We pray for the clergy who are bringing care and comfort, most especially for Father John Joe Duffy, the local priest in Creeslough, and Bishop Alan McGuckian and the Rev David Skuce. In times of darkness, help us to see your light; in times of pain, may we know your healing balm; and in times of despair, help us to hold fast to your hope. This we ask in the name of the one who died for us and rose again, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.”
Later in the day, at Synod, one of the Honorary Secretaries, Bill Arnold – a parishioner in Dunfanaghy – which is about 10 kilometres from Creeslough – was given permission by the Bishop to address delegates about the tragedy.
“On Friday, when we heard the news,” Mr Arnold said, “everybody was in shock. We are one community. Dunfanaghy and Creeslough are inter-linked in so many ways: through a doctor’s surgery, football clubs, family relationships. I just want to thank the emergency services for their work, and the volunteers. The Church of Ireland has played a big part in that, both among the volunteers and also through the Rural Dean, my Rector, the Rev David Skuce.
“The Bishop has said he [Rev Skuce] was there most of Friday night and all Saturday, comforting people, along with Father John Joe Duffy, who is a personal friend of mine. On Saturday, I met Father John Joe. It was all I could do just to give him a big hug. Sometimes,” Mr Arnold said, “words don’t allow you to express your feelings. That was the only way I could do it. I attended two of the funerals yesterday and it was one of the hardest things – I was in tears – especially at the one in the morning, which I found more difficult than the one in the afternoon.”
Mr Arnold paid tribute to the prayerful and compassionate way in which Bishop Andrew had spoken on the media in the aftermath of Friday’s tragedy. “We’re so proud to have such a caring Bishop,” he said, drawing applause from delegates.
“Just to end on a positive note, if there is a positive note,” Mr Arnold continued, “the Republic of Ireland Women’s soccer team has qualified now for the World Cup in Australia – that’s a great achievement in itself – but the winning goal was scored by a Donegal woman who came on as substitute, she’s actually from Milforr, Amber Barrett.
“Amber Barrett’s grandparents are from Creeslough and she goes there quite regularly and I thought it was a lovely touch when she got down on her knees – in honour of the victims of Creeslough – and she just put her arm on her black armband. Some of you may’ve heard her on the radio this morning, and she spoke with dignity and humility. It was a great credit to her.”
A Joint Statement from the Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd John McDowell; the Archbishop of Dublin, The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson; and the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, The Right Revd Andrew Forster following the tragedy in the village of Creeslough, in County Donegal, in which 10 people lost their lives.
“On behalf of Church of Ireland people across this island, we wish to express our sympathy to all who have been bereaved as a result of the tragedy in Creeslough, in County Donegal. Our hearts also go out to those who have been injured and to their families, along with the assurance of our prayers in the weeks to come. May all who have been affected in any way by the tragedy know the presence of the God of all comfort very near to them.”
Bishop Andrew spent much of the morning and early afternoon in the village of Creeslough, along with the Bishop of Raphoe, Most Rev Alan McGuckian. The two church leaders met relatives who had lost loved ones, emergency and rescue service workers, and local people who had helped in the rescue effort.
Ten people were killed in the explosion which demolished a filling station and a number of apartments in the village on Friday afternoon. A teenage boy and girl, and a girl of primary school age were among those who lost their lives. Four men and three women also died.
Eight people were taken to hospital for treatment, including one person who has been transferred to a Dublin burns unit.
The Bishop’s Curate-in-Charge of the Gweedore group of parishes, Rev Liz Fitzgerald, has been commissioned as the new Diocesan Chaplain of Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union at a service in St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry.
The commissioning happened during the colourful annual Mothers’ Union Diocesan Festival Service, which was returning to ‘normal service’ after almost three years’ disruption caused by Covid-19.
This afternoon’s service was led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, who was assisted by Rev Canon John Merrick, Rev Canon Katie McAteer and Rev Fitzgerald. The address was given by Bishop Andrew Forster, who also commissioned the new diocesan chaplain.
In his address, Bishop Andrew remarked upon how colourful an occasion it was, with the Cathedral decorated for Harvest and the various branch banners adorning the front of the church. “It’s good to be here,” he said, “and doesn’t it feel almost a little bit of ‘normal’ again that we meet again to have our Festival Service and to enjoy each other’s company, and to sit beside each other and chat, and not have to worry about distancing and all those things, so it’s good to see you.”
The New Testament reading at today’s service came from Luke 19: 1-10, and told the story of Zacchaeus, the rich Chief Tax Collector whose life was transformed after an encounter with Jesus. “It’s fascinating, isn’t it,” Bishop Andrew said, “but it’s glorious because what we find in the life of Zacchaeus – this unpopular man, this man who had a few hang-ups and more – but Jesus didn’t miss him; he sees him, he sees him as he truly is, and he begins that process of change for him personally and change that’ll make the world a different place because of him. ‘Transformation Now’ is the story and the theme of Mothers’ Union this year and ‘Transformation Now’ is about the work of God in our lives and the work of God in other lives because of the work he has given us.
“Mothers’ Union have this incredible history,” the Bishop said, ”an incredible present and an incredible future, in how they seek to bring transformation into the lives of the poor – those who are physically, emotionally, economically and spiritually [poor] – and transformation into our world, because we’ve seen Jesus, because we have seen the Lord, and the grace that he has brought to bear in our lives is something that we’re compelled to share. It’s Good News.”
Earlier in the service, Templemore MU Branch Leader, Irene Hewitt, lit a candle in an act of remembrance for those loved ones whose lives had been lost during the pandemic. Before observing a short silence, the congregation were also asked to give thanks for the lives of Past Diocesan President, Helen Livingston (who died this year), and for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who was a patron of Mothers’ Union.
Before the Service began, a former Diocesan President, Mrs Avril McNee, presented the coveted Eileen Moore Memorial Award to Roberta Merrick, who received it on behalf of the Clondehorkey Branch. The award is given to the branch which collects the highest amount per member (€60) towards Mothers’ Union’s Worldwide Projects.
The Diocesan President of MU, Jacqui Armstrong, shared greetings with its members in the Order of Service. “In the Old Testament,” she wrote, “banners had special spiritual significance. A banner was not only used to rally the troops; it was used to declare allegiance to a certain person, group or cause. Today we carry our banners and gather together to declare our allegiance to God, to His love and His word.”
Ms Armstrong said God’s word was the seed they sowed, and they came in thankfulness for the fruitful harvest of the work of Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe.“When God calls, He equips. Let’s be the change we wish to see in our communities, and let’s walk forward flying the banner of Christ’s love with kindness, courage and compassion. May all we are, everything we think, say and do, be blessed by God, constantly renewed and daily transformed through His awesome power and unfailing love.”
Prayers were said at a Service of Ordination in Omagh, on Friday evening, in memory of The Late Queen Elizabeth II. The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, said at the start of the double Ordination Service, in St Columba’s Church, that it was appropriate to begin with a moment in reflection and in prayer for the late sovereign.
The Service of Ordination for two new priests for the Diocese, Rev Alexander Chisnall and Rev Johnny Lowden, had been months in the planning, but the death of The Late Queen, the previous day, required a change to the order of service, Bishop Forster felt.
“I know all of us feel a great sadness at the loss of such a distinguished monarch and a special person,” the Bishop said. “Her life has been a blessing to all of us. Her life has been marked by a deep sense of duty and devotion, empowered and fuelled by her love for God and her devout Christian faith.
“We feel a sadness,” Bishop Andrew said, “in that, I’m sure none of us really met her – we might have seen her, we never met her – but she’s been part of our lives. But that sadness is matched by a huge sense of thankfulness, thankfulness for Her Late Majesty’s goodness, for all that she has been in that constant presence in our nation – the nation’s lives, and right across the Commonwealth and the world – for the way she has been a constant who has helped us through changing times and challenging times. And this evening, as we give thanks for her long life, and commend her into the hands of God whom she served with such distinction, so we also pray for the King and the Royal Family.”
It had been over 70 years, the Bishop said, since they had used the phrase, ‘God save the King,’ and sung the national anthem as ‘God save the King’. “That’s what we do now, as we pray for the King and for the Royal Family.” The Bishop invited the congregation to stand and join him in a rousing rendition of the anthem.
The two men who were priested are Rev Johnny Lowden, who was born in Bangor but grew up in Downpatrick, and Rev Alexander Chisnall, from Killiney in South Dublin. Their respective wives, Emily and Hannah, were in church, along with relatives and friends, to see their husbands being ordained.
The sermon was preached by the Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Rev Canon Dr Maurice Elliott. He began by saying how delighted those present were for Rev Lowden and Rev Chisnall on this very special occasion which, in its own way, was both an ending and a beginning. “In the eyes of the Church,” the preacher told them, “from this evening, you’re no longer to be simply a deacon intern, but you will be both a deacon, still, and a priest.”
Canon Elliott said that in the second reading, in the Ordination Service, 2 Timothy 4:1-8, St Paul spoke powerfully and poignantly about those two ideas of ending and beginning. “He does so, interestingly, with reference to ministry. He does so by way of giving a charge, an order, a command, an imperative to his young protégé. And the essence of what he’s saying to Timothy is from the beginning you need to aim to end well.” In the reading, the preacher said, the apostle Paul – while imprisoned, just prior to his execution – writes his very own epitaph: ‘I’ve fought the good fight. I’ve finished the race. I’ve kept the faith. And because of that, now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord will award to me on that day.’ Paul, you see, has finished well, but Timothy, on the other hand, is just getting under way.”
Dr Elliott suggested three pieces of advice which he thought came to us from the apostle. First, if you, too, are going to finish well, Paul says always remember that there is a judgement to come. The judgement seat of Christ was, the preacher said, the ultimate end point. And for those who had placed their trust in Jesus Christ, that was not something of which to be frightened. “Far from it,” Dr Elliott said. “The reason why Paul invokes the theme of judgement here is precisely in order that Timothy will be motivated – motivated to do everything that he can in order to make as many people as possible ready.”
The second piece of advice from the apostle was to always prioritise the centrality of preaching. “Paul continues, look with me at the text: ‘I give you this charge: Preach the word.’ It’s very striking what he doesn’t say about the nature of ministry. He doesn’t say be a moralist and tell people to live better lives; he doesn’t say be a miracle worker and try to impress others with your ability; he doesn’t say be a worship leader, a justice fighter, a liberator or an empathiser. All of those may have their rightful place within the totality of ordained ministry but none of them is top of the list.
“If the two of you have not yet realised it,” Dr Elliott said, “I guarantee, perhaps even this next week, you will quickly realise how many pressures are going to come against your time, and for all who serve in ordained ministry one of the biggest challenges is simply to keep the main thing to be the main thing. And Paul says, ‘Preach the Word’. Proclaim the good news of grace, of forgiveness, of hope, of everlasting life. Do that when it is convenient, in season, but do it also when perhaps things may be said against it, out of season. Do it when you gather in church from pulpits, but do it also when you sit beside someone’s hospital bed or on a sofa in their home.”
Finishing well, the preacher said, bears in mind the judgment to come, prioritises the centrality of preaching and is always willing to bear a cross. “You will have many joys, you will enjoy many privileges, but Johnny and Alexander, remember there’ll be no shortage of hardship, challenge and sheer disappointment, perhaps all the more so as we continue to come out of this season of global pandemic.”
The ordination service was led by Bishop Andrew, assisted by the rector of Drumragh with Mountfield, Rev Graham Hare. The Archdeacons of Derry and Raphoe, Ven Robert Miller and Ven David Huss, also took part. The readings were delivered by the two new priests’ wives, Mrs Hannah Chisnall and Mrs Emily Lowden. The Gospel was read by the Director of Ordinands, Rev Canon Robert Boyd. The Bishop’s Chaplain was Rev Carmen Hayes.
After the service, the new priests, their wives, families and friends, and the participating clergy crossed the road to the church hall for an excellent supper prepared by parishioners.
“Queen Elizabeth II, like her father, did not pass her childhood in any certain expectation of the Crown. But already we know her well …”
‘Those words were written by Winston Churchill on hearing of the death of Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI. If the old statesman could claim that the young Queen was well known to her people then, how much more can we say so now, who have watched and admired as her steady hand, her searching eyes and her warm smile graced so many occasions of great significance in the life of the United Kingdom.
‘All deaths are inevitable, but few are as unimaginable as that of Queen Elizabeth II. She has been on the throne and the stage of public life longer than any person, living or dead. The burden of such a life was rarely visible except when she chose to share her feelings about a particular event or “annus horribilis” with a sympathetic public. Mostly when she spoke it was to draw attention to others.
‘She reigned at a time when monarchy was under unparalleled and unforgiving scrutiny, often accompanied by searing comment. It was with the support of the late Duke of Edinburgh that she weathered the storms with unfailing dignity and cheerfulness. Can anyone doubt that the loss of her “liegeman of life and limb” after over sixty years of love and friendship was perhaps the greatest sorrow Queen Elizabeth ever faced in her long and eventful life?
‘For all who met her, it was clear that she was interested in people from all backgrounds and that she respected them. In the privacy of their meetings she also shared the riches of her incomparable experience of public affairs with 15 Prime Ministers. Her many visits to Northern Ireland were evidence of her awareness that she had been crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her conscientiousness in living out that role
‘I was privileged to be there when, on her Diamond Jubilee visit to Enniskillen, she walked the twenty yards from the Church of Ireland Cathedral of St Macartin and into St Michael’s Roman Catholic church. Barely a hundred paces, but a walk which covered countless miles in the long and unfinished journey of peace on these islands.
‘Her affection for Ireland as a whole was clear for all to see during the memorable State Visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, and her speech at the State Banquet ranks in political foresight and Christian conviction with the Golden Speech which Queen Elizabeth I made to the House of Commons in 1601. That in the past “we would have done things differently or not done them at all” and that “we should bow to the past but not be bound by it” have been little gems of hope to many peacemakers in the following years. That they came from someone who had felt the tragedy of Ireland so close to hand and who had lived through the uncertainties of a World War, when the outcome was often far from clear, gave her words an unchallengeable authority.
‘We thank God for the life of Queen Elizabeth II, for her faithfulness to Him and to her calling, from which we have gained so much. To finish with some words from the first Elizabeth’s Golden Speech but which find an echo in the life of Queen Elizabeth II, “… and we do confess that we passed not so much to be a Queen, as to be a Queen of such subjects … for whom we would willingly lose our life, ere see such to perish. I bless God that he hath never given me this fault or fear; for he knows best, whether ever fear possessed me, for all my dangers; I know it is his gift; and not to hide his glory, I say it”.
‘The prayers of the people of the Church of Ireland are with the Queen’s family and all who were closest to her. May they know the presence of God very near to them.’
This is a moment of profound sadness for all of us in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe, who have held Her Majesty The Queen in our hearts and prayers, in many cases for the whole of our lives.
Queen Elizabeth’s reign has been unprecedented in its longevity. On her 21st birthday, long before many of us were born, the young Princess Elizabeth pledged that her whole life – whether it be long or short – would be devoted to our service. She was faithful to that promise throughout the 70 years of her reign.
While no one could question her commitment to her people, she displayed equal fidelity to an even greater responsibility – her divine calling. Seventy years ago, on the eve of her coronation, she asked that God would give her wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises she would be making, and prayed that she would faithfully serve Him and her people all the days of her life.
Those prayers were answered in abundance. Who of us can doubt that the words from Matthew’s Gospel have not already been said: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’?
Our prayers are with the King, the Queen Consort, and all the Royal Family.
Tuesday 6th September was a momentous day in Donemana, according to the local Rural Dean, Rev Canon Paul Whittaker. It was a day on which the local Church of Ireland Parish of Donagheady got a new Rector and a new Prime Minister, he said.
The new incumbent – in Donemana, not in Downing Street – is Rev. Capt. Richard Beadle, who was instituted by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, at a service in St James’ Church on Tuesday evening. The new Rector’s wife, Pauline, was in church for the service but the couple’s three children, who study in England, were unable to be there. Bishop Andrew said the congregation’s prayers were with the Beadle children.
Members of the Manorhamilton Group of Parishes, in the Diocese of Kilmore, which Rev Beadle had overseen as Bishop’s Curate since his ordination in September 2017, made the long journey to Donemana for the institution. The new incumbent paid tribute to his immediate predecessor, Rev Dr Robin Stockitt – who retired just over a year ago – for all he had done to build up the parish.
The preacher, the Archdeacon of Ardagh, Venerable Hazel Hicks, caught the congregation’s attention very quickly when she likened ministry – for parishioners as well as clergy – to the ‘hokey-pokey’. The children’s song always finished with the words, ‘Put your whole self in’, Archdeacon Hicks said, and it reminded her of the instruction from the apostle Paul, in the first reading, from Romans Chapter 12: ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.’ “To present or offer our bodies,” the Archdeacon said, “is St Paul’s way of saying to put your whole self in.”
Some of his new parishioners would be wondering, the preacher surmised, what the new Rector was going to be like; how long he would preach for; whether he could work with older people or young people; what were the things he was going to change?
“But maybe those are not the questions we should be asking,” Archdeacon Hicks said. “Maybe we should be asking what plans has God for Richard? And what plans has God for this parish? Reverend Richard, and all of you in the congregation, need to put your whole selves in to serve God in this place. And I can assure you that Richard will do just that, in serving God here, but he can’t do it on his own, because God has given Richard gifts, but none of us has all the gifts for ministry.”
The preacher urged the people of Donemana to work with their new Rector to serve God. Paul tells us, she said, that in His grace, God has given us certain gifts for doing things well (Romans 12:6): prophesy, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing kindness to others. “Ask yourself tonight, ‘What gift has God given me?’ And how can you use that gift to serve Him here, or in your parish, wherever that is?” Archdeacon Hicks asked those present to use their gifts wholeheartedly, to serve God in everything that they did: “Put your whole self in.”
Earlier in the service, Bishop Andrew said it was his great pleasure to welcome the congregation to a special and important service in the life of the Parish of Donagheady and in its distinguished history. It was, he said, a special night for Richard and Pauline, and their family, as they took a new step of faith and of service in Donemana. The Bishop welcomed clergy from the Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches who were in St James’s for the service.
Bishop Andrew acknowledged how difficult it was for Richard and Pauline to leave the people they had served faithfully and loved diligently, in Manorhamilton, but said he was glad that Donemana was where God had called Richard to be in the next phase of his ministry.
The arrangements for Tuesday’s service were made by Canon Whittaker, who assisted the Bishop during the worship, along with the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller, Diocesan Registrar, Rev Canon David Crooks, and Bishop’s Chaplain Rev Carmen Hayes. The readings were delivered by Rev Albert Dawson from Manorhamilton Group of Parishes and by the Donagheady Parish treasurer, Mrs Heather Hamilton. Music was provided by the St James’ Church choir, directed by Mrs Rhonda Dunn, and by the church organist, Mrs Jane Kee.
After the service, the congregation made their way to the nearby hall for refreshments and speeches. Welcoming the new Church of Ireland incumbent, the local Presbyterian minister, Rev Dr Seth Wright, assured Rev Beadle that he wasn’t coming to a “rural backwater”: local farmers were rearing lamb for export to France and beef that would end as far away as China; the people of Donagheady and Donemana were warm and welcoming, he said.
The Roman Catholic Parish Priest, Fr Eamon McDevitt, said there were a lot of positive things happening in the village, and he invited the new Rector to come to the local Men’s Shed to see the great work that was being done there to tackle mental ill health.
The Methodist minister, Rev Marlene Skuce, assured the new incumbent that there was also great craic to be had in Donemana. There was healing power in Dennet Valley, she said, a real sense of community and a real sense of joy.
The Rector’s Churchwarden, Freddie Brown, said they had known within 10 minutes of meeting him that Rev Richard was the right person for Donagheady. “At times I thought, ‘Didn’t we nominators do well?’ Then I thought to myself, ‘No we didn’t. God knew many years ago that Richard would be sitting there tonight, and we were just the messengers.’”Rev Beadle thanked the clergy from other Churches for attending his institution, as well as those former parishioners of his who had travelled all the way to Donemana for the service. The new rector said he would be building on the work of the 14 previous rectors of Donagheady, “each one bringing different skills and different gifts, in different times and different circumstances, each seeking to serve God and the people here. And my prayer is that I’ll be able to follow that line, seeking to serve God and you, and I would ask you to pray for me as I will seek to pray for you.”