The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has paid tribute to parishioners of Glendermott – past and present – who, by sharing their talents and gifts, have helped build the kingdom of God in their parish. 

Bishop Andrew Forster was speaking during a Service, on Tuesday evening, in Babington Hall, opposite Glendermott Parish Church, during which the hall was re-dedicated following an extensive renovation, and memorial gifts bestowed by families of people who had worshipped in Glendermott or socialised in the hall, were also dedicated.

The Rector, Rev Canon Robert Boyd, led the service of worship. He was assisted by the Curate of Glendermott and Newbuildings, Rev Iain McAleavey, and by Bishop Andrew, who preached the sermon.

Canon Boyd outlined a brief history of Babington Hall, which was built in 1893 in memory of the first Rector of the parish, Canon David Babington, and his wife. Canon Babington came as Curate, on St Patrick’s Day 1848, to what he described as “a dingy and dilapidated little church”. At the time it had a congregation of 38. By the time of his death, the church was regularly filled to capacity – with more than 500 attending – and the newly-built sister church of All Saints Clooney was also filled.

Canon Babington had described his own preaching as “good, rough, strong, country preaching” and over the years, Canon Boyd said, his predecessor turned the parish around. Canon Babington dedicated his life to the poor and needy, and, after his death, his grateful parishioners built the parish hall in thanksgiving for Mr Babington’s 41 years of work in Glendermott.

In his sermon, Bishop Andrew said he was happy to be in Glendermott to celebrate the “generosity of the people of God”. He thanked them for their kindness and for being, what he called, Kingdom-builders in the building of God’s Church.

The reading at the service came from Nehemiah, Chapter 3, which recounts the repair and rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and the rebuilding of its gates. Bishop Andrew said the reading helped us see our part in the building of God’s Kingdom. Nehemiah had been heartbroken, Bishop Andrew said, that what had once been a structure that stood to the glory of God was in ruins. Nehemiah got permission from a King to return to his homeland and rebuild the walls. When he got there, he was overcome by the scale of the task that lay in front of him.

“Sometimes for us,” Bishop Andrew said, “in the world that we live in, the role and the task of the Church in a secular society almost seems too much, almost seems too difficult, now, whenever faith is denigrated, whenever God’s word is ignored, and the place of the Church put way down the pecking order. Sometimes the role of building the Kingdom of God, today, seems too much for us.

“It was too much for Nehemiah, but God led him through difficult times – through times of political turmoil, led him through times of famine, and led him through times even of pandemic – to do great things for his saviour. And for you and me, I think the story of Nehemiah, and the story of this parish, should encourage us, as the people today, never to underestimate what God can do through those who are committed to his plan and path for their lives.”

Bishop Andrew noted that the names of those who had helped Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls were never mentioned again in the Bible. “They were never heard of again. You know why? Because they were normal, ordinary people called to do great things for God…Such great things that these names – that are never mentioned again in Scripture – all these years later, we read them out tonight in the Babington Hall in Glendermott Parish and celebrate ordinary people who did extraordinary things for God. Tonight, what I celebrate, are the ordinary people of Glendermott Parish who are prepared to do extraordinary things for God.”

The music for Tuesday evening’s service was provided by Mrs May Boyd, on the piano. Among those in the congregation were Rev Canon Derek Creighton, who had been Rector of Glendermott for 16 years until his retirement six years ago. After the service, the families who donated gifts joined clergy and other parishioners for supper in the adjoining Canon Kelly Hall.