Relatives of the late former Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Dr James Mehaffey, attended a Service in St Columb’s Cathedral, this morning, during which a plaque was dedicated to the late bishop’s memory.
The dedication was performed by one of his successors, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, as the former bishop’s widow, Mrs Thelma Mehaffey, and the couple’s daughter Wendy and son Tim, looked on.
The Service of Choral Matins was led by the Dean of the Cathedral, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, who was assisted by the Parish of Templemore’s Pastoral Assistant, Rev Canon John Merrick.
Among those who provided music for the service was the Philip Mehaffey Memorial Organ Scholar, Lukas Lynch. The scholarship was set up by Bishop and Mrs Mehaffey in memory of their late son.
In his sermon, Bishop Andrew described how appropriate the first reading – Jeremiah 1:4-10 – was for the occasion. In the reading, he said, we saw a man who faced great challenges. God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet and effectively told him his job was going to be a terrible one, a difficult one, faced with opposition and heartache.
Bishop Andrew said the foundations of Bishop Mehaffey’s life and ministry were not far from the prophet Jeremiah. “His ministry was not far from what Jeremiah was called to do: at times to pluck up and tear down things that were wrong; to call out that which was in our society that pulled us apart. And then the other part of Jeremiah’s ministry was to build up and to plant.
“And I can’t help but think, today – and maybe today of all days, in this city – without Jim’s ministry, building up and planting, I truly believe we would be in a much worse place now than we are this day, and for that, every one of us must be thankful to almighty God.
“And for that, in generations to come, many generations to come – just like visitors who’ve come to this Cathedral and heard of Bishop Alexander and Mrs Alexander, have looked at the other plaques and monuments around this cathedral that have heralded the ministry and in fluence of good people – for generations to come, people will hear of the ministry of Jim Mehaffey, a man fully known and fully loved, a man blessed by the presence of God and equipped by his holy spirit, who tore down those attitudes that were wrong, and built us up into a better place, and planted grace into our hearts.
“Whenever I read today’s reading, in one way I couldn’t believe how appropriate it was for someone who built up so much, even physically. You know, today, as you and I drove to the cathedral, you might’ve seen the police presence outside Bishopsgate Hotel, because the Taoiseach is there for the commemoration later on today. The Taoiseach is in the Bishopsgate Hotel that came about because of the Inner City Trust, came about because of people like Jim Mehaffey, who weren’t prepared just to leave this place in rubble and in ruin, but to rebuild – and to rebuild better and to rebuild stronger.
“As we look back into the rubble of division, into the wreckage of pain, Jim’s example to us is to build up: to build up better, to build up stronger, and to look to the future. He was able to do that because, like Jeremiah, Bishop Jim knew that God knew him, that he was fully known, fully loved, that the presence of God walked in him, and that he was equipped by the Spirit.”
Bishop Forster recalled Bishop Mehaffey’s funeral, two years ago this month. “When we gathered in this cathedral, [Bishop Mehaffey’s daughter] Wendy told us that one of the last things her dad said was this – in its simplicity beautiful, but in its profundity incredible – simply this: ‘One helps the other.’ One helps the other. For me, that is the essence of the Kingdom of God. One helps the other.
“In our challenges, great or small, may Jim’s – if I may say it – last sermon to all of us be his living legacy: that one helps the other; and that you and I will go on helping the other, because, like Jeremiah of old, like Bishop James Mehaffey, that we would know that whatever the challenges were, we faced them together, because we were fully known and fully loved; because God journeyed with us; and because we were equipped by his spirit. One helps the other. Jim Mehaffey helped us. May we be people who in thankfulness live out the sermon of his life: to build up and to help the other.”
The music at today’s service was provided by the Gentlemen of the Cathedral Choir and the Cathedral Choristers. The Organist and Master of the Choristers was Dr Derek Collins and the Assistant Organist was Mr Nicky Morton.