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.”