Rev Canon David McBeth has been installed as a member of The Chapter of St Columb’s Cathedral, at a service led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart and attended by the Bishop of Derry, Rt Rev Andrew Forster. Members of the McBeth family, including his wife, April, were there to see Canon McBeth take his seat in the stall left vacant following the retirement of Rev Canon Paul Whittaker.
Worshippers filled the two centre aisles and spilled into the side aisles, and Cathedral staff ran out of Orders of Service well before the service got under way.
Canon McBeth wore the British Empire Medal awarded to him by the late Queen Elizabeth II, seven years ago. Members of his previous parishes – Glendermott and Newbuildings (where he served his curacy under Rev Canon Derek Creighton), and Dungiven and Bovevagh – mingled with those from his current parish, All Saints Clooney.
The sermon was preached by the Rector of the Balteagh Group of Parishes, Rev Rhys Jones, who was a former Curate of Canon McBeth’s in Clooney.
Rev Jones said that in the New Testament reading (Luke 4: 14-21), Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, had returned to Galilee, and a report about him was spreading through all the surrounding region. “‘He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.’ In the parlance of today,” the preacher said, “Jesus is trending. In the terminology of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok – not to mention the Twitterverse some among you may inhabit – Mary and Joseph’s son has gone ‘viral.’”
Canon McBeth – “the latest and newest member of this illustrious Cathedral Chapter” – was himself often the recipient of praiseworthy report throughout the parishes of our diocese and beyond, Rev Jones said. “On occasion, in fact, the Rector of Clooney has experienced something approaching ‘viral’ public expectation. During the Covid pandemic, the weekly online services of worship from All Saints were regularly being watched by thousands – literally. Then there’s the newest Canon’s exciting music career that has seen him perform throughout these six counties and beyond; and of course, there’s his Country Gospel album releases, such as this one I seem to have conveniently brought with me,” [at this point the preacher produced a copy of one of the new Canon’s recordings] “available, Bishop, from all good retailers or indeed, direct from his ex-Curate for but a small administrative fee.
“These and more are admirable gifts and traits that Rev David possesses in abundance. But, in and of themselves, they are neither his truest gifting nor greatest passion. For that we must return to Christ’s teaching and indeed to the message of our Old Testament lesson.”
How fitting, the preacher said, that the diocese’s “newest and shiniest” Canon’s truest function, truest gifting and passion, was to be found in the sharing of “the old, old story of the Good News of Jesus Christ…in the daily lives of an expectant and needful community to which he has been called to witness…for which he has been set apart and anointed by the Spirit and the Church he loves and serves.
“Having worked alongside David this I know to be his greatest strength: to make real and tangible to those on the margins, to those seeking relational healing with the God of their fathers, all that Isaiah [in the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 61: 1-4] foretold and all that is fulfilled in Christ… it is truly nothing less than recovery of sight to those once blind, liberty to those in captivity, and a foundation upon which the spiritually destitute might construct a temple of the heart from which the Holy Spirit of God can reign and radiate.
“For this work,” Rev Jones suggested, “alongside all in holy orders, and indeed the entirety of the priesthood of all believers, David has been anointed, set apart, and commissioned as a herald of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is the newest Canon’s truest strength and passion – not viral audiences, album releases, or the applause that greets the lighted stage – but simply Christ and the desire to make the Good News of Christ real and tangible to those on the periphery of God’s Kingdom.”
After the sermon, Canon McBeth was led to his stall by the Dean and other members of the Cathedral Chapter.
The Dean was assisted in the service by Rev Canon John Merrick (Pastoral Assistant in the Parish of Templemore), Rev Canon David Crooks (Diocesan Registrar) and by Bishop Andrew. Music was provided by Dr Derek Collins and Ms Joanne Higgins.
The Service of Installation concluded with a number of short speeches. Dean Stewart told the congregation that 44 years ago this year he became curate of All Saints Clooney, so he regarded it as “a personal pleasure” to have installed Clooney’s current Rector, Canon McBeth.
The Rector’s Churchwarden at Clooney, Charlie McGarrigle, congratulated the new Canon, saying that his installation was an honour not only for Canon McBeth but for the whole Parish.
Canon McBeth thanked Bishop Andrew for appointing him and the Dean for conducting such a beautiful service. He said God had blessed him by leading him into ministry. “I know my mother and father are not here tonight – but they’re here in spirit – and they’d be so, so proud of me standing here as a minister.”
Canon McBeth thanked Canon David Ferry for his encouragement and support. “Without his encouragement, without his leadership, without his strength I wouldn’t be here today.” He thanked Canon Derek Creighton for the example he had set during Rev McBeth’s curacy in Glendermott. The “number one person” who Canon McBeth said had guided him “through good times and bad times” was his wife, April. He thanked April for her encouragement and the rest of their family for their support. There were acknowledgements, too, for his current Curate in Clooney, Rev Andrea Cotter, and for his “friend and former Curate”, Rev Rhys, who preached the sermon.
Bishop Andrew said the size of the congregation spoke volumes of the esteem, respect and love in which Canon McBeth was held in All Saints Clooney and in his previous parishes. “David, you are a blessing to the Church,” the Bishop said, “and you are a blessing to God’s world as you seek to serve him in that.”