There were joyful scenes in Christ Church Derry on Sunday evening (16th June 2024) both during and after the Service of Ordination in which three new OLM Deacons were ordained for the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe – Rev Linda Hughes, Rev Eleanor Craig and Rev Gillian Millar.

Relatives and friends of all three women – including many supporters from their respective parishes – were in church to see the laying on of hands by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster.

“I know that this evening,” the Bishop said, “each of us will have a deep sense of both celebration and prayerfulness – celebrating the journey that God brings us in life and celebration as we see our candidate deacons take this very important step in their own discipleship and this very important step in their ministry.

“It is a joy for me to ordain any time,” Bishop Andrew said. “t’s a joy for me to ordain Eleanor and Gillian and Linda this evening. I’ve been part of their journey towards ordination and it’s been such a blessing for me to see three children of God open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, open to the prompting of the Church and open to the call of God in their lives. We want you to be blessed tonight because you’re a blessing to us, and we hope and pray that tonight will be really very, very special and that it will live long in your memory.”

The sermon was preached by Rev Dr Patrick McGlinchey, lecturer in Missiology and Pastoral Studies at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, who posed the questions: what was really needed in order to be ready for ordination; and what were the true credentials of the ordained person?

Dr McGlinchey suggested that the answers could be found in the first Scripture reading (Isaiah6 vs 1-18). “Even though thousands of years separated Isaiah in Jerusalem from Gillian, Eleanor and Linda, there are some interesting meeting points because as you read the story you realize that Isaiah had three unique credentials for his ministry and he had been called to exercise these traits to fulfill what God wanted him to do.”

The preacher said God wanted all three candidate deacons to grow in and to develop in their ministry. Trait number one, he said, was that Isaiah had a big vision of God, which he had gained from a literal vision. Isaiah discovered that God was real and it was this vision which probably sustained Isaiah’s entire prophetic ministry. “Whatever else is needed for ministry, we all need this compelling vision of a God who is real, a God who’s not dead but alive, a God who cares deeply for people to whom we minister and, ‘soon-to-be deacons’, a God who cares deeply for you.”

Dr McGlinchey said, though, that the vision of a great God brought with it a painful sense of our own inadequacy. Any who were called to ministry desperately needed an awareness of their own inadequacy so that they would truly rely on God alone. “You are not ready for ministry, you’re not qualified, you don’t have the credentials if you think that you are already up to the job…It’s when you recognize that you cannot do this task on your own strength that you truly will rely on the Lord.”

“For ordination you need a big vision of God; a sense of our inadequacy and our need of God; and finally a willingness to be available to him.” Dr McGlinchey shared with the new deacons what he referred to as a recipe – with only three ingredients – for sustaining that level of commitment in their ministry. The very first was being close to Jesus. The second was to preach the Gospel. And ingredient number three was to get to know and come to love the people to whom they were called to minister. “Your people will not care how much you know until they know how much you care. So, it’s that challenge to get alongside the people, to really get to know them, to pray for them by name, to be available for them, to be present to them, and as you do that you will be fulfilling the calling that you’ve been given.”

After the sermon, the candidate deacons stood before Bishop Andrew and answered a series of questions as part of the Rite of Ordination. The candidates then knelt before the Bishop and he placed his hands on their heads, asking God to pour out his Holy Spirit upon his servants. The new deacons were each vested with a stole by the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller, and presented with a bible as a sign of their God-given authority to proclaim His word. The three women were then acclaimed by the clergy present and by the congregation.

The readings for Sunday evening’s service were delivered by Daniel Millar, Valerie Ferguson and Anne Heaslett. The music was provided by the Christ Church Choir, accompanied by Ben McGonigle on the organ and piano.