The Rector of the Parish of Kilcronaghan, Rev Rosie Diffin, described Saturday 30th September, 2023 as “a day of joy and gratitude and hope” as the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, cut the ribbon to officially open the congregation’s new church hall in Tobermore.
The parishioners beamed with pride as they got their first glimpse of the building, whose restoration was only completed in the last few days.
The Rector paid an emotional tribute to her parishioners for their efforts to make their dream a reality. “You know, you’ve worked long and hard to get to this point – it’s over 20 years – and this building is a real credit to you as a parish. So, don’t rush home. Take time to go round and own it and see this beautiful new church hall that you now own.
“Only last Saturday, someone came and stood in that doorway back there,” the Rector said, “and they said to me, ‘Rosie, this is a miracle, this is a miracle.’
“You know, it really is a miracle. God has so richly blessed all that we’ve offered back to him. So, finally, after more than 20 years, we come to this, what really is a remarkable day in the life of our congregation – a day that is filled with joy and gratitude and hope as we gather here in this beautiful new church hall.
“In that reading, from 1 Chronicles 29, we have this record of a time when God’s people had presented their richest offerings to God for the building of the Temple in which they would worship God. And in verse 9 we read, ‘And then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord.’
“This parish has wholeheartedly offered freely to the Lord and so today we rejoice just as King David and the people of Israel rejoiced with their whole hearts over God’s willingness to accept our contribution to the building of His kingdom in this place.
“We stand here as those who know that outside of God’s blessing, this hall would never have come to be. God has blessed us, He has blessed us, and we’re grateful – we’re deeply grateful – as we look around this hall that has been built for the glory of God and for the furtherance of His kingdom.
“Each of you has contributed, along with many, many faithful members of this congregation who are no longer with us, and we remember them today with gratitude. We know just how much time and talent and resources it has taken to make this long-held dream a reality.
“We journeyed together through planning and re-planning, and re-planning, and at times it really did feel as though we were just like the Israelites who came to the edge of the promised land only to be led back into the wilderness.
“But then we grouped as God in His great goodness sent us [architect] John Simpson and he helped us to find a way forward, so that just nine short months ago, [builder] John McIntyre was contracted to build this beautiful hall for us.
“And I have to say, the way in which it came together was nothing short of a miracle. One moment the whole project seemed impossible, and the next we were clearing the hall ready for the building work to begin.
“God, who is the source of every blessing, has truly blessed Kilcronaghan Church.”
Bishop Andrew confessed that as recently as a fortnight ago he had doubted that the new hall would be opened on schedule, “so forgive me my lack of faith,” he said, “and well done all of you for working so hard to make sure this hall was finished. It is simply wonderful – it is absolutely wonderful.
“This says a lot about the family of God here in Kilcronaghan Parish and about your vision, and your commitment and your desire to serve.
“It says that you want to have a church and a parish that is filled with activity and I pray that this hall will be filled with activity, that it will be filled with young people and old people, that people will want to come to it, that the doors will be wide enough to welcome all, and that it will be a place where God’s kingdom is built up, the family of God blessed, and that people will come here and feel at home here.”
Bishop Andrew paid tribute to the long-term vision of the parishioners. “Isn’t it brilliant,” he said, “that we are sitting here this afternoon and there are babies in this hall? They will grow into children who will use this hall and into adults who will use this hall long after a lot of us have gone, and that says a lot about your vision, that you weren’t content just to have something for the here and now, but you want to build for the future – for generations that are to come. I want to say, ‘Well done,’ to that.”
The new hall was packed for the opening service. Hymns were sung by the parish’s ladies choir and its men’s choir, and afterwards the congregation enjoyed a celebratory cream tea.
The Rector and the Bishop then cut a substantial cake – baked and decorated specially for the occasion – and the cake was shared among the parishioners and visiting friends.