The new Rector of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, Rev Andrea Cotter, was instituted on Friday evening (April 19th, 2024) at a service in a packed St Patrick’s Church in Ballymagorry, which drew many of her new parishioners from Bready and Ballymagorry, along with parishioners from All Saints Clooney – where she had served her curacy – and friends from Ballymena where she had lived prior to her ordination.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, earned loud cheers at a celebratory supper afterwards when he told guests that Andrea had come from the Diocese of Connor – for whom her husband, Richard, worked – but that he thanked God for having brought her to “the Promised Land” of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong.

At the beginning of the service, Bishop Andrew said it was his great pleasure to welcome the congregation to what he called “this momentous occasion as we institute Andrea as the new Rector of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong churches. So, it’s wonderful to see the church so full tonight; the sun is shining; we’re smiling and we’re going to have a wonderful evening together in the presence of almighty God.”

Turning to the new incumbent he said, “It’s wonderful tonight to see many of the threads of your life, Andrea, represented in the congregation. You have family, you have friends from Ballymena days, including the Rector of Ballymena; you have friends who trained with you in ministry; you have the wonderful parishioners of All Saints Clooney who have nurtured you and loved you as you loved them during your curacy; and you have all these new friends and family whom you will meet. So, it’s wonderful to see so many of you here tonight, and I want to give a special welcome to clergy from other denominations in the area who are with us this evening. We appreciate your presence and your prayers with us.

“Andrea has been a blessing to All Saints Clooney and a blessing to our diocese, and it filled my heart with joy whenever she was nominated to me to be rector of these parishes. And I know she will serve you with diligence, with grace, with determination and with love. So, thank you, Andrea, for responding to God’s call to serve these parishes, to be here and to love God’s people as you share your love for him.”

Rev Cotter was mentored during her curacy by Clooney’s Rector, Rev Canon David McBeth, who preached the sermon. “No one here, tonight, is a spectator,” he told the congregation. “Each one of us has a part to play in the ongoing drama of God’s plan and purpose – both in our individual lives and in the world around us.”

He told them that Andrea had been called by God to lead her two new parishes into a God-ordained future. But she wasn’t the only one who was being called this evening. “We’re all called – clergy, laity – to continue God’s work, and now is the hour to consider what that call might have been to each and every one of us.

“To the people of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, congratulations. Congratulations. You have called as your new rector one of the finest young women I have ever known. But I want to tell you a few things about her.

“Don’t let this little, innocent face fool you! Number one: be careful what she gives you. We were all at a clergy conference a couple of years ago and she gave us all Covid. She’s the only minister I know who knocked down about 52 ministers in one go. So, be careful what she gives you. But she also has a great sense of humour. She enjoys a good bit of fun, a good laugh and a good joke.”

Canon McBeth said the new rector was no ‘softie’ and that her husband, Richard, would certainly know about that. “Andrea is the boss. When she says, ‘Jump’, Richard says, ‘How high?’ And, in fact, it was getting that way with me. I was wondering who was the boss? She was telling me to do this and do that. To be honest, I was terrified not to do it.”

Turning to serious matters, though, Canon McBeth said Reverend Andrea had been an exceptional minister. “She is a strong theologian, a creative liturgist, a provocative preacher, a fine administrator and, most of all, she has a pastor’s heart. She is kind, she is loving and she is caring.

“So I say to you, Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, be kind to your new rector. Treasure her as a gift, because she was certainly a gift to All Saints Clooney. She is a gift to the church universal, she’s a gift to the diocese and she’s a gift to your parishes in particular.

“Cherish her, but let her lead, for God has called her to be your spiritual leader. Trust her, for here is a rector that you can trust, and without trusting each other none of us can accomplish anything for the Lord.

“Andrea has come to you absolutely committed to doing powerful work for the Lord. Don’t hinder her. Listen to her. Support her. And help her accomplish the glorious mission God has for Andrea and you today. Grow together. Accomplish great things. Change the parish together. Together light a fire for Christ in this part of your church in the world, a fire that will draw many to its life-giving flame, a fire that will challenge some, comfort others, and always push back darkness.

“To my colleague, Andrea, remember whose you are. You belong to the Lord. He is the one who has called you and put you in this place.”

Bishop Andrew was assisted in the Service of Institution by the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller, and by the Diocesan Registrar, Rev Canon David Crooks.

After the service, the congregation moved to the nearby Milliken Hall to enjoy refreshments and speeches. Rev Cotter addressed the gathering, thanking Canon McBeth for guiding her through the “two years, seven months and twelve days” of her curacy in Clooney.

Among those there to share her joy this evening were her husband Richard, her twin sister Emma, her brother-in-law, David McAleese, and nephews Graham, Austin and David.

In the concluding speech, Bishop Andrew referred to the new Rector’s “infectious personality”. He pointed out that he – like Canon McBeth – had contracted Covid from Andrea at that ill-fated clergy retreat.

Incidentally, Rev Andrea wasn’t the only person celebrating on Friday evening. Local parishioner Tommy Robb was enjoying his 86th birthday – an occasion made all the sweeter by a rousing rendition of ‘Happy birthday’ by everyone in the hall.