The Parish of Drumachose, in Limavady, has a new incumbent. Rev Canon Aonghus Mayes was instituted as Rector of the Parish at a Service in Christ Church, Limavady on Friday 21st January. He succeeds Rev Canon Sam McVeigh who retired in January last year after a 30-year incumbency.

The Service of Institution was led by Rt Rev Andrew Forster, who welcomed Canon Mayes back to the diocese where he had first learned about faith – growing up in All Saints, Clooney, where his late father, Canon John Mayes, had been a hugely popular rector.

The Institution was something of a family affair for the new rector’s kin. His mother, Alison, and sister Victoria, were in the front pew, looking on, while Victoria’s husband, Rev Canon Jonathan Pierce, preached the sermon.

In the address, Canon Pierce recalled serving with Canon Mayes a number of years ago, in East Belfast. “Where I work, in St Finnian’s, Cregagh, people remember Aonghus with great affection, even though he’s left 11 years. What they remember is his attentiveness in visiting when they were going through rough times. They remember his sense of humour and his fun. And while this is undoubtedly an exciting and positive day for this parish, I know that it’s also a sad day for the Parish of Moy, where Aonghus has spent 11 very happy years, and I know that people had been exceptionally kind and supportive to him in his ministry there.”

When a new rector arrived into a new situation, Canon Pierce said, there often seem to be so many things to do from the word go, but he advised Canon Mayes and his parishioners not to be too hasty. “Before rushing into anything, study the scriptures, spend time in God’s holy presence asking that question: what do you want us to do here, Lord, right now? How can we build up this community in faith? How can we serve our local community best? How can we radiate Christ’s love and his hope into some of the dark places and the dark situations that surround us at the present time?

“St Paul speaks about being watchful and thankful in his prayers. And what I think this means is taking stock of where God has already been at work and building on those things. It’s making time and space to see those areas where together – as a community of faith – you can make a really, really important contribution to the life of this town and the surrounding area. All of that takes discernment, it takes prayer and it takes resources, but once the vision is there – and it comes from God – the resources always tend to follow.”

Canon Pierce encouraged the congregation in Drumachose to take to heart three principles St Paul sets before us: the centrality of prayer in all things; the importance of relationships (and particularly how we relate to those outside of church); and the importance of teamwork and supporting each other in ministry.”

Bishop Andrew began the service by telling Canon Mayes that the “necessary modesty” of the congregation’s size – owing to Covid regulations – in no way reflected the warmth and sincerity of the huge welcome he would receive from the parishioners of Drumachose, and the whole community in Limavady and in the Diocese. “We welcome you home, to your home diocese of Derry and Raphoe,” the Bishop said. “You’ve been away too long.”

Speaking after the service, Canon Mayes paid tribute to his “amazing” former parishioners in Moy. “I will never be able to thank [you] for the love, support, prayers and encouragement you have given me throughout my time as your rector.” He also thanked his new parishioners in Drumachose for the warmth of their welcome. “I have to say, it’s not a little daunting the thought of following a much-loved rector of over 30 years, and also added to that the prospect of getting to know the names of some 1,400 new faces or, it’s probably better to say, getting to know the names of fourteen hundred new face masks.” The new rector told them what he would value most were, firstly, their prayers for the parish, its future, and for him; and, secondly, their faithfulness with regard to weekly worship “no matter what, this coming year”.