The people of Bunbeg were getting “two for the price of one”, the Archdeacon of Raphoe said, as he waved a number of supermarket flyers in the pulpit of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland on Friday evening.
Ven. David Huss was referring to the “unique occasion” during which two young men were being confirmed and a new Bishop’s Curate, Rev Liz Fitzgerald, was being introduced to the Parishes of Gweedore, Carrickfin and Templecrone. Archdeacon Huss said he would resist the temptation to give two sermons for the price of one.
Friday evening’s worship was led by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good. The Diocesan Registrar, Canon David Crooks, also took part in the service, along with the Rural Dean for Kilmacrennan East and Kilmacrennan West, Rev David McDonnell, and Archdeacon Huss.
Bishop Good said it was “a night of some significance” for parishioners. Rev Fitzgerald had been ordained a priest less than a fortnight earlier, and the Bishop encouraged them to support their new minister by praying for her.
For his sermon, Archdeacon Huss said he was drawn to one particular verse from John, Chapter 15: “’You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.’” He revealed that the trees in the Rectory garden in Donegal were laden with fruit this autumn, although that wasn’t always the case. “Some years, late storms have blown away the blossom in May and we’ve had nothing – no fruit.
“Many times, of course, you pick the apples, you try to store them away, you put them in some boxes or whatever, and when you go back you find that there’s one bad one that’s gone through the crop, it’s gone off – fruit that didn’t last.”
The fruit that Jesus was looking for in our lives, Archdeacon Huss said, came from his love for us and consisted of us loving other people. “Fruit comes into our lives from God as God’s love is poured out into our lives. He says, ‘Love each other as I have loved you.’ God’s love comes first. We can only love because he first loved us.” Jesus showed that love, the preacher said, in the most supreme way – on the cross.
“Fruitfulness comes when we realise how much God has done for us; how he set his love upon us; how he made us his friends; how he made himself known; and how he chose us even when we were far from hi. So, as God pours his love into us, the fruit grows…. Christian fruitfulness is when we love God and love others.”
Addressing the two confirmation candidates, Alexander Boyd and Cormac Hanlon, the Archdeacon hoped that this would be a day of great significance in their lives as they answered God’s call. Turning to the new Curate, the preacher counselled against short-termism. “It’s very easy,” he said, “to think short term for those of us who are ministers. What is this latest crisis that I have to solve? What’s this week’s problem that I have to deliver? How can I get through from this day to the next? But actually, we just ought to take the long view – to seek fruit that will last.”
After the service, the congregation enjoyed refreshments and speeches in the adjoining parish hall.
The Parish Priest of Templecrone, Fr Aodhan Cannon, said he looked forward to working with Rev Fitzgerald and asked blessing on her ministry. He told the gathering that Templecrone was an historic place, which dated back to the time of Saint Crone. She was a religious woman, he said, who brought Christianity to the people of the islands around Dungloe Bay, “so you’re following in good footsteps,” he told Rev Fitzgerald.
Rev McDonnell said he, too, looked forward to working with the new Bishop’s Curate. It was great to have another member of the clergy from the Church of Ireland in west Donegal. “Maybe with the help of the Archdeacon we might take out our maps later in the week,” he suggested, ”and carve up the islands”.
Rev Fitzgerald said she felt the spirit was moving her through the community in Gweedore, Carrickfin and Templecrone. “I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next months and years being here with you,” she said. Rev Fitzgerald’s husband Sean could not attend the Service of Introduction’ because he was at sea working. She revealed that their son, John, “my baby – John’s 25”, was trying to come to terms with the idea that his mother was leaving home rather than the 25-year-old leaving home.
Bishop Good said the two confirmation candidates, Cormac and Alexander, were two of the heroes of the evening and he presented each of them with a copy of the Bible.
The Bishop extolled the new curate’s virtues to her congregation. “Liz is a genuine, real deal,” he told those present. “She’s not arrogant, boastful and pushy. There’s a reluctance about her. I like a reluctant leader rather than a pushy, forceful one. There’s a humility about her, there’s a restraint about her, she’s not arrogant in any sense of the word whatsoever, but she is prepared to get out there and lead and do what needs to be done.”
Rev McDonnell drew proceedings to a close with a few remarks in Irish and expressed the hope that by the time Rev Fitgerald left her new parishes she might be fluent in Gaelic.