A bizarre mixture of joy and sadness greeted the end of the Christmas morning service in St Mary’s Church, Macosquin. The elated parents and family of baby Laura Parke – who had just been baptised – mingled in the porch with tearful parishioners lamenting the retirement of their popular Rector, Rev Canon Mike Roemmele, who had led worship in the Parish of Camus-Juxta-Bann for the past decade.
In his last sermon to his parishioners there, Canon Roemmele said that many of those who featured in the gospel readings – such as the shepherds and the wise men who visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, the lepers Christ cured or the blind people whose sight he restored – were never heard of again. There was a good reason for that, he said. The Gospel was about Jesus and not about them.
“This morning, I come to the end of another chapter in the story of my ministry,” the Rector said. “My departure will also mark the end of a very short chapter in the very long story of this church in Macosquin, which has had numerous rectors before me. They are long gone. Most have been forgotten. In a very short time I will be forgotten and new people will lead the church forward into the future. And that is significant because this church was never my church, nor has it ever belonged to anyone in its congregations. It has always been Christ’s church.”
During the Service, a prayer of thanksgiving was said for Canon Roemmele’s ministry, and prayers were also said for whoever will minister to parishioners in the interregnum – the period between his departure and the appointment of a new Rector.
Christmas morning marked the end of yet another chapter in Canon Roemmele’s eventful ministry with the Church, which had begun with his ordination as Deacon on the Feast of St John the Baptist on 24th June 1973. His vocation has thus far taken him from Portadown – where he was first appointed Curate in 1977 – to Macosquin, where he was instituted as Rector in 2007.
In between, Canon Roemmele has served a short curacy in Christchurch, Limavady, undertaken a spell in the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf (where he founded a branch of the Samaritans), served a chaplaincy with the Royal Air Force (which involved frequent overseas deployments), and completed his military service with the Royal Army Chaplains Department. He was accompanied throughout by his wife Adrienne and their children.
“My future ministry is, at present, an unknown chapter waiting to unfold,” Canon Roemmele said, “but, like all good books, will build on the pages of ones now past. Few clergy ever retire from ministry.”
Whatever unfolds, Canon Roemmele leaves his mark on Macosquin. Upon returning to civilian ministry as Rector of the Parish of Camus-juxta-Bann in 2007, he oversaw ambitious improvement work at St Mary’s Church, including a re-roofing project, the building of an attractive new entrance foyer, the rebuilding of the church’s 100-year-old organ, a major refurbishment of the Rectory and the restoration of the clock faces.
The Rector was active in the community throughout the last 10 years, serving on Macosquin Primary School’s Board of Governors and on the Village Community Association. For several years he was Honorary Chaplain to the Royal Irish Regiment and actively involved with the local SSAFA committee. One of the abiding memories of his time in Camus-Juxta-Bann will be of his enthusiastic cooking for the weekly Senior Citizens’ lunches during the winter months in the refurbished Minor Hall.