St Mary’s Church in Macosquin was packed on Friday evening for the Institution of the new Rector, Rev Paul Lyons, as the Incumbent of Camus-Juxta-Bann. He succeeds Rev Canon Mike Roemmele who retired last Christmas.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the new Rector, who grew up about 3 miles away in Coleraine, and the theme of ‘home’ featured prominently in the Service. It was appropriate that Rev Lyons’ wife, Nicola, and their three children were in church – along with the children’s maternal grandmother – to see Rev Lyons being instituted by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good.
In his opening words, Bishop Good remarked on the size of the congregation, describing the Service of Institution as a “significant occasion” not just for the Lyons family but for the whole Macosquin community. Included in the congregation were the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Brenda Chivers, the Lord-Lieutenant for County Londonderry, Mrs Alison Millar, and guests from other denominations.
The sermon was delivered by a friend of the new rector, Rev Stephen McElhinney, who is Mission Director of S.A.M.S. He said the people of Macosquin were blessed to have the Lyons family coming to the parish.
Rev McElhinney said the Gospel reading for the Service (Mark 1: 29-39, read by Rev Sam Jones) began in the synagogue – “the home of the Lord” – and spilled out into another home setting, the house of Simon and Andrew, and the preacher chose ‘home’ as the theme of his address.
Home was where we were formed, he said. God was the central one who was with us in our homes – not only with us but forming the deep relationships with which we moved out into the world. “I think one of the biggest things that, as Paul arrives here – and Nicola – is that as they come to create that ‘home’ atmosphere, they do so because God has meant so much to them, as God has brought them together, as God has gone before them creating that homely sense. And one of the great gifts that they bring to you as a parish will be that sense of home-making. Their hospitality will be something that will come out time and time again.”
In the Gospel passage, Jesus – the preacher said – was in a “rockstar moment (for want of a better phrase)”. There was no internet but news travelled like wildfire and the whole city gathered to see what was going on. Jesus spent the evening healing the sick and casting out demons, but in the morning he was nowhere to be found. He had gone out to a deserted place to pray. When Simon and his companions finally found him, Jesus decided to move on to the neighbouring town to proclaim his message there also.
“Sometimes as a church,” Rev McElhinney said, “when good things are happening, it’s very easy to say, ‘This is good, let’s keep going.’ And sometimes it’s true that maybe, where not so much is happening but we still keep doing some things, and if we’re honest with ourselves we’d have a little chat with each other and say, ‘Why do we do this?’ And we say, ‘I suppose we’ve always done it.’ Jesus shows us another way. And I know in your new Rector that what we see Jesus doing is something that Paul will in due course, in his time [do] – he’ll be off having a quiet moment, he’ll be seeking God’s will, he’ll be praying, he’ll be asking that question, ‘Lord as we seek to follow you as a parish, as I’m in this place of responsibility and leadership, what’s the big idea? Where are you leading us? Where are you wanting to take us?’”
Rev McElhinney told the congregation that he enjoyed sailing. “One of the lovely things about sailing is that things are constantly changing and you’ve got to be sensitive to the wind. And once you’ve got to know the direction of the wind, then you go with an idea and set your sail. And that idea is what I believe your new Rector will have deeply in his heart – the sense of where God is calling you as a church, and him in his leadership (together with everybody) to see where is God’s spirit blowing at this moment, where does God want to take us?”
The congregation – who had entered the church on a bright, pleasant, late summer’s evening – were greeted by nightfall as they emerged from St Mary’s Church and walked the short distance to the parish hall for supper. A significant number had travelled from Rev Lyons’ former parish, Greenisland, to mark what Bishop Good called a “bittersweet” occasion – when they said farewell to a pastor whom they had loved.
Presentations were made by the Macosquin churchwardens to Mrs Lyons, Mrs Mary Good and to all three of the Rector’s children. Addressing the Macosquin parishioners, the Rector’s Churchwarden from Greencastle, Roger Martin, used the new incumbent’s name as an acronym of sorts, to describe the man they were getting: ‘P’ for pastoral; ‘A’ for affable; ‘U’ for understanding; and ‘L’ for loving.