The Rev Canon Paul Whittaker, currently Rector of Errigal and Desertoghill (Garvagh), in the Diocese of Derry, has been appointed Rector of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, succeeding the Rev Irene Lyttle who retired in September 2017.
Canon Whittaker – who has been the incumbent in Garvagh since 2005 – says the move to Tyrone will be “a big challenge” but that he and his wife, Carol, are “looking forward to this new chapter in our lives”.
“We have enjoyed our time in Garvagh immensely,” Canon Whittaker says, “but I felt called to Leckpatrick and Dunnalong. We will be leaving many friends behind but I’m confident those friendships will remain. I thank God that we have built a strong parish team in Garvagh and I am sure that that strength will become evident as the parishioners await the arrival of their new incumbent.”
Leckpatrick and Dunnalong will have a familiar look for the incoming rector, who is a serious sports fan. “I played NCU cricket for four years when I was a curate in Coleraine, and played for the Bannsiders against Bready and Fox Lodge – two clubs which play a prominent role in the life and culture of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong.” Canon Whittaker also played senior football for Glenavon and nowadays he is the club’s chaplain.
Six years ago, Canon Whittaker founded the SPARK Programme (Servants Pursuing a Radical Kingdom) in Garvagh. The programme, which is based at St Paul’s Church of Ireland, went from strength to strength as it brought young people from across the community together to build new friendships and help their local communities in Garvagh and Glenullin.
In 2012, St Paul’s Church of Ireland and Glenullin Community Association introduced a special joint St Patrick’s Eve celebration event which has continued annually ever since, alternating between the GAA clubhouse and the Church of Ireland parish hall. The special programme of events draws members of the different denominations in the area together for a ‘Blessing of the Shamrock’ ceremony and to enjoy food, music and dancing.
Carol is an enthusiastic supporter of her husband’s ministry, whether as a member of the church choir or as organiser-in-chief of logistical arrangements for parish events.
Canon Whittaker’s Service of Institution will take place in St Patrick’s Church, Leckpatrick, at 8.00pm on Friday 22ndMarch. The preacher will be Rev David McBeth, Rector of All Saints Clooney.