Tag: service

Columba 1500 Service

The Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev’d John McDowell, was in Raphoe on Tuesday evening (7th December, 2021) to preach at a Service of Choral Evensong in St Eunan’s Cathedral which celebrated the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of St Columba.

The Service, which was led by the Rural Dean for Raphoe, Rev Canon David Crooks, featured the Choir of St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry, accompanied by its Organist, Dr Derek Collins. The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, also took part.

In his sermon, Archbishop McDowell said he was delighted to be in the cathedral for the first time. “We have learned, funnily enough in Covid,” he said, “when we weren’t allowed to come into church, we have learned just how important buildings are to us. We were complaining for years about them being a millstone around our necks but they’re very often the places where we first encountered the holiness of God, where we have had significant moments in our lives and in the formation of our faith, and we cherish them: there’s much more to them than simply stone and wood.”

The Archbishop disclosed a “connection” with the patron saint whose birth was being commemorated and with the church in which the service was taking place: Archbishop McDowell was ordained a deacon on St Columba’s Day and was consecrated Bishop on St Eunan’s Day.

The Primate chose “the great Celtic inheritance of our Church” as one of the themes for his sermon. He said the Jesus Christ whom we proclaim and Columba served was the greatest figure in human history. “It was because Columba and those like him had a faith in that greatness, and had faith in the faithfulness of God, that despite all the mistakes they made – despite the largeness, the grossness, of their sins; his temper; the people who died because of the arrogance that he had – it was because he knew that he owed Jesus Christ a debt he could never repay that he was the great apostle that he was, who spread and helped to spread the gospel on the continent of Europe.

“So, when we think of Columba, let’s not think of him as a quaint figure in a window; he was full of flesh and blood, and it was because of that – God used his weaknesses as much as his strengths, as He does with the best of His saints – we remember him, the great passion of his ministry and the example that he has left to us.”

Among those listening to the sermon in St Eunan’s were two of the four surviving crewmembers of a curragh which was rowed from Derry to Iona in 1963 to mark the 1,400th anniversary of St Columba’s voyage to the island. The pair posed for photographs with the Archbishop after the Service.

Global Day Service

Members of Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union heard graphic accounts illustrating the extent and impact of domestic abuse when they attended a special ‘Global Day Service’ in St Columb’s Cathedral on Saturday 27th November, 2021. The service was held in support of the organisation’s ‘No more 1-in-3’ campaign, which this year has focused on gender-based violence and sexual abuse.

Saturday’s service was led by the Diocesan MU’s outgoing chaplain, Rev Canon Katie McAteer, who was assisted by Rev Lindsey Farrell and Rev Liz Fitzgerald. They were supported by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, who addressed the congregation, and the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, who symbolically blessed a basket of items for the domestic abuse services.

Canon McAteer said those gathered in the Cathedral were raising their voices “on behalf of the voiceless to say, ‘No more “1-in-3”’. We cry out to our loving, righteous God for an end to the devastating statistic that one in three women globally will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.”

There was a poignant demonstration of solidarity with victims during a three-minute silence which was observed simultaneously in many countries. The local women sat in socially-distanced groups of three, in which the middle women covered their heads with purple scarves; these were removed as the silence ended, signifying their wish for an end to the ‘1-in-3’.

Among those present at Saturday’s service were the Queen’s Lord Lieutenant for the City of Londonderry, Dr Angela Garvey, and the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke. The service was addressed by women from three local organisations which help domestic abuse victims: Edel Fox from Omagh Women’s Aid; Mary McKenna from Donegal Domestic Violence Services; and Marie Brown, from Foyle Women’s Aid.

Ms Fox talked about the impact the pandemic had had on victims, and the challenges it had posed for groups like hers which sought to help victims. She said that every 17 minutes, on average, the PSNI received a phone call from someone needing help because of domestic violence.

Mary McKenna revealed that in the last year, the Donegal Domestic Violence Service had worked with women from Poland, Slovakia, Moldova, Morocco, Afghanistan, Venezuela, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Romania, Brazil, Egypt, Sudan and Syria. “The issues all of these women will tell us about is the cultural acceptance of abuse towards women in their community.” She said the biggest fear they had was being threatened with being returned to their country of origin without their children. “For any woman, the thought of losing their children is horrific and this is what keeps many of these women where they are.”

Marie Brown, of Foyle Women’s Aid, revealed that year on year in Northern Ireland, the incidence of domestic violence had increased, and was now at “epidemic levels”. Seventy percent of the victims were female, she said, and during lockdown the number of women Foyle Women’s Aid dealt with rose by thirty per cent. Ms Brown said that eight women had lost their lives [to domestic violence] during lockdown, and another two had died since lockdown ended, “so the situation is pretty stark”.

Bishop Andrew thanked Mothers’ Union for organising Saturday’s service. “I sat at my seat in the Cathedral and whenever we turned for the three minutes of silence, and to look down the Cathedral and to see those heads covered, I found it deeply moving but also deeply distressing, distressing to see the proportion – so many people – affected by this terrible evil, and it is an evil.”

The Bishop thanked the Mothers’ Union and its Diocesan President Jacqui Armstrong for raising awareness of domestic violence, but he said that all of us – male and female – needed to “own this” and share this message. “As a man,” he said, “we must carry this message beyond these walls, that we must be the people who call out domestic violence, who challenge domestic violence, who raise awareness of domestic violence.” He said the message shouldn’t be left solely in the hands of women; men also had to be “the messengers of the wilderness and the pain that so many live with because of gender-based violence”.

MU’s Diocesan President, Ms Armstrong, said more had to be done to get to the root cause of gender-based violence. “We as a society – and it’s not just Church it’s all our communities, between our schools, the GAA, hockey clubs, Girls Brigade, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts – all of us need to work together in the North and South of Ireland, with government help, to get rid of the myths about domestic abuse and get down to the grass roots and create the healthy relationships that Adel and Mary and Marie have been talking about.”

Remembrance Sunday 2021

Local church leaders gathered with hundreds of people at the War Memorial in the centre of Londonderry on Sunday morning, 14th November 2021, for a Remembrance Sunday service. The attendance was well up on last year’s, at which numbers were badly affected by restrictions introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Among those who laid wreaths,. this morning, were the Queen’s Lord Lieutenant for the City of Londonderry, Dr Angela Garvey, and the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke.

The religious aspect of the ceremony was led by Rev Canon John Merrick from St Columb’s Cathedral. Readings were performed by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster; the Vicar General of the Derry Diocese, Fr Michael Canny; and Rev John Montgomery from Carlisle Road Methodist Church.

After the ceremony, the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, led a Service of Remembrance in St Columb’s Cathedral, where he was assisted by Canon Merrick.

In a deeply personal sermon, Bishop Forster talked to the congregation about his grandfather, Roger Charles Botley – who fought at the Battle of Ypres, and was later wounded and discharged from service – and his late uncle and godfather, RUC Constable Billy Forster, who was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for saving a man’s life as a car bomb exploded in Belfast almost 50 years ago. “I wonder who you remember today,” Bishop Andrew said, “with solemn gratitude and thankfulness, with a deep mixture of pride and grateful hearts?

“On this day, we, as a nation, fulfil our sacred duty of remembrance for those who held back the tide of war, for those who held back the tide of terrorist violence, so that you and I could sleep safely in our beds and live our lives peacefully. Today we acknowledge their service and sacrifice, and we fulfil our solemn duty by saying ‘We will remember them.’”

Sunday’s service was held in compliance with public health restrictions, which meant the traditional Poppy Appeal collection was suspended. However, as this year marks the centenary of the foundation of the Royal British Legion, members of the congregation were invited to contribute to the Poppy Appeal as they left the church.

Freedom Event for Young People

Bishop Andrew was the guest speaker at the second ‘Freedom’ event for young people in the North West, which took place in Richill Baptist Church in Londonderry on Saturday 13th November 2021.

The bible teaching event, which will be gathering on the second Saturday of each month, began in October. It aims to build a Christian friendship network that will build confidence and further discipleship among year 8s and members of local youth groups.

Derry and Raphoe’s Youth Ministry team was well represented at the event, with Diocesan Youth Officer, Claire Hinchliff, and Scripture Union’s E3 Schools Officer, Rachel Miller, among the trio of leaders, although the ladies were outshone in the sartorial stakes by their colleague, Andy Lamberton, of Exodus North West, who donned a giant banana costume for the occasion – subtly indicating that he was ‘top banana’ this evening.

The chairman of Derry and Raphoe Youth (DRY), Rev Peter Ferguson, was there to lend a hand, and All Saints Clooney’s Rector, Rev David McBeth, and curate Rev Andrea Cotter, were there to support the event.

Dozens of young people got a great insight into their distinguished guest when Claire ‘grilled’ her boss in an impromptu Q&A session on stage. What does a bishop do, she asked (his role, Bishop Andrew said, was “to help ministers in the diocese to do their job and to support churches in their mission”); what was his favourite flavour of ice cream (“vanilla – very boring, but it is vanilla”); did he prefer cats or dogs (“dogs, definitely dogs…I have a dog, who’s 12, she’s called Benna and she’s very cute, but – when you’re a dog – 12 is very old”); where did he go to school (“I went to the best school in Northern Ireland, Sullivan Upper in Holywood”); what was his favourite way to eat potatoes (“I like baby boiled – a bit left of field, I know”); and what did he like to eat for breakfast (“toast – with usually just butter on it, but this morning’s toast had lemon curd on it” – which prompted a gasp among the audience)?

Raphoe Installation Service

A new chapter was written on Thursday 4th November, 2021, in the centuries-long history of St Eunan’s Cathedral in Raphoe, when the Rev Canon Judi McGaffin was installed as a member of the Cathedral Chapter. In succeeding Rev Canon Dr Bill Long, who retired last March, the Bishop’s Curate-in-Charge of the Fahan Group of Parishes became the first ever female member of the Raphoe Cathedral Chapter.

Bishop Andrew Forster told the restricted congregation at Thursday’s Service of Installation that when he telephoned the new canon, last May, with news of her appointment, Canon McGaffin was struck dumb. “I am one of the few people who can ever say that they made Judi McGaffin speechless. You know how Judi always has something to say? Whenever I asked her to be a canon of the Cathedral, I thought the phone line had gone dead for a few seconds.”

At the time of her appointment, Canon McGaffin became only the second female canon in the history of the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe (in June last year, Rev Canon Katie McAteer had been installed as a canon of St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry).

Bishop Andrew described the Installation as a “momentous” evening for the Diocese as they gathered to celebrate Rev Judi and her ministry. “We treasure you and we honour you tonight, and we want you to know that you are a blessing to all of us.”

In his sermon, the preacher, Rev Adam Pullen, saluted the new canon’s passionate advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities, her support for the many victims of the mica crisis in Donegal and her work with other denominations in Inishowen and beyond.

Rev Pullen said the first reading, from Isaiah 61: vs 1-4 and 8-11, gave him hope and gave him heart that [ours] was a God of peace, of love and of justice, “who seeks the welfare of the least, the last, the lost, the widow and the orphan, and I know that that very much chimes with your heart, too, Judi.”

Thursday’s service was led by the Archdeacon of Raphoe, Ven. David Huss, who was assisted by Canon Harry Gilmore and Diocesan Registrar Canon David Crooks. Also present was the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart. Music for the service was provided by the church organist, Mrs Renee Goudie. Members of Canon McGaffin’s family, and parishioners from Fahan and Buncrana, were in church for the historic occasion.

New trustees commissioned at annual MU Diocesan Service in Omagh

Seven new trustees were commissioned to office for the Diocesan Mothers’ Union, this evening, in St Columba’s Church in Omagh. The women were commissioned by Bishop Andrew Forster during the branch’s annual Diocesan Service.

Restrictions introduced in churches to minimise the threat of COVID-19 meant the service went ahead without the usual pageantry that makes the annual service arguably the most colourful occasion in the diocesan calendar. However, former MU Worldwide President, Lady Eames, was in the congregation to lend her support.

The service was led by the Rector of Drumragh with Mountfield, Rev Graham Hare, assisted by the Rural Dean for the Omagh parishes, Rev Canon Robert Clarke, and the MU’s Diocesan Chaplain, Rev Canon Katie McAteer.

The women who were commissioned on Wednesday evening were Kathleen Finlay (Diocesan Secretary); Anne Smith (Action & Outreach Coordinator); Eva Wright (Worldwide Contact); Ivy Hartin and Averil Meehan (PROs); Janette Morrow (Indoor Members Contact); and Gladys Barnett (Prayer Circle Contact).

Addressing the socially-distanced congregation, Bishop Andrew said it was a joyful and important occasion. “These offices carry great responsibility for Mothers’ Union is a worldwide organisation whose members seek to express the Christian faith by the transformation of communities worldwide through the promotion of stable marriage, family life and the protection of children.”

The sermon was preached by the All-Ireland President of Mothers’ Union, June Butler MBE, who pointed out that it was Prisons Week for the Diocesan Mothers’ Union. Mrs Butler mentioned the “great plans” the branch had – as part of its outreach – to support the family centre at HMP Magilligan. She said she had gained some insight into the prison environment over the last 20 years, including during a case study in Edinburgh Prison (when she was “horrified” by the starkness and the “echoey noise”) and on visits to Hydebank, which she found much less austere.

Mrs Butler said Hydebank had since changed its name to Hydebank Wood College and was focusing on rehabilitating prisoners for release. “The focus,” she said, “is on helping prisoners not to re-offend, giving them skills not only to find employment but psychologically to cope with our changing world and the expectations outside prison walls.”

The experience had made Mrs Butler think about loss of liberty. There were many in the world today who were imprisoned – some physically as punishment, but sadly many more for political reasons.

“However, we mustn’t forget that many of us, and of our families and friends, may also be prisoners today. Prisoners do not have to be behind physical bars; confinement happens in many different ways but especially in our minds. It would be impossible to speak to you again, this September 2021, without mentioning COVID and the effect that it’s had on so many lives over the last 18 months. Many did – and many still do – feel imprisoned in their own homes. Mothers’ Union throughout Ireland has been doing so much to help those who were this type of prisoner. They couldn’t or didn’t feel safe being in their own home so Mothers’ Union members rose to the various challenges and did the shopping, collected medicines, made regular phone calls, sent cards, delivered goodies and small gifts – just to let them know they were not forgotten. And, of course, that’s still continuing.”

Mrs Butler also referred to those who felt lonely for reasons other than COVID. She said an MU working group – under Lady Eames – would be issuing guidance, shortly, for the lonely on for those who wanted to help the chronically lonely.

“And then there are those who are imprisoned in other ways – those who find difficulty getting head space to work out solution to what for others may be minor problems; those of us who may be imprisoned by our misconception of others; those who have real mental health issues; those who are in their personal prisons of addiction with drugs or alcohol; those who are confined by their traditions – especially in this country – and cannot see beyond the boundaries of their so-called religious background. And, of course, the areas in which Jacqui – your Diocesan President – has been working to such great effect to raise awareness about gender-based violence.”

There were dozens of references to prison in the Bible, Mrs Butler said – most notably in the case of St Paul – the “imprisoner” of Christians who came to describe himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Prison was often used as a metaphor for various forms of human distress, she said. But there was a repeated emphasis on God as a God who wanted to set the captive free and break the chains of bondage.

“It is the same God who is with all prisoners today, to help them endure their time away from family and friends, and consider their future. It is God who is in the hearts of those who are in the business of rebuilding lives and re-educating for a future beyond prison walls. And it’s that God who’s made a covenant with us that we will work to help others – guided by His Holy Spirit – but also, He is with anyone and everyone of us who may feel confined in our own personal prisons, and we must all learn to lean on and be guided by Him.”

Donegal Confirmation

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, was in south Donegal, on Sunday afternoon, for a Service of Confirmation for young people from the Donegal, Killymard, Lough Eske and Laghey Group of Parishes.

For many months, churches in the Diocese of Raphoe had been prevented from proceeding with Confirmation Services because of Covid restrictions imposed by the Irish government. These were relaxed a week ago, precipitating a surge in services. The service, in Christ Church, Lough Eske, was the seventh of eight confirmations the Bishop has officiated at this week – all but one of them in County Donegal. He confirmed young people at three different services on Sunday alone, and was assisted at two of them by the Rector of the Donegal Group, Archdeacon David Huss.

The Bishop told the five confirmands at Sunday afternoon’s service that the bible reading included the most important question that anyone would ever be asked. “It’s a question for each one of us, and it’s a question that Jesus posed to the disciples as follows, and he simply said this: ‘Who do you say I am?’ [Mark 8 v 29]

“Did they think he was just a wise teacher, or a miracle worker, or a really nice man or whatever? ‘Who do you say that I am?’ And Peter – one of the followers – gives the answer. In Matthew’s version of the story he says, ‘You are Christ, the son of the living God.’ And that answer for us is actually the answer that our hearts and our lips need to give to Jesus: that he’s the son of God; that he loves us; that he came into the world for us; that he forgives us our sins. There’s no answer more important than him in our lives.”

In his sermon, Bishop Andrew explained to the young people what the rite of confirmation would require of them. “This afternoon, for our candidates, I have questions for you that I’ll ask of you, and those questions – whenever we distil them down – are not that far from the question that Jesus asked Peter: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ It’s the most important question in the world, and the answer is the most important answer in the world.”

Bishop Andrew told the confirmands and their families that the things that mattered in life, and the things that made a difference, were faith, love and hope. “It’s about faith in God, it’s about having the love of God in our hearts and it’s about knowing his hope in our lives in the world. Faith, hope and love. What changes us? It’s faith. What makes a difference in our lives? It’s love. And what will help us live in the future? It’s hope.”

This week’s Confirmation Services – in both jurisdictions – complied with local Covid regulations and Church of Ireland guidance, requiring family groups to sit in ‘bubbles’, alternate pews to be cordoned off, and face coverings to be worn in church.

Service of Introduction in Moville

The Rev Alan McCracken came face to face with his new parishioners for the first time as Bishop’s Curate of the Parishes of Moville Upper and Lower, Donagh, Cloncha and Culdaff, at a Service of Welcome and Introduction led by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster.

The Rural Dean for Inishowen and Diocesan Registrar, Rev Canon David Crooks, provoked laughter from the congregation in St Columb’s Church in Moville when he described the Rathcoole man as the most northerly priest in the diocese, “so probably the closest to God”.

Rev McCracken was joined in church on Saturday 11th September, 2021 by his wife, Karen, his mother Rita, and members of the wider family for a Service attended by clergy from the local Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches.

In his sermon, Bishop Andrew reminded the new curate, that he had asked him – at his ordination, on Wednesday evening last – a series of questions. “I said, ‘Will you…Will you…Will you?’ And some of the questions were ‘Will you expound the scriptures? Will you be diligent in prayer? Will you fashion your life upholding the way of Christ? Will you be faithful in visiting the sick and caring for the flock? Will you promote unity, peace and love?

“Now, whenever we read those questions,” Bishop Andrew said, “and whenever clergy see those questions, year in, year out as we attend ordinations, for me they lay an onerous burden upon us, because one day we all realise that it’s not, ‘Will you? Will you? Will you?’ that will be asked us, but one day God will ask, ‘Did you? Did you? Did you? The onerous task of ministry is placed upon you as a priest in the Church of God and now as Bishop’s Curate of this Group of Parishes.

“Sometimes I ask myself what is it, ultimately, that our parishioners want from us? And there could be lots of answers to that, actually. But, ultimately I think we can distil that down to three things. I think there are three things that ultimately the people of God want to see in the life of the shepherds of God, and it’s these three things – it’s very simple: number one, that you love the Lord; number two, that you love the people; and number three, that you love the place. Yes, there’ll be lots of different things that will be asked of you; yes, there’ll be lots of different opinions on what the Bishop’s Curate should be like, but ultimately, I think. it comes down to those three things: that we love the Lord, love the people, love the place.”

Addressing his congregation for the first time as their Bishop’s Curate, Rev McCracken said he was there in Moville, Greencastle, Carndonagh, Culdaff and Malin to build and to grow the Church.

“Whenever the opportunity came for myself and Karen to come and visit the lovely people in the Inishowen peninsula,” Rev McCracken said, “we came up with an open mind – coming from north Belfast – but we came up with God in our hearts, and we came to see the people, and we came for the people.”

The new minister thanked the local community for getting the rectory ready for him and his wife, and for making them feel so welcome. He said he looked forward to getting to know them all individually, and looked forward to preaching to them. “That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to build. I’m here to grow. I’m here to build God’s kingdom in this place and in these parishes and – with the help of all you people – I will succeed.”

There were speeches of welcome, from the Archdeacon of Raphoe, Ven. David Huss; the Parish Priest of Moville, Fr Patrick O’Hagan; the Rector of Ballynure and Ballyeaston (Ballyclare), Rev Johnny Campbell-Smyth (who was Alan’s training rector); Rev Philip Poots of Moville Presbyterian Church; and Rev John Montgomery of the Methodist Church in Moville. There was an apology from the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller Miller, who was unable to be at Saturday’s Service, but who will supervise Rev McCracken as part of the latter’s training.

Bishop Andrew and Canon Crooks thanked the Rev Mervyn Peoples and the four parish readers for sustaining worship in the various churches during the two-year vacancy which followed the departure of Rev Suzanne Cousins to the Diocese of Armagh. Both men expressed regret that Church Warden David McKinlay – a stalwart of Moville Parish – was unable to be there because of ill health. George Mills, from St Buadan’s Church in Culdaff, welcomed her successor, assuring Rev McCracken that the hard work of parishioners had meant he now had five churches that were economically sound. “During the vacancy,” Mr Mills said, “we were incredibly well looked after. We had a vacancy and Covid, and we still never missed one scheduled service.”