Christmas Reflection

Christmas is on the cards. Sending and receiving  greeting cards is still part of our Christmas experience. The greeting is key because it was at the centre of the Christmas story in the Bible.

In St Luke’s Gospel, the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to Mary. His greeting and message troubled Mary. She was to conceive and to bear a son without human agency. He was to be called Jesus and he would be great and be called the Son of God.

Gabriel’s greeting and Mary’s response lie at the heart of Christmas.

God comes to us in Jesus, born of Mary. God steps into the world and shares our human experience. The babe of Bethlehem is God with us and at Christmas we wonder at the purposes of God and marvel at his ways.

It is God’s story we celebrate at Christmas and it can be our story too.

Like Mary we are favoured by God’s grace, and like her we are asked to believe and receive God’s gift, Jesus Christ his Son, as our Saviour and Lord.

Ballymahon Regional Songs of Praise

On 25th November, St Catherine’s Church Ballymahon was packed as it hosted a Regional Songs of praise to ‘make a joyful noise to the rock of our Salvation’ (Psalm 51:1). The service was organised and led by Ruth Galbraith and Canon Trevor Sullivan from the Ardagh Union who were joined by clergy and parishioners from the Athlone Group of Parishes (Meath and Kildare), the Mullingar Group of Parishes (Meath and Kildare), the Roscommon Group of Parishes (Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh) and priests from Tang and Forgney Churches in the Diocese of Meath as well as from Ballymahon, Killashee, Abbeyshrule and Carrickedmond in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. It was a congregation transcending dioceses and denominations singing their hearts out praising God.

Rev. William Stacey (Athlone Union of Churches) gave the address. The music for the evening was provided by Lesley Denniston on the keyboard and the Huston Trio (Harry Huston on guitar and Jenny and Mervyn Huston on violin). Ballymahon has recently installed a sound system and the service was an excellent way to mark its first use. It was an uplifting, joyous evening of marvellous singing and it was very special to see such a great response from local parishes and their clergy.

The Huston Trio with members of the congregation


Clergy who participated in the evening.
Back Row: Father Liam Murray, Ed Smyth, Father Turlough Baxter, Canon  Alastair Graham, Father Jerry Murphy
Front Row:  Rev William Stacey, Ruth Galbraith, Canon Trevor Sullivan, Father Charlie Healy


Lesley Denniston and friends

Ecumenical Prayer Service of Rememberance

On Sunday the 25th November Dean Nigel Crossey joined with Fr. Séan McDermott and the Cavan Rugby Choir for an Ecumenical Prayer Service of Remembrance to mark the end of the First World War Centenary at Cavan County Museum. Before the service Minister Heather Humphries launched the Museum’s publication ‘A First World War Centenary Roll of Honour for County Cavan’ which had been painstakingly compiled by Dr Michael Finnegan. The event was a wonderful opportunity to remember Irish men and women from all 32 counties and from all political affiliations and religious backgrounds who had been involved in the First World War – especially those from County Cavan. The day ended with a procession through the World War One trench that has been reconstructed at Cavan County Museum and the sounding of the Last Post by the O’Neill Branch, Cavan.


Fr. Sean McDermott and Dean Nigel Crossey with Cllr Madeline Argue, Minister Heather Humphreys and other dignitaries

Dean Nigel Crossey and Fr Sean McDermott


Members of the O’Neill Branch, Cavan


The Cavan Rugby Choir

KEA Mothers’ Union 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence

Saturday the 25th November (International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. To mark this day the Mothers’ Unions across Ireland have organised prayer vigils to raise awareness and call for an end to gender-based violence in all forms. This year the KEA MU prayer vigil took place in St John’s Church in Longford and was lead by Canon David Catterall. Women and men from around the Diocese joined together to pray for eyes to recognise abuse where it exists, a heart to reach out in compassion and the courage and resolve to make a difference.

Mairead McGuinness, Vice-President of the European Parliament was present at the vigil and thanked the Mothers’ Union for their contribution to breaking the silence of gender-based violence. Following the service, Mo Reynolds from Women’s Link, Longford, gave a moving talk about how we can respond well to those who have experienced gender-based violence. It only takes one non-judgemental, supportive, patient person who will listen and believe to make all the difference.

In the photo are (L-R): Mo Reynolds (Womens’ Link, Longford), Mairead McGuinness (MEP), Canon David Catterall, Martlet Hunter (Social Policy Rep), Hazel Speares (Diocesan President), Diane Steward (Longford MU) and Mary Geelan (Faith and Policy Co-ordinator).

Resources Now Available for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019

The Rt Revd John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher and Chair, Church of Ireland Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, has highlighted the resources for the Week of Prayer forChristian Unity (WPCU), which are now available to order for use in parishes.  The theme for this year is Only Justice.

Bishop McDowell said: ‘I hope that this annual commendation of the order of service and other materials relating to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, provided by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, is not received simply as a formality.   Although it has both its critics and its weaknesses, the WPCU provides all of us with a fixed point in the year to celebrate, initiate, or perhaps revive the emphasis on solidarity in faith between believers in service of the Gospel and the World that is very opportune.

‘This year the material is inspired and derived from the Christian community in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, and is drawn from the great imperative of the Deuteronomist – “Justice and only justice you shall pursue…” (Deut. 16:20) – focusing on the depth of the biblical understanding of a word associated too easily with the iron certainty of the law but intended as a means of restoring right relationships.   In an increasingly atomised world and an “individualised” Ireland, there is a great yearning for this call to restored relationships and the reality of mutual dependence.’

Resources are now available to order from Norwich Books and Music (tel. 01603 785925) or to download from www.ctbi.org.uk/weekofprayer

 

Photo: CTBI/Flickr/Argo Negoro

Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh Diocesan Synod 2018

‘That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me’. John 17:21

 

The Annual Meeting of the Diocesan Synod of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh took place this Saturday 3rd October in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. The day’s proceedings began with a celebration of Holy Communion in St George’s Church. Preaching from John chapter 17, Archdeacon Isaac Hanna reminded us of Christ’s prayer for unity among believers. He challenged as to pull together as a team with the common purpose of the gospel. The business of the Synod followed shortly after the Service in the nearby Bush hotel.

 

Bishop Ferran Glenfield was unable to attend this year’s Diocesan Synod as he is recovering from hip surgery. Archdeacon Craig McCauley stood in as Bishop’s Commissary for the day. Nevertheless, Bishop Glenfield gave his address by way of video link. In his address, Bishop Ferran drew attention to a Motion to allow the Ballisodare Group of Parishes in Co. Sligo to transfer from the Tuam, Kilalla and Achonry Diocese to Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh. The Motion had been passed at the recent TKA Diocesan Synod and Bishop Glenfield appealed for members of our own Synod to back the proposed change.

 

At the 2017 Diocesan Synod, Bishop Glenfield had informed the members of his intention to conduct a parish visitation in the following year. During his address he gave a progress report on these visits. Some 80% of parishes have been visited so far. During these visits the Bishop had visited National schools, Secondary and Third level institutes, hospitals and nursing homes, businesses and commercial premises and those who were house bound. He attended worship services in each group and chaired a joint Vestry meeting undertaking a SWOT analysis as people discussed the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats their parishes faced. After a short while Bishop Ferran shared his findings with the Rector, who in turn used it as a springboard for discussion in the parish group.

 

What did the Bishop discover in the visitation exercise?

 

Strengths : words such as small, resilient, committed, alive and energized and phrases such as we work well together, capable people, well maintained buildings and inspirational leaders were repeated across the Diocese.

It is clear that the 20/20 Vision focused on the local church being resourced for ministry and mission and local people being empowered is taking shape on the ground. Perhaps one indicator of this strength is that the Diocese has a full compliment of clergy, which is a remarkable achievement and reflects the hard and unseen work going on to commend rural ministry in a Border, Midland West context. Moreover, the Diocese continues to encourage people to go forward to ordained ministry, five this year; alongside preparing and training people for lay ministry, youth ministry and evangelism.

 

Weaknesses: people were candid in identifying perceived weaknesses – small numbers, ageing congregations, lost generation groups, competition on Sundays, rural depopulation and fatigue. In particular there was a deep sense of unease that small parishes were being squeezed by government agencies with regard to Charity Regulation, Data Protection and Adult Safeguarding. People thought it unreasonable to expect small volunteer trustee bodies like Select Vestries to comply in the same way as large companies and charities who have the resources to process compliance.

Opportunities: Most if not all parish groups highlighted two key areas of opportunities:

Connecting with the wider community: Great strides have been made by our parishes to be visible and active in their local communities through a variety of ways. In using the Harvest and Christmas Seasons to invite people to worship. In promoting community events, in engaging in local heritage and environmental projects. In being active in farming circles, in working with men, children and adults with Special Needs and being creative in outreach to tourists. One has only to browse through The Scribe, the monthly Diocesan Magazine to see the spectrum of connections parishes are making in the community.

 

Prioritizing children and young people: Another opportunity recognized by people was the growing work among children and young people. Local churches were serious about passing on the faith to successive generations. Across the Diocese Sunday Schools were active in most groups. Messy Church experiments were proliferating and seasonal Bible clubs were a feature in a lot of places. Uniformed organizations GFS, GB, BB and Guides were well represented. In addition, up to 16 regular youth groups were up and running. The Diocese had a full compliment of gifted and dedicated children’s and youth coordinators based in Cavan, Longford and Sligo.

 

Threats: Concerns about the future fell into two categories: External and Internal threats.

External treats revolved around Brexit and the uncertainty it was bringing to Border areas. Also there was a sense of threat arising from a changing Ireland in which the church is unfairly seen not as a force for good, but a source of harm.

Internal threats were identified as indifference and unfaithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both external and internal threats were seen as real and potentially damaging to the future of our churches and to the Church of Ireland as a whole. Nonetheless, Bishop Ferran detected a quiet confidence and resilience across the Diocese not simply to survive but to thrive. GK Chesterton once commented “ At least five times in history the faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each case it was the dog that died”!

 

Bishop Ferran concluded that KEA is a small diocese in a hidden and often neglected part of Ireland. It is often the way of God to begin his work in obscure places among small people. The Bishop asked people to see things for what they are.Itis a time of declension for Christianity in Ireland an at such a time we need to hold our nerve. That requires conviction, courage and commitment. God is at work despite general appearances. His work is there for all who see with the eye of faith. And if God is with us, who can stand against us?

 

Following the Presidential address, the Synod heard greetings from Fr. Turlough Baxter on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. The Motion to allow the transfer of the Ballisodare Group of Parishes was then proposed by Deborah Davitt who extended a warm welcome to the Ballisodare group. It was seconded by the Ven. Isaac Hanna and passed by the KEA Synod. The Motion will now go before General Synod in 2019 before returning to both Synods next year. The Synod also had the opportunity to hear presentations from Bishop’s Appeal, The Scribe and the Mother’s Union. Damian Shorten and Hannah O’Neill, our Diocesan Youth and Children’s Co-ordinators have an inspiring and challenging report on the work of YKEA (our Diocesan Youth Council) over the past year.

 

The 2018 Diocesan Reports presented to synod can be found here.

Institution of Revd Alastair Donaldson as Rector of the Kinawley & Holy Trinity Group of Parishes

Last Tuesday evening, 10th October, Revd. Alastair Donaldson was instituted as Rector of the Kinawley& Holy Trinity Group of Parishes – Derrylin, Crom, Drumany (Chapel of Ease). Family, friends, parishioners as well as representatives of the local community and wider Diocese gathered for worship at Kinawley, Parish Church in Derrylin, to welcome Revd. Alastair as the new Incumbent. In the absence of Bishop Ferran Glenfield, who is recovering from surgery, Bishop’s Commissary, the Ven. Craig McCauley led proceeding assisted by Canon Hazel Hicks. The Very Revd. Arfon Williams, Dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Sligo, was in attendance as Registrar. Originally a native of Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh, Revd. Alastair has been serving in the Kinawley Group since January 2018 as Curate to the Bishop. Before that he served as Curate in the Roscommon Group.

The address at the institution was given by Mr Mathew Topley. Speaking from 2 Timothy 4:1-8, Matthew highlighted the charge given by Paul to Timothy to patiently, carefully and faithfully ‘preach the Word’ in all seasons. Matthew spoke about the challenge ministers of God’s Word face when people do not want to listen to God’s truth, but would rather find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. Finally, Matthew encouraged Alastair and the congregation to follow Christ faithfully, reminding them that, though there will challenges, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed will be worth it, because there will be a ‘crown of righteousness’ waiting on the last day to all faithful followers of Christ.

The Act of Institution was then carried out by Archdeacon Craig, after which words of welcome were given by Mr John Rutledge on behalf of the Group of Parishes, Revd. Stephen Foster on behalf of Florencecourt Methodist Church, and Revd. Tanya Woods on behalf of the Diocese.

During the service a token of appreciation was given to Revd. Tanya Woods for looking after the parishes during the vacancy. There was an acknowledgement made to the retired clergy and lay readers who led services and encouraged the congregationsduring the vacancy.  Gifts of welcome were given to Revd. Alastair, his wife Elise and their little boy, Josiah.

The service was followed by a sumptuous and welcome tea in the Church Hall. We pray for the Lord’s blessing on Revd. Alastair, Elise, Josiah and the people of the Kinawley and Holy Trinity Group as they continue to journey together with God and for God.

 

The Ven. Craig McCauley, Canon Hazel Hicks, Revd. Alastair Donaldson and Mr. Matthew Topley.