The Annual Meeting of the Diocesan Synod of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh took place this Saturday 14th October in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. The day’s proceedings began with a celebration of Holy Communion in St George’s Church. In his sermon, based on the third chapter of Philippians, Bishop Ferran Glenfield spoke of the Apostle Paul’s ambition and desire for the Greek church – that they know Jesus and make Jesus known. He encouraged the congregation to keep focused on this goal and to put Jesus at the heart of all our relationships – our relationship with God and our relationships with one another and to deepen and develop these relationships by the Spirit. Following the service, the Synod moved to the nearby Bush Hotel to continue with the day’s proceedings.
At the beginning of his Presidental Address to the Synod, Bishop Ferran held a moment’s silence for Irene Graham, David Reilly and George Taylor.
In his address, the Bishop spoke of the many challenges the Diocese is facing – COVID 19 has adversely affected church attendance and there is a growth of nominalism in the church. There are strong financial currents of rocketing prices and high rates of borrowing which are a cause for concern. Globally, the threat of the climate crisis is real. The world’s atmosphere and oceans are heating up and we cannot dismiss the potential risks that arise from global warming.
Nevertheless, the Bishop’s address was full of encouragement. Although three church communities across our Diocese have closed in the wake of Covid, a new church community has arisen in the wake of the pandemic, ReCentre in Sligo which is taking steps to be a viable and sustainable community. It is a model which we in the Diocese and in the Church of Ireland need to embrace and encourage.
Despite the concerning financial outlook the Bishop commended the generosity of so many people who contribute to the life of the church. He also highlighted the, often unseen, work of organisations such as Protestant Aid and the various child-care societies across the Diocese whose interventions can be life changing for families and individuals who are struggling.
Bishop Ferran thanked all those hard at work in the diocese – in administration, finance and property, in safe-guarding, in parishes and on diocesan committees. This year, he particularly highlighted the work done by the principals, teachers, support staff and Boards of Management in the schools across the Diocese.
Since our last Synod we have lost key people in the diocese – George Taylor, Evelyn Stafford and Dorothy Gillespie whose loss we mourn. Archdeacon Craig McCauley has also left the Diocese after two decades of exemplary work and is much missed. Bishop Ferran said the Diocese has an invaluable crew of clergy who care for people and preach the word of life by their words and lifestyle. Since last year’s Synod, we have welcomed two young clerics and their families to the ordained ministry – Revd. Sam Peilow and Revd. Luke Pratt. We are also greatly encouraged by those training for ordained ministry – Faith Sithole from Virginia and Joshua Pringle from Bailieborough. There are also currently around 20 readers currently in training under the tutelage of Revd. Nick Jones and we look forward to commissioning them for service in 2024.
Bishop Ferran, noted the signs of recovery in our engagement with children and young people in the Diocese. He particularly highlighted the reach of Youth Alpha in secondary schools in Longford and Sligo. He also noted that the Diocese is actively seeking a schools’ worker in Longford and a school chaplain in Cavan – two really positive developments.
In his address, Bishop Ferran spoke of the climate crisis reminding us that the biblical witness is that the earth is the Lord’s, not ours, nor future generations. He said that Christians should be at the forefront of caring for creation – real and sustainable change happens from the ground up and we should all be agents of that change.
Ending his address, Bishop Ferran noted that our Diocese is connected to people and lands far from our shore. He remarked on the mission trips to the Philippines and the DRC led this year by Revd. Steve Frost and Canon Patrick Bamber. He also noted that Sunday by Sunday and in our schools growing numbers of people from across the world have found a home with us. The Bishop rejoiced in this and said that it is lovely to see people from different places take roles in the life of the church.
Following the Presidential address, Synod heard greetings from the Bishop of Kilmore, Martin Hayes, who spoke on the Irish Catholic Church’s journey towards synodality, the importance of faith, reaching out to young people, being in touch with the real needs of people and of encouraging participation in the life of the church. The Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran spoke of the importance of introducing younger generations to Jesus and of the value of Christian Chaplaincy in carrying the message of the gospel to others. Bishop Paul Connell, who was attending the KEA Synod for the first time, mentioned the 100th anniversary of the Irish Council of Churches and the 50th anniversary of the Ballymascanlon Talks. He said that ecumenism works best when it is operating on the ground and thanked the Diocese for making St George’s available to St Mary’s during its refurbishment. Revd. David Clarke brought greetings from the Presbyterian Church in Sligo.
Ann Howard, the Mothers’ Union Diocesan President gave a wonderful report on the activities of the Mothers’ Union in the past year and encouraged parishes that do not currently have Mothers’ Union groups to get involved. Geoff Scargill spoke about the work of Protestant Aid, reminding those present that help is available to those who need it.
Revd. Ian Linton from the Church of Ireland Marriage council introduced a video on the work of the Marriage Council and informed the Synod of the supports and funding available for marriage support and enrichment. Hannah O’Neill gave an encouraging and challenging report on youth and children’s work in our Diocese. Rachael Murphy from the Church of Ireland Board for Ministry with Children and Families highlighted some of the resources that they have made available. Stephen McElhinney from SAMS, Michael Briggs from Christian Aid, Linda Abwa from CMSI and Sean Copeland from Tearfund spoke of the work that their organisations are doing around the world.
The book of Diocesan Reports including a Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31st December 2022 is available HERE.
Bishop Ferran Glenfield’s Presidential Address in available HERE.