A number of dates are featured in the October calendar. The first of these is 22 October, when according to the Irish Government’s roadmap out of Covid, many if not all of the restrictions currently in place will be lifted. The Northern Ireland Executive has already made their Covid plans known. The expected announcements in both parts of Ireland will hopefully bring clarity in many areas of our lives, including church life. It will be a great relief when the normal becomes a reality and we can return to life as we knew it in “before times.”
As always, we need to protect others and ourselves by being fully vaccinated and by observing basic hygiene standards, which shielded us during the worst days of the Covid pandemic.
The second of these dates sees the General Synod of the Church of Ireland meet at the beginning of the month. This year General Synod was due to take place in Armagh over three days. Usually over 30 lay and clerical representatives from Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh are in attendance. But once again Covid has disrupted the normal pattern of church life. So for the second year running, General Synod will take place online. Likewise, on 16 October our Diocesan Synod will take place not in Carrick-on-Shannon but online, which is a great disappointment. Diocesan Synod is one of the highlights of the church year when we come together to worship and conduct the business of the diocese. Again this is the second year that Covid has made it impossible for us to meet together in person.
At the start of the month, I will be attending the opening of a new initiative in Sligo. The Church Army Centre of Mission is moving from Drumcliffe into Sligo town. A former shop has been rented to act as a base for Recentre, a fresh expression of church led by Alan Williamson. Throughout the western world church attendance has declined in the past 50 years. The fresh expression movement is an attempt to do church in a fresh way and is aimed at those who have ‘given up’ or ignore traditional church as we know it. In late September, I attended the 200th anniversary celebrations of two of our churches: Ballintemple and Virginia in Kilmore Diocese. We celebrate the old and explore new ways of doing church, like Recentre. Both belong together.
In a diocese like ours people matter. So we were saddened to learn of Robert Thompson’s passing. Robbie was a former principal of Florencecourt Primary School and a stalwart of Killesher Parish in Co. Fermanagh. He served the diocese in different roles over many years.
We offer our sympathy to his family and church family alike. On a happier note, Simon and Sarah Taylor, had an early arrival, Grace, who was born in Dublin. We offer our congratulations. Sarah has started her maternity leave and will be absent from her administrative role until April of next year. Ruth Smith, wife of Revd. Mark Smith of Kildrumferton, who is a qualified accountant, is going to help out with diocesan finances until Sarah returns to work.
I had the privilege of preaching at Revd. David Moses’ institution as rector of Newtownhamilton and Keady in Armagh diocese. It was heartening to see many parishioners from the Cootehill group in attendance to support David. We pray for David and Catherine as they take on this new ministry in South Armagh
In the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, we read these words, “Many are the plans in the minds of people but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” Proverbs 19:21.
My prayer is the plans and people I have outlined in this letter to you will serve God’s purposes in our lives, our church and our land.