Thanksgiving for Fifty Years of the new Parish Church, Dromore, diocese of
Thanksgiving for Fifty Years of the new Parish Church, Dromore, Diocese of
On Sunday 15th June 2008, the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, a Service
of Thanksgiving to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Consecration of Holy
Trinity Parish Church, Dromore was held.
The church was packed to capacity with current parishioners, local clergy,
those making their homecoming, and past rectors and their families over the
last 50 years. It was a delight to see Chancellor James Frazer, Rev.
Sam McVeigh, Rev. Desmond Hanna & Rev. Kyle Hanlon, and their families.
The music for the service, including the pieces ‘Faithful God’, ‘Let
the earth resound’, ‘O church arise’, was chosen and lead
by our able organist and pianist, Mrs. Beatrice Keys and Mrs. Lorna Thompson,
and was beautifully sung by the choir.
During the service, Bishop Jackson dedicated a Chancel Wooden Floor, the Churchwarden’s
Pew, the Pew cushions and Rectory Front Door, our new Monitor & Public
Address System, and our new Pulpit & Lectern Falls, Communion Table Cloth
and Bible Markers.
We as a church would like to thank those who have given these gifts to the
glory of God and in memory of loved ones, for those who organised and attended
our Service of Thanksgiving, and for those who continue to pray and build up
the church in Dromore.
On this very happy occasion the sermon
was preached by the Rt Revd Dr M. G. StA. Jackson, bishop of the diocese.
- looking to the future
Readings: 1 Kings 8:22-30; psalm 122; Hebrews 10:19-25.
Revelation 21:1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and
the first earth had vanished, and there was no longer any sea.
THE VISION OF REVELATION
Why: no longer any sea? you may ask! Would the sea not be a place where we’d
all love to be were it possible, were it otherwise, were we there rather than
here this very afternoon? For some deep-seated reason the Jews and the early
Christians were terrified of the sea. It may go back to the experience of exodus
from Egypt and the way in which the fear of the waters reuniting and wiping
our God’s chosen people was emblazoned on their souls. But, whatever
the reason, it is the assurance in the Apocalypse that there will be no
longer any sea which opens the way for a new heaven and a new earth to be seen.
Revelation chapter 21 is important as a Scriptural witness to God and God’s
power of transformation as, in a certain sense, we take leave of the Bible – I
do not mean to be irreverent, but after chapter 21 there is only one more chapter
to go – and then, in the post-Scriptural world in which we all live,
it is: over to us. With God’s grace, we now must make the running, not
by going it alone but by going it for God and with God. Three things emerge
from Revelation 21 to guide and frame our shaping of heavenly community on
earth – for that is what we are called and compelled to do in the church.
The first is the recognition that the lone individual is not what it is about.
The heavenly vision is of a city of God, not of two lost individuals wandering
around in a garden and trying their utmost to avoid God. It is of people living
alongside one another, as neighbours, co-operating and building for the future
for themselves and for others. The second is the realization that many of the
old landmarks and institutions – the social, political and ecclesiastical ‘comfort
blankets’ with which we have become all too comfortable – will
go. The third is the rejoicing in the fact that there is a place of honour
for the nations. Such a vision as this is the fulfilment of the cry which runs
through the Old Testament, often however as a lone voice from the prophets,
to the effect that the Gentiles are part of God’s plan for Israel. It
is also an invitation to all of us to engage with nationhood: to recognize
the richness of distinction, the strength of identity and belonging and, in
so doing, to outlaw the scourge of racism. The new heaven includes and requires
the healing and reconciling of differences and animosities because there is
harmonious and instinctive action between the Christ and the church which is
the bride of Christ. For us, gathered here today, there is a vision embedded
in Revelation, in our Scriptural tradition, forged in all probability in the
fire of persecution in the first century and still laying before us urgently
three challenges and tasks for the Christian disciple: community; newness;
In the context of celebrating fifty years since the inception of the new church
in Dromore Parish, it is my pleasure to preach twice on the one occasion if
I may put it in that way. When I was here to mark fifty years in the life of
the new church in Dromore in June of last year, I suggested without hesitation
that the foundation of our faith and the foundation of our church is such that
it is built on the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy
Spirit. In the interim I have had neither the time nor the inclination to change
my mind! On the same day as this in 1957 – June 15th – my predecessor
Bishop Richard Tyner laid the foundation stone of this church. Today I am here
at the invitation of your rector, the Reverend Bryan Martin, to look to the
future and to what might be some priorities in and for the Church of Ireland
in the fifty years ahead of us. I deliberately began with the vision in Revelation
chapter 21 because for me it can best catapult us into a future which will
not go away and which will in any case happen whether we ourselves choose to
be part of it or not. However disturbing Revelation may be to us, that future
is in God’s hands.
Fifty years on is a good time to look forward. Far too often in the Church
of Ireland our tendency is to look back with a wistful sadness at what happened
then or at what we thought happened then. This has severely hampered our maturing
in any real and recognizable sense as a Disestablished Church. In so many ways,
we have sat on our hands for almost 150 years since 1870 and, consequently,
we have not sufficiently taken in our hands the courage and the conviction
of our freedom from Establishment as we might. This is a cause of alarm almost
five generations later. In too many ways, we have floundered in an Ireland
which has taken on many different definitions of itself in that period of history.
Throughout the twentieth century, Ireland has spent most of the time being
at war with itself. The categories of loyalty and disloyalty feature significantly
in the emotions of Irish people. When combined with political convictions and
personal opportunisms, they form a particularly toxic brew. So, we might ask,
as we find ourselves in an unprecedented era of peacefulness: What lies ahead?
What are we to do? and the more worrying question: What will happen, whether
we decide to be part of it or not? I offer no more than three areas in which
I should rejoice to see the Church of Ireland grow in courage and in action.
The first suggestion I would offer you is that the Church of Ireland needs
to be more pro-active in creating community. This will involve our coming to
human terms, including making some really hard choices, with words like diversity,
tolerance and respect and really working at them to find the riches embedded
deep within them. These words might seem to form the vocabulary of leafy suburbia
but they are essential to all aspects of Northern Ireland life wherever we
live. Too often we dress up our prejudices as principles and are rather affronted
when people ask us what we really mean. I returned to this diocese in 2002
and now have no doubt from experience that things are so much improved. We
need to keep improving. We need to move forward by moving outward.
There is today a generation which, mercifully, knows little of old prejudice
but that same generation, at a very early and young age, is even more porous
than its predecessors to advertising and marketing. You may wonder how these
things tie up. Let me try to explain! An uncertain world is wide open to being
influenced for good or for bad by anyone who offers something more solid and
reassuring than any of us can see ahead of us. An uncertain world, however,
is not well served by megaphone certainty but is much better served by a particular
type of simplicity where patient conviction is the appropriate tone and where
words and actions march hand in hand. This, I think, is what lies ahead of
us in terms of authentic leadership which recognizes that, deep down, it is
Christ-like service. I think this most of all because it equips people to make
their own decisions and to see them through into action. This sequence not
only enhances the lives of others but gives them a respectful and glowing fulfilment
as people set among their neighbours.
BECOMING MORE BIBLICAL
The second suggestion I would offer is that the Church of Ireland will have
to become more Biblical. It was the conviction of Thomas Bray in 1701 that
proclamation and printing went hand in hand. He was doing no more than seeing
through the logic of the Reformation itself. Printing revolutionized the power
of communication and it could not have come at a better time for the theological
movement we call: The Reformation. The dual foundations of SPG and SPCK - mission
and books - along with the openness of the missionaries to offer Christ and
Christ-like service not only to British colonials but also to indigenous peoples
and to slaves from the outset, itself set the tone for Christian Mission as
presence and engagement, hospitality and embassy and sending and abiding – three
pairs of action carried out locally in the name and in the footsteps of Jesus
Christ and with neighbours whom we do not always know. Too much of the richness
of Biblical knowledge has been reduced to sandwich-board theologizing. In too
much of our appealing to Holy Scripture, we do a disservice to the wings of
the Holy Spirit which are always ready to flutter and to soar if we truly and
faithfully accept inspiration for what it is and for what Holy Scripture tells
us it is: a breath, a wind which we can indeed trust and which we cannot control.
We can graft ourselves into it but we cannot, as we say, ‘bottle it.’
Recent Anglican church history has shown our all-too-human instinct to control
and to dominate. The so-called traditional church has a history of reacting
negatively to what is new. Yet virtually every novelty in the life of the church
is to be found in the Scriptures and in the tradition of the early church.
Certainty, despite its very best intentions to comfort and to strengthen and
to equip for the difficulties which lie ahead, breeds a lack of self-confidence.
Being more Biblical can restore to the church at large the humility and the
excitement of the ‘not yet’ as well as the sense of being missional
in terms of being sent as the Son and the Spirit were both sent. The text from
Revelation: I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and
the first earth had vanished, and there was no longer any sea points to the future,
to what is not yet realized. It offers us something totally new. This, to my
mind, is what it is to live a more Biblical life: to face the future with confidence
and with Christ.
The third suggestion which I would offer is that the Church of Ireland, in
its local life as well as in its national life, needs to move with confidence
in its own convictions into an area which I can only call: more Christian and
collaborative with other traditions. I say this not in order to ‘sell
out’ on our identity or on our heritage. I say it precisely because of
many things we all are saying quietly to ourselves in different ways. We speak
of: the clinging ivy of secularization. We speak of: the sporadic and terrifying
dangers of militant Islam. We speak of: the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and starvation
worldwide. Into all of these contexts Christianity can and must speak and act.
In all of these situations, over the next fifty years, a divided Christian
witness will become increasingly incredible and irrelevant. The needs of the
world ask of us that we agree that we gather once more round the extended prayer
voiced by Jesus Christ, ahead of his Passion and looking up into the new heaven,
in St John 17.11: I am no longer in the world; they are still in the world,
but I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name,
the name you have given me, that they may be one, as we are one.
This is not to say that we must deny our history - we cannot. It is to say
that we must cease wilfully and deliberately to rubbish the traditions of others.
People say that the great threat of the future is Islam. I myself fear something
else and it is, sadly, that increasingly Christianity is offering people less
and less to believe in. I am referring not to the Gospel of salvation or the
person of Jesus Christ but to: talking without doing. However much we recoil
from the word: ecumenical – a word which, after all, means no more than covering
the whole inhabited world – even as we think about it, today’s
Europe requires collaboration and co-operation right across the Christian family
- and so does today’s Ireland which numbers among its population people
of almost 170 nationalities, the vast majority of them from countries with
a deep history of Christianity.
The Anglican Communion is at its best when it is local, supporting fellow-members
in their witness and supporting other people in their need and quest for meaning
world-wide; when it is sharing good practice and recognizing needs and hurts
and upholding them in worship, prayer and love. In a month’s time I go
to the Lambeth Conference, for me a maiden voyage on this sea where all is
purple. I go as a very ordinary diocesan bishop, privileged to be bishop of
the diocese in which I grew up, in which I was confirmed, in which I first
received Holy Communion and of which I was an ordinand. Had I simply lived
for these last years by what I read in newspapers and see on rather scurrilous
ecclesiastical websites, purporting to give a definitive ‘Angle’ on
everything and everybody of whom their authors disapprove, then I’d have
given up long, long ago.
It is the people of this diocese who have sustained me in what is simply a
quest to serve, over the past seven years and it is that trust, faithfulness
and love which I will bring with me to the Lambeth Conference. I know and respect
Anglicans – lay people, clergy and bishops – in many parts of the
Anglican Communion. I have marvelled at their witness. I have participated
in their worship. I have also done what I can to bring to Clogher Diocese people
from across the Anglican world.
Like you in this Parish of Dromore – modern and ancient all in one,
tracing its first recorded rector to 1521 – I am sustained in all of
this by the vision of a new heaven and a new earth. You, as part of your vision
for the next 50 years, want to look into the future with that wonderful Christian
combination of courage and adventure. For this to happen we need to consider
carefully that word: growth, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms
of confidence, of service and of knowledge of God. I am aware that you are
intending to establish and develop a link with Fields of Life to help practically
in the Church of Uganda. May God bless all of you in this wonderful work. It
is urgent and it is one of the growth-points where talk becomes action.
I too, like you, need to look into the future with hope rather than despair;
with joy in believing rather than sadness at what has not happened; with the
water of life pouring over me rather than with the desert of devastation stretching
before me. May God remain with you as you journey forward as a parish family
and as God’s children into the next fifty years of worship and witness – and
of course lots of fun – here in Dromore.
For my part, I can still do no better than again this year to share with you
the Prayer of Foundation used on this day in 1957 and to ask you to listen
and take to yourselves in this generation its words which have not dimmed in
their directness and in their beauty:
O Lord Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who art the Brightness of the
Glory and the Express Image of His Person, the One Foundation and the Chief
Corner-Stone: Bless what we do now in laying this stone in Thy Name, and be
Thou, we beseech Thee, the beginning, the increase, and the consummation of
this our work which is undertaken to the Glory of Thy Name, Who with the Father
and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest One God, world without end. Amen.
Date: 17 June 08