Thanksgiving for Fifty Years of the new Parish Church, Dromore, diocese of Clogher
Thanksgiving for Fifty Years of the new Parish Church, Dromore, Diocese of Clogher
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. Canon. 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.


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; healing.


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.


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 Father’s 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