Church and Community: Challenge and Continuity

Bishop Michael Jackson's Address at the Clogher Diocesan Synod held in Monaghan

Last year, ladies and gentlemen, the Diocesan Synod met in Ardess. We had the sense of a diocesan family in good heart and ready to face the future together with confidence and hope. This sense of diocesan well-being has remained with us throughout the year. In 2006, when we have been marking 1500 years of St Macartan, we are delighted to meet in Monaghan and thereby to recognize and honour the contribution made by the people and parishioners of County Monaghan to the life of the diocese. My thanks go to the Reverend Ian Berry, members of the Select Vestry and parishioners of the Monaghan Group of Parishes and of St Patrick’s in particular, for their welcome to us both in church and here in the Parochial Hall.

The strength of feeling in County Monaghan in relation to the provision of excellent and sustained medical services for all the people of Monaghan was clear to anyone who, like myself and Bishop Duffy and many other clergy, attended the Public Meeting held in the town earlier in September. We were among and alongside some two thousand people who came to ensure that a local voice was raised and heard in relation to projected plans for scaling down of provision of acute services for Monaghan Hospital. Ideas and practical suggestions were invited from the floor. Comparisons were made with anything up to twenty-two other hospitals country-wide facing similar re-structuring. The feeling ran high and the concern for local services for local people was tangible and vocal at that Meeting. There was also a real sense that time was now short to make an impact on the debate and any longer-term decisions which might come out of the current crisis. For the total community of County Monaghan it is essential that there be adequate accessible acute services in place which meet the needs of the people who urgently, and often tragically, require those services. This assurance and this confidence must be a priority for those who make such far-reaching decisions for our fellow-citizens. It is too easy for the statistical to triumph over the social; for policy to triumph over the personal; and for the obvious to be missed. For my own part, I ask those who make these decisions seriously to take into consideration the voice of the people of Monaghan calling for appropriate accessible services.

Across the diocese in 2006 I sense in many quarters a growing confidence in who we are. Having been here for five years as bishop, this growth is something I greatly appreciate and am never inclined to take for granted. We need constantly to be prayerful, vigilant and creative if we are to keep our spirits up and face the future with confidence. I sense also a desire to explore together who we might yet become and to make the changes necessary for this to happen. And this is exciting for us all – and indeed essential. Our diocesan family is developing and changing all the time. The profile of our diocese is also developing and changing. New houses herald new residents. Ordinations, institutions and introductions of clergy herald the relationships of care and trust which come with fresh ministry. The magnificent and visionary Clogher-to-Chile Project has given us a chance to savour the international character and flavour of the Anglican Communion in a way that is human, practical and inspiring. I am confident that those who went will never forget it. I know that they did themselves and us proud.

The visit of Archbishop John Sentamu to celebrate with us 1500 years of the witness of Macartan in the diocese drew us closer to the world-wide church and to our neighbouring Church of England. I will always remember the story of how he and his father gave a lift in their pick-up truck to a small boy walking to market, carrying on his head an enormous bunch of bananas. At the invitation of the Sentamus, the small boy climbed aboard and when the young John looked round he saw that the boy sitting in the back of the truck had put his load of bananas on his head again. The picture stuck with him and now as a mature archbishop he was able to use it theologically to illustrate the reluctance which we all have, even when we know that God is with us and that God loves us, to lay aside our burdens of care, of guilt, of shame and of distress, when we have long ago lost the reasons to continue to carry them. Religion too often deepens our unworthiness. And why can I take freedom freely given with confidence? Because of the salvation offered us in Jesus Christ through word and sacrament expressed in a lived faith in church and world.

The profile of our diocese is developing and changing. The same obtains for the whole of Ireland. The opportunity for new expressions of community, the influx and impact of new residents gives us in our lifetime the opportunities to be Christian in our neighbourliness and neighbourly in our Christianity. Ireland’s residents now come from 160 nationalities at last count. People who once left through enforced emigration are returning through choice to live here. All of this is exciting and important to grasp if we are to develop the mission of the church where often it is at its most difficult: at home. All of this diversity is good news for us as it points to a society which is alive and engaged. It points us also towards that vital ingredient of respect for our own tradition and respect for the signs of new life in our encounter with the traditions of others all in one. It is also a timely warning that we need to be thinking outside the box, moving forward in faith and bringing to fruition ideas that, in being tested, will contribute to the well-being of a changing society. I am happy to announce that, in association with The Hard Gospel and Mr Philip McKinley one of its Field Officers, we are planning a Diocesan Consultation on Immigration in the near future. This will be a most welcome addition to discerning a way forward.

The Diocese of Clogher seeks to promote and nurture a living faith in Jesus Christ among those who themselves seek to serve God in serving their neighbour in parish and community.

This is the Mission Statement I offered last year - conventional words, you may say, from a conventional Christian. Predictable words, you may again say, from a predictable bishop. None the worse for that, I reply, for the challenge is in the detail. Let me explain. In the Mission Statement I make a number of presumptions which I feel I must make. The first is: a living faith in Jesus Christ. The second is: engagement with the whole idea of seeking to serve God. The third is: serving God in serving our neighbour. The fourth is: a generosity in this faith and in seeking to share it with others. And the fifth is: the combination of a working relationship between parish and community. As I see it, the last of these is the point towards which the other four roads lead and ought to lead. A parish is not a collection of the like-minded who congregate together. It is first and foremost a geographical area which is inhabited by a whole diversity of people. Towards them members of the ecclesiastical parish have responsibility in the name of God. A living faith, serving God, recognizing God in our neighbour, seeking to share this with others: all of this lays before us the challenge:

  • Is the Gospel for ourselves alone or is it so good that we cannot but offer it to others?
  • And there is another question which has to be asked:
  • Is it possible to contemplate ministry without mission generously given?

To my mind the answer to both questions is a thundering: No! Our calling repeatedly and successively is to serve God in serving others, not in serving ourselves more generously.

The opportunities are opening up for us in different ways all the time. The longer the days and the years of peace last in Northern Ireland, the greater these opportunities and the wider these challenges become. The question keeps coming back to us: What sort of community do we want? To what sort of re-definition of community are we willing to contribute? With whom are we intending to re-define and to re-build community for ourselves and for those who follow us? And underneath all of this is the deeper question: In what ways and by what actions would someone recognize our country as a Christian country? The longer the period of prosperity heralded as The Celtic Tiger in the Republic of Ireland, the deeper the questions being asked about the nature of responsibility for others within and across the new economic definition of society. As well as asking: Will it, can it last? people are rightly asking: Is Ireland a place where you are simply as good as the money you can make, as the fortune you can amass and the amount you can spend?

And the definition of society is changing and developing fast in Ireland. We in the Christian churches need to be active in our contributions to the fashioning of this new society for everyone. And yet we too are unsure about where to begin again. Our Lord was open and forthright in healing, in teaching, in correcting and in empowering. There is a sense of urgency that we do the very same today. Whatever jurisdiction we live in, whatever our political affiliation, we remain members of the Church of God in being members of the Church of Ireland. Our all-Ireland remit is our all-Ireland challenge. Day in, day out we face the question: What is the contribution today which we as members of the Church of Ireland can and must make to the community of which we are part?

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not assume that this is an easy path. It is not a simple journey. It is long and arduous. It doubles back on itself. Along the way there are many who will say: This is not what the church is for. There are others who will prophesy doom. There are many who will claim that it is a ‘sell out.’ If we are to be the church in the community today, it is no easier than ever it was but it remains our calling. In all our endeavours to walk this path, to take this journey we are nailed to the cross - for betrayal and forgiveness, hatred and reconciliation constitute the scandal and the glory of humankind all in one. We must also avoid the trap into which church people so often fall, that of feeling sorry for ourselves in the task which God has given us and almost deciding to give up before we have really started. It would be all too easy for us to bottom out but we need to be positive, we need to show that we have the staying power.

But the challenge for us is not simply one of being a community. The challenge runs much deeper than that. It is: forming a community. And in forming a community we need to have mechanisms to sustain a community. As in so many things, with the privilege comes the responsibility. As our Lord gathered around himself disciples, those who learned repeatedly from him, those whom he sent out regularly among the peoples of the surrounding area and countryside, so we need both preparation and patience as we make this journey of community today. Just as interesting as what the disciples could do is what they could not, from time to time, do – for example: healing. In the context of building a community, it is every bit as important for us to learn from our failures and inadequacies because in this way we recognize what community is about needing and responding to one another. In no sense can community of itself be the maximizing of who we ourselves are, but it involves meeting with others along with respecting the fruitful and fulfilled expression of who they are. Constantly the Bible and lived experience tell us that we are our best selves by living with God beyond ourselves for others. It is a lesson in shared discipleship which we need constantly to take to heart if we are to contribute to a community of life: loving God and neighbour as we love ourselves.

The disciples, I said, had to learn from their failures. If we take their reaction to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they fell in on themselves, refused to stray far from Jerusalem and from the Temple. They drew in and drew back that commission to go forth which had been set upon them. And yet, as we recall so vividly, it was the challenge to the old certainties of the religion fed and fostered by the Temple which caused such friction in the early days of Christianity. The Epistles witness to an amazing creativity and diversity in early church life and practice. The Epistles of Paul, although only one side of a conversation full of what people call ‘frank exchanges,’ themselves point to differing emphases in the living out of Christianity. And the march of history has but underwritten the reality of diversity in the life of the church. Attempts at imposed uniformity often and regularly do little more than compound division and, paradoxically, spread insecurity. And yet, so often, we work as if it is the other way around.

Recently I had opportunity to attend a Consultation organized by Mediation Northern Ireland and to speak briefly at it. It brought into sharp focus the following question: Do we in the churches have a contribution to make which will be vital to the definition of the new society which is our society as well? There is a widespread assumption on the part of many people that those who witness to Jesus Christ by profession of faith cannot ‘get their act together’ practically in a way that makes a contribution and a difference.

The other thing which struck me is that we all have a lot of work ahead of us if we are to become part of the solution and part of the future. There is no point in blaming secularism if we are frightened of the world. The most illuminating part of the day was the explanation that diversity is not optional but essential in seeking to deal with conflict. It was voiced by John Paul Lederach, that great and tireless exponent of peace-building internationally, standing as he does so graciously in his own Mennonite tradition. The comparisons and parallels which he drew with societies and situations in other parts of the world served to underwrite the need to be aware of the fact that even our own problems are far from exclusive to us and that there really is no way in which we can resolve them by keeping our head down and by failing to engage with a wider world.

Professor Lederach argued that social conflict - of which we see plenty both in church and in society – forces us to see our relationships in very narrow terms and from a perspective which he calls: dualistic. By this term he means an enforced choice between two options and no more. We are forced by other people and by circumstances we are conditioned to think we cannot change into accepting that there are only two ways of looking at any one thing: either you are FOR us or you are AGAINST us. Maybe it sounds familiar! Professor Lederach went on to make what will be a startling statement: that complexity is our friend. Presented with only two mutually contradictory choices, we are weaker than we realize. Complexity is our friend, he argues, because the gift of diversity is something which we are given to challenge a dualism – that is an ‘either/or’ - which is both artificial and bullying. There are, of course, more choices than an artificial: ‘either/or’. Common sense and lived experience show that.

On this line of argument, reality lies in the diversity which is wide open, the artificiality in the shrunken simplicity. He argues further that the strongest societies are bound together by what he calls cross-cutting conflicts many of which are never resolved. The very presence of conflict makes you and me adapt and be strong. Yet, in my experience, this gift which comes with diversity is often missed. Why? Because people crave simplicity, something they themselves can understand without requiring a working relationship with anyone other than those who are like-minded, something which they can control from their perspective, their own security and – ultimately – their own limitations. Diversity of itself offers the gift of complexity beyond a simplicity which emerges as no more than an artificial choice between two, often contrived, oppositions. Lederach asks us to embrace what, in a lovely phrase, he calls: the relational wells of connections. It is all the more amazing that this argument is even necessary at a time when global communication could hardly be easier or more widespread.

I myself have often used a simpler, indeed more basic, picture which is the following: the people in the middle need the people at the edges to create the tensions which enable things to happen. Maybe this is what Lederach means by cross-cutting conflicts. At the same time the people at the edges need the people in the middle to hold on to them, and to want to hold on to them, in order to preserve them from falling over the edge. Oblivion is a poor substitute for community. By all means we may well irritate one another but let us accept, admit and embrace the fact that we need one another.

Words like liberal and orthodox and indeed traditional have become embroiled in a quick-fire communications culture and it seems irretrievably, in the megaphone diplomacy which today characterizes the increasingly tabloid life of the Anglican Communion. If we are ever to rediscover respect for one another, as is indeed vital if our witness to God is to make any sense to those to whom it matters most, that is those outside the church, then there will have to be a new vocabulary to give voice to this respect. But you ask what is it that we are called to respect? What or whom is there to respect? I suggest that, within the unfolding plan of God for God’s creation, there is plenty to respect in one another as fellow human beings and as children of God – and that a major part of the escalating problem is our inability to recognize this or to want to admit it. It has, in my opinion, been well said that ‘the strength of a system is not in the pushing of exceptions but in the cohesion of trust.’

The question of leadership itself is something which often comes to the fore in discussions of the life of the church. And to my mind it comes to the surface too often in an institution, a community which is slow to admit that it needs help in understanding itself and its role in a world which will, in any case, change and develop whether we on the inside of the church remain actively part of it as serious contenders and contributors or not. One of the choices we may feel that we face is that of greater certainty, greater clarity, greater simplicity. The other choice we face is that of greater irrelevance and lack of influence. Often it is the second of these which feeds the first: anxiety about why we are still around at all feeds a need for security. What holds for the church holds for the community and for the politicians who are servants and leaders of that community. Simply to define political life and activity in terms of point scoring and party agenda will lead us deeper into a quagmire. In church and in society service and leadership together require decision making, the taking of responsibility and listening to others.

For those of us in Clogher Diocese, as for everyone throughout Ireland, the date of November 24th is not one we can dare to forget. It is the deadline or, rather, the lifeline set for the return of the Northern Ireland Assembly to active session. Too easy is it for us to be cynical about this, to say that it does not matter, that it will not happen. But I have to differ. It really does matter to me and to you. And it matters to everyone in Ireland that an essential strand of democratic government and democratic expectation should live and not moulder in inertia eight years into an era of unprecedented peace. Because let me tell you that these years of peace are precious. Things have changed. People have a new sense of confidence and a new need of community. People with whom I talk are impatient with a political vacuum. People want to have a normal political life. People want peace and co-operation. People have had enough of party posturing.

There is much discussion in the religious sphere about communion. And what worries me about much of this discussion is that communion is increasingly viewed as a product which can be put on the market or taken out of circulation. Communion is a gift from God and what we do in this life is no more than to approximate to its expression. Communion is not something ‘out there,’ something to be tinkered with, something to be refashioned in our own image and likeness. This seems to me to be the greatest danger and temptation in the current state of play in the Anglican Communion. And, once again, the Anglican Communion is not something ‘out there.’ It is ourselves. It is of God and its expression is as good as is our contribution to its life. To the faithful person going to church on Sunday, trying to make some sort of sense of daily life as a way of life and a walk with God, it must seem as if the Anglican Communion is now all about squabbling bishops and archbishops. We are an episcopal church and part of an episcopal communion. But at another level it simply cannot be, because the bishops or the clergy are not the church. The people are the church of God. This is why unilateral actions and decisions, rifts and divisions are destructive of us all. Questions relating to human sexuality have engendered questions about ecclesiastical authority and now have engendered questions about world-wide communion. In a context where we do not really know what next, my hope remains that what already unites will remain stronger than what divides. And behind all of this lie the thundering and pulsating questions about the interpretation, inculturation and implementation of Holy Scripture in daily life itself.

It has become fashionable now to pick holes in the Archbishop of Canterbury from all sides but I would ask you to give a little thought and credence to these words of his about a distinctive, historical Anglican tradition: ‘a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine; a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons; a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.’ The tension within which the church lives and the contexts which define its cohesion across the known world need, therefore, to be seen in the diversity voiced by the classical Anglican triad of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. The further tension within which the church lives is something interestingly and incisively pointed out in an Editorial in the Church of Ireland Gazette of July 7th 2006 and the argument runs as follows. It relates to the ministry of the whole church as reflected in the ministry of the bishop. The ministry of unity is one which belongs to the whole church and is served by the bishop. This is a unity of communion itself, rather than a unity of opinion on each and every issue. The unity of such communion is based on the sacred communion of Word and Sacrament as Holy Scripture and Holy Communion. Much of this is totally obvious but has been lost in current thinking and doing in relation to the contemporary Anglican Communion. Again, if I may use the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the sacraments express the reality of a community which is more than the people present at any one moment with any one set of concerns and add to it by saying that the Scriptures add an historical perspective which in its totality lifts us beyond any specific, immediate event.

For too long the reputation which ‘the Protestant community’ has had is that of hanging back from making community. Somehow it has seemed that ‘the wider community’ is beyond us, something we do not grasp. However, from my own experience, now over five years in my native and thoroughly cross-Border Diocese which knows suffering and continues to have problems, there is another and more positive story as well. The challenge for us as members of the Church of Ireland is to play our part with others in narrowing the gap between (a) who we are and who other people are and (b) the positive and the negative, indeed the creative and the destructive, effects of our own identity. Both of these are very much part of one and the same opportunity grasped or squandered. I say this because always to be over-asserting our own identity results sooner or later in our having only ourselves to talk to, because we are doing nothing other than talking about ourselves. It also points to a crisis in confidence which needs to be owned and addressed.

Time and again I am greatly heartened by hearing from people and from participating in planned gatherings and well-organized events, chance encounters and informal conversations where I find out what they are doing together; about the quality of their active community life which to them matters more than the denominational affiliation of those with whom they do these things. In the New Ireland of today we all go to the same supermarkets and we all put out our own bins. There is no point in our hankering after privilege or status which has gone in its old form for our generation. Even more urgent is the need for everyone to see that as Christian people we show and model the respect for others which flows from a proper, mature understanding of ourselves. Far too often this understanding has been based on a definition, indeed a succession of definitions, of who other people are not. For too long this has given us a definition of who we are! But in this regard Ireland has changed. The old certainties of social control and exclusion do not have the same currency and the same mileage in a country of great opportunities, fresh thinking, new residents and accelerated change. Most of us want opportunities for ourselves, for our children, so we are not all that different really. But respect is, and has to be, special. And it is not an optional extra if society is to grow as well as to expand – and let us remember that growth and expansion are quite different things.

A number of initiatives over the year past has enabled us as a diocese to show initiative in the whole area of what it is to be a community of people who are part of a community and wish to be part of such an emerging community. The first was the visit of Bishop Nathan, Armenian Bishop of Britain and Ireland, to the diocese in January 2006. Bishop Duffy and I thought that the introduction of another and an ancient tradition of Christianity, in this case Oriental Orthodox Christianity, might be a suitable way in which to herald the year of Macartan 2006. It was the Armenians, in the Eastern Empire, who first embraced Christianity officially as a nation. We were graciously received here in Monaghan both at a Civic Reception in the Museum hosted by the Mayor and at a Day Seminar in Saint Macartan’s College hosted by the Principal and by Sister Rose-Marie Conlon. For all of this we are extremely grateful and thankful. This first visit was followed by the advent in Lent during March 2006 of the Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu, archbishop of York, to mark 1500 years of Macartan. It was in York that Constantine declared the Western Empire Christian in 306. Hence within a strong Biblical tradition of worship and study in our homes and in our churches we were in a very contemporary way stepping confidently into history with our feet on the ground. From an equally historical perspective, we remember the antiquity of Clogher as one of only three fifth century dioceses in Ireland, along with Ardagh and Armagh.

First I should like to thank the small group of people – the Diocesan Secretary, the dean, the Reverend Kyle Hanlon and Mr Sam Morrow - who worked with me on this project from the time it was an idea, only partially house-trained, and who were convinced that it was the right thing to be doing. Without their support it would not have been possible. Our ever-efficient staff in the Diocesan Office, Elaine van Tromp and Ruth McKane, came at the right time and through them it was possible to make things happen and to have the confidence that they would be seen through. My thanks go also to all members of the diocese who participated in the worship and public gatherings. My hunch is that many people wakened up late in the day to the fact that something exciting was happening in Clogher when the archbishop was here. Secondly, on behalf of the diocese I wish to thank the Archbishop of York. We regard ourselves as so familiar with bishops and archbishops in the Church of Ireland that we maybe do not realize the significance of the fact that someone of the calibre of the Archbishop of York spent four days with us and that by the time he had accepted our invitation for 2006, he had over 1000 invitations to sift through for that year. I must also thank everyone who welcomed us here in Monaghan itself: the rector the Reverend Ian Berry, the Principal, staff and pupils of St Macartan’s College, the Principal, staff and pupils of Monaghan Collegiate School and Bishop Duffy who entertained us to lunch on that day. I also want to thank everyone who shared in this from right across the community including Fermanagh District Council who gave the archbishop a Civic Reception in Enniskillen Town Hall. We had opportunities for students from right across the community on both sides of the Border to discuss absolutely anything with the archbishop; we walked along the streets of Enniskillen in the company of Mr Ivan Kee, Mr Norman Hilliard and Mr Sam Morrow chatting with anyone whom we met – and the archbishop can chat! As I once again record my thanks for all of this, I wish to suggest that it is both much appreciated and utterly normal in civic society for these things to happen.

The Rural Development Council seeks to fund and to facilitate initiatives taken by groups who are concerned to build and enhance community locally in rural areas. The money is European and it addresses head-on the issue of cross-community community. Our successful application has enabled the Diocesan Council to make a statement and to send out a signal for the first time that contributing to community beyond the church doors is very much part of what the Diocese of Clogher is about. The Diocesan Council and particularly the Diocesan Secretary are to be congratulated on the success of the application. Not only does the outcome bring with it a budget of £61,000 for one year but we have been able to proceed to appoint from September 1st of this year Mrs Kellie Beacom to administer MACARTAN 1500. We acknowledge also receipt of a grant of £2000 from the Church of Ireland Priorities Fund, the result, I have to say, of a battle hard fought but in the end successfully. We look forward to another year with Macartan and to all the initiatives which will flow from it.

On Advent Sunday we will launch the Diocesan Pastoral Assistants initiative. The preacher at this will be Bishop Carlos Lopez Lozano, the Protestant Episcopal Church’s bishop in Spain. As you will all know, the origin of this diocese derives from the consecration of its first bishop by three bishops from the Church of Ireland in the early twentieth century, the then bishops of Meath, of Down and Bishop Stack of Clogher. In coming to us, Bishop Carlos is in a real sense coming to the home diocese of his diocese.

I could continue to mention other initiatives including the current phase of our links with the Diocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka but I would rather underline the context in which we in the Diocese of Clogher are responding to the world around us. Otherwise the forward march of life will leave us in the church behind. We need to be confident and compassionate, hospitable and energized. Sectarianism, many informed critics would argue, has got worse of late. Racism is also becoming a working assumption of our society. Nobody wanted to hear this connection when I said it at General Synod 2002! It is most disturbing not least where we see people of other nationalities making a go of what we ourselves no longer want to do. As more people from across contemporary Europe come to live in Ireland, we are presented with the human face of Europe and the recognition that the spiritual needs of others are our responsibility as the hosts. We have Agreements galore with Reformed Churches the length and breadth of Europe. We need to make them work and sooner rather than later. At some point it has to start happening.

CONCLUDING REMARKS In conclusion I have great pleasure in welcoming all of you, ladies, gentlemen, friends, colleagues and visitors today to the Clogher Diocesan Synod, its one hundred and thirty-fifth meeting. For being here today I thank you all. I welcome members of other churches and Sir Anthony Hart as Assessor. He brings a wealth of expertise in the ecclesiastical and legal fields. Staff of the local newspapers who, in so many ways, are the lifeblood of local communities are here. I ask you to welcome them all to a happy Synod.

Our Diocesan Boards and Youth Organizations continue to work imaginatively and effectively. I express admiration and gratitude for what their leaders do. We were all saddened by the death in July of Chancellor Victor McKeon. Chancellor McKeon was known and respected across the parishes for his pastoral empathy and his willingness to go the extra mile for others, not least here in Monaghan Group of Parishes where he served from 1991 to 1995. He is rightly remembered at diocesan and national level also for putting at the service of the church his understated yet considerable expertise in matters financial. He was properly parochial and thoroughly pastoral at heart. To June his wife and their three daughters we extend our continuing sorrow. Among clergy to leave us through resignation and retirement I mention the following. The Reverend Francis Rutledge, after a brief incumbency in Donacavey and Barr, resigned and moved to The Primacy, a joint Church of Ireland-Methodist charge in Down and Dromore. The Revd David Cole retired from Carrickmacross as did the Revd Canon Peter Wilson from Maguiresbridge and Derrybrusk. Canon Wilson also was the Rural Dean of Enniskillen. We wish all of them well.

The year past has also seen a significant influx of clergy into the diocese and a number who have undertaken further responsibilities. The Reverend Maurice Armstrong became Rural Dean of Clogher, the Reverend Canon Stanley Bourke Rural Dean of Enniskillen and the Reverend Chris Matchett Rural Dean of Kilskeery. Just before the visit of Archbishop Sentamu, the dean installed three Prebends, Canon Bourke, Canon Heyhoe and Canon Robinson and installed Canon McGirr as Chancellor. The Reverend Elizabeth Thompson was ordained deacon in June in St Macartan’s Cathedral Clogher and the Reverend Margaret Pringle was ordained priest this month in the Cathedral Parish where she is a much valued colleague of the dean and now bears increased responsibility.

The Reverend Kyle Hanlon has been instituted rector of Fivemiletown; The Reverend Bryan Kerr rector of Lisbellaw; the Reverend Richard Seymour-Whiteley rector of Galloon Group; the Reverend John Marsburg rector of Donacavey and Barr; the Reverend Mark Watson rector of Trory and Killadeas; the Reverend Glenn West rector of Derryvullen North and Castle Archdale. The Reverend Noel Regan who comes to us from Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh is Diocesan Curate with special responsibility for Garrison, Slavin, Belleek and Kiltyclogher. Noel comes with considerable experience of rural ministry having served both as a Diocesan Reader and Non-stipendiary deacon and priest in his home diocese. The Reverend David Skuce, no stranger to Clogher Diocese, is to be instituted in December to Maguiresbridge and Derrybrusk. Among the ordinands of the Church of Ireland we include from our own diocese Mrs Alison Seymour-Whiteley, Mr Charles Eames, Mr Stephen Farrell and Mr Simon Genoe, a Monaghan man. Once again we are trying to make our contribution to the life of the Church of Ireland. We think very much of two of our clergy in particular – Dean Raymond Thompson and Dr Robin Wakely – and we uphold them and their families in our prayers.

Mr Glenn Moore is now into his third year as Diocesan Secretary. Any of us could be forgiven for thinking that Glenn has been doing this all his life, so helpful and hard-working is he. He has been joined by Mrs Elaine van Tromp for the first half of 2006 and on a full-time basis by Ms Ruth McKane. To both of them as to Glenn himself we give our heart-felt thanks.

Church and Community: Challenge and Continuity is how I entitled this Synod Address. Both church and community need one another throughout Ireland. Much of our history as church and community side by side is unedifying; much of it is ennobling. We need to maximize the latter. It is for our generation to engage afresh with the secular world, not to retreat or recoil from it. We are sent today, in the Spirit of Christ, to serve and to toil and not to count the cost and to share with others the Good News.

The spirit of Clogher is encapsulated in the Collect for St Macartan’s Day: building and strengthening, Gospel proclamation and leadership, reconciliation and peace in our time:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for Macartan, faithful companion of St Patrick, and builder of your church in Clogher: Build up your church through those whom you call to leadership in this generation and strengthen your church to proclaim the gospel of reconciliation and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are at our best in knowing and in recognizing one another. Let us continue to give expression to both church and community in our daily life where our discipleship of Jesus shines through as the light of Christ.