As we prepare to begin a new season of church activities, I write this letter with a great sense of thanksgiving in my heart. I’m very grateful, in the first instance for you, whoever you are, as you are reading these words. I’m thankful that you have an interest in the life and witness of our church whether you are a parishioner, a local resident, a neighbour, friend or someone who is curious enough about what is going on in our church community, to take a look inside these pages.
I’m grateful too for the projects that have been undertaken over these summer months to continue to improve our facilities, maintain our grounds and enable us as a church to reach out and serve the local community.
Many will be able to observe the phenomenal efforts of the Work Week in August when a team of volunteers cut back and pruned branches, strimmed grass, polished floors in the church and halls, did all sorts of maintenance work around the property. In so doing, everywhere is looking so well in preparation for this new season.
As this letter goes to print we will be in the process of having a new kitchen installed in the church hall. I’m always conscious of how just like a family home, the kitchen is like the heartbeat of so many parish activities and functions. I’m so grateful to those who give their time so generously to prepare and serve funeral teas and work for the St.Finnian’s Uganda Project with Fields of Life. I’m grateful for those who work there preparing refreshments for our Toddlers’ Group and for all the important conversations and spirit of community that takes place around the church kitchen. Indeed the clergy are always well looked after between services with a bit of sustenance to keep going and we hope this new facility will serve the church well for years to come.
Over the summer months too a new sound system has been installed in the parish hall which includes a data projector and will facilitate our Connect Services as well as visiting speakers to Mothers’ Union and Men’s Society events.
I’m very thankful at this point for the financial provision for all these improvements made possible through people’s generosity and commitment to building for the future.
You will read in this magazine, also, how the Select Vestry is looking to progress plans to improve disabled access to our church and halls and improve facilities. This is a major project and is in the early stages and has to be approved at diocesan and central church level before we can present it in more detail to our parishioners but again I’m grateful for the vision and the faith and the desire to make our facilities accessible and available to all who might seek the services of the church.
Many people will be aware that through the new sound system in the church we have been using the facility to record our church services on memory sticks and CDs to support parishioners who have been going through periods of ill health or are housebound. If you have an interest in technology and would like to become involved in that ministry or if you find yourself confined to the house and would like to receive recordings of our services, maybe you could let the Rector or Curate know.
Those who have been receiving those recordings have commented on how they enable them to feel connected again to what’s going on and that is such an important thing.
Reflecting on this sense of gratitude I feel in my heart as a new season begins, my last thanksgiving is tinged with sadness as we prepare to say farewell to Bishop Harold Miller who has announced his retirement and will be retiring in September after 22 years leading the Diocese of Down and Dromore. Bishop Harold and his wife Liz have been outstanding leaders serving the Diocese and representing the Diocese both locally and internationally. I think of the energy and warmth they have brought to every single occasion they have been present in the church for.
I think of the initiatives they have overseen in terms of helping parishes to develop strategies for reconciliation, outreach and young people, 24/7 prayer for a whole year throughout the parishes of the diocese in preparation for a year of mission.
I think of the confirmation services involving adults and young people, The Mothers’ Union indoor members’ tea parties hosted for many years in the See House, The Bishop’s Bible week hosted annually by Bishop Harold and we could go on and on.
On a personal level, Bishop Harold ordained me priest in Down Cathedral in 1996, supported me and kept in touch when I left parish ministry to work in the L’Arche Community, appointed me to my first incumbency and supported us personally and pastorally as a family at times of great anxiety and challenge. I have appreciated his openness to different forms of worship, his desire and challenge to begin new ministries through church plants and pioneering approaches and his constant friendship even when we disagree! I have had the privilege to travel with him over the years to do some work in the Diocese of Albany in the United States, to Cambodia with Tearfund and to learn new things from a parish in the Diocese of London.
In every situation I see someone who always gave of his best, who had a real heart to proclaim the Gospel and to see God’s kingdom grow and extend right across the generations. I remember too the generous hospitality provided by Bishop Harold and Liz to curates in the diocese at a time when Continuing Ministerial Education was located within the diocese rather than run centrally as it is now. I thank God for their powerful witness and ministry and for how they have served this Diocese so wholeheartedly in a very challenging and demanding role. Along with all our parishioners we wish them both well for this new season of retirement and we pray for all involved in the process of appointing a successor.
We wish you well as you begin a new season of activities and worship in this place and we pray for God’s Holy Spirit to be poured out on all our endeavours and plans as we go forward in faith.
With best wishes
Jonathan Pierce (Rector)
Telephone 02890 793822