This month marks a very special occasion in the life of the church as we celebrate 90 years of Christian witness through
St. Finnian’s Parish.
It’s a time for celebration, a time for reflection. It’s a time for looking backwards and for looking forwards. There are some in the church who have been here since the very beginning. Maybe their parents or grandparents have been among the founding members and the faith has been passed along the generations to the present day.
In my role as Rector, it’s a time when I look back to the amazing contribution of my predecessors as Rector. Canon Huston was appointed curate-in-charge at the Foundation and later became Rector. As a curate in Knockbreda many years ago, I met a lady called Pauline Stevenson who worked here as a children’s and family worker and she spoke of his teaching gifts.
Canon Mehaffey who later became Bishop Mehaffey was very involved in the campaign for renewal in this Diocese. I have heard of his pastoral care for parishioners during the Workers’ Strike and how he ensured those who were more vulnerable got the supplies they needed at a very tense and difficult time.
Canon Battye who succeeded Bishop Mehaffey was an extremely gifted communicator, a renowned broadcaster, a pastor and preacher with tremendous gifts who impacted so many lives.
All of my predecessors put worship at the very heart of what was important in the life of the church. They approached things with prayer and dignity and meticulous preparation and sought to ensure that people had the opportunity to encounter God’s presence as they gathered for worship.
With this in mind we are hoping to restore an early Communion Service at 9am this month on a trial basis. There have always been some who have appreciated this quiet and reflective time of worship and during the pandemic and with the various restrictions around communion, we stopped this particular service. We hope to reintroduce it at 9am on the first Sunday in September and see if it still meets a particular need in the parish.
The weekly Communion Service on Wednesday mornings at 10.30am with prayers for the sick will continue to offer that opportunity for prayer for those who are sick.
Over the years the church has had a great emphasis on prayers for those who are sick and we are delighted that Divine Healing Ministries with whom we have worked closely for many years will be restarting a Tuesday night service of Divine Healing on the last Tuesday of every month and there is further information about that in this month’s magazine. We are also hoping to reintroduce Services of Wholeness and Healing on the 5th Sunday of the month whenever there is a 5 Sunday month. All of this will be of course subject to the situation regarding covid and abiding within the guidance permitted for such services.
To mark our anniversary weekend, we are hoping to host a special community fun day on Saturday 10th September from 2-4pm inviting the local community in to join with us in our celebrations. There will be attractions like bouncy castles and inflatables, a pet farm, free hot dogs and ice cream and tea and coffee served. We also want to showcase the activities of our organisations and offer opportunities for the local community to join with us. Over the years, our organisations and activities have provided very special opportunities for pastoral care and support of each other, the possibility of connecting with others and we are grateful to so many over the years who have led and assisted with the running of these groups.
In the wake of the pandemic, we are very mindful of the mental health challenges experienced by so many and during this Autumn we hope to run a course which offers a safe space to think about these challenges called the Sanctuary Course. There will be further details in the magazine about that course which begins on the 21st September.
One of the greatest contributors to good mental health is volunteering and as I think of many of our activities, we are in urgent need of volunteers.
If you have an interest in working with older people or younger people, if you enjoy working with others and making a life-changing contribution to other people’s lives and your own, St. Finnian’s has many such opportunities.
I think of our renowned Toddlers’ Group which resources parents and grandparents and offers children the opportunity to socialise from a very young age. I think of opportunities to serve recently arrived Ukrainian families through English lessons and helping people through the process of integration into a new country and culture. I think of those who are serving in local schools helping with numeracy and literacy or working with our children in Sunday School and uniformed organisations. I think of the opportunities to reach out to those who may feel isolation and loneliness through women’s groups, men’s groups and activities like bowling and Pilates. I think of the chance to deepen your spiritual life through prayer and worship and teaching and helping with Sunday School.
Did you know that to mark our 50th Anniversary, St. Finnian’s took
on a project to serve elderly people in our community through the foundation of St. Finnian’s House which is now run by the Abbeyfield Housing Association. We still have a Committee who oversee activities in the house and visit the residents and we would love to see new volunteers who have a heart for visiting and serving the elderly get involved. If you think you could help in any of these vitally important activities, please speak with me or Andy our curate.
One of the things which has always stood out for me since coming here in 2009 is how the church is constantly having to respond and evaluate how we can best serve our local community. During the pandemic, the Select Vestry made financial contributions on behalf of the parish to local and international agencies that were serving the most vulnerable in the community. The purchase of equipment and technology has enabled us to broadcast services across the world wherever people have internet access. We are always trying to discern what it is God wants us to do and to be and where to direct our resources.
As we look to the future, we seek to look after and maintain our buildings so that they enable us to serve the community for the years to come. We may need to enhance accessibility and see how best our buildings might be used to serve the Lord and make him known in our local community.
None of this will be possible without people coming forward to offer their time, their talents and their resources in this mission. Underpinning all of these things is that deep reservoir of prayer that is so greatly needed at all times. I meet so many of our older parishioners and those who are housebound who commit themselves to this very task of praying for the work and activities of the church and we are so grateful for this vital ministry.
We would love to see you on our anniversary weekend at the community fun day from 2-4pm on Saturday 10th September. There will be a special service of Thanksgiving on Sunday 11th September at 11am at which the Bishop of Down and Dromore will be our special preacher and later in the Autumn we look forward to welcoming The Archbishop of Armagh to share with us. There will be more details I hope in next month’s magazine. In the meantime can I say thank you to everyone for all their endeavours, for their prayers, their work, their gifts and we thank Almighty God for His love and faithfulness to us over the years and trust Him to lead us into the future.
With very best wishes.
Jonathan Pierce (Rector)
Telephone: 02890 793822