Saturday, 25 June 2016

Sailing in Dublin Bay and in
a unique biosphere in a city

Sailing by the ‘Lord Nelson’ in Dublin Port (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

I spent most of the day on Dublin Bay. I was on the Saint Bridget, a 26 meter steel hull vessel run by the Garrihy family at Dublin Bay Cruises and Doolin2Aran Ferries.

The full-day cruise began at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in the centre of Dublin, beside the aptly-named Ferryman and opposite the Convention Centre.

The East Link Bridge opened for us as we sailed alongside the Lord Nelson out of Dublin Port Docklands, passing the Poolbeg Lighthouse, the Pigeon House and the South Wall out into Dublin Bay and on to Dun Laoghaire. There we found ourselves in the middle of the Dun Laoghaire Regatta, involving all the sailing clubs and yacht clubs in Dun Laoghaire.

Watching Dun Laoghaire Regatta in Dublin Bay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

After coffees and ice cream at Teddy’s on the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, we sailed back across the mouth of the port and across Dublin Bay to Howth, coming around Heath Head, and sailing between the land and Ireland’s Eye into Howth Harbour.

During the day, there were views of the Dublin Mountains, Dalkey Island, Joyce’s Martello Tower, Clontarf and the world wildlife reserve at Bull Island, the Baily and Kish Lighthouses, Lambay Island, and Ireland’s Eye.

Arriving in Howth Harbour this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

After lunch a walk along the West Pier and lunch in Howth, we caught the DART back into the city centre.

The cruise is part of the educational programme to raise awareness of the Biosphere that now covers Dublin Bay.

Unesco recognised the importance of Dublin Bay in 1981 by designating the North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife.

To support sustainable development, Unesco’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. Since then, there have been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity.

To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300 sq km. Over 300,000 people live within the newly enlarged Biosphere.

Dublin Bay Biosphere now contains three different zones that are managed in different ways.

The core zone of Dublin Bay Biosphere comprises 50 sq km of areas of high natural value. The key areas include the Tolka and Baldoyle estuaries, Booterstown Marsh, Howth Head, North Bull Island, Dalkey Island and Ireland’s Eye.

The buffer zone comprises 82 sq km of public and private green spaces such as parks, greenbelts and golf courses that surround and adjoin the core zones.

The transition zone comprises 173 sq km and forms the outer part of the Biosphere. It includes residential areas, harbours, ports and industrial and commercial areas.


The Dublin Bay cruise is a unique opportunity to explore what I believe is the only designated biosphere in a European capital.

Later this evening, I went up into the Wicklow Mountains for a walk and to look across Dublin Bay in dimming lights before dusk turned to dark, and across the valleys and lakes of the mountains. This is a green and pleasant land too.

In the Wicklow mountains this evening … this is a green and pleasant land too (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016; click on photograph for full-screen view)

Reflecting on an ordination anniversary
and the role of deacons in the Church

An icon of Saint Philip the Deacon with the Ethiopian Eunuch, by Ann Chapin (2008)

Patrick Comerford

I was ordained deacon 16 years ago today [25 June 2000], and yesterday I celebrated my ordination as priest 15 years ago on the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist [24 June 2001].

As I was reflecting on these anniversaries yesterday, I recalled too how my path to ordination began 45 years ago when I was a 19-year-old in Lichfield, following very personal and special experiences in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, and in Lichfield Cathedral in 1971.

As priests, we normally celebrate the anniversary of our ordination to the priesthood, and reflect on it sacramentally. But I wonder whether we reflect on the same way on the significance of our ordination as deacons, despite all the token assents we give to the notion that we remain deacons after our ordination to the priesthood?

When candidates are presented to the bishop for ordination in the Church of Ireland as deacons, the bishop declares:

Deacons in the Church of God serve in the name of Christ, and so remind the whole Church that serving others is at the heart of all ministry. Deacons have a special responsibility to ensure that those in need are cared for with compassion and humility. They are to strengthen the faithful, search out the careless and the indifferent, and minister to the sick, the needy, the poor and those in trouble.

When called upon to do so, they may baptize, preach and give instruction in the faith.

Deacons assist the bishop and priest under whom they serve. When the people are gathered for worship, deacons are authorized to read the Gospel, lead the people in intercession, and distribute the bread and wine of Holy Communion.


The bishop asks those who are being ordained deacon a number of questions, including:

Will you be faithful in visiting the sick, in caring for the poor and needy, and in helping the oppressed?

Will you promote unity, peace, and love among all Christian people, and especially among those whom you serve?

Will you then, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, continually stir up the gift of God that is in you, to make Christ known to all people?


Over the past week or two, I have been celebrating with one of my students, the Revd Kevin Conroy, who has celebrated completing his MTh dissertation examining the diaconate and our understanding of it in the Church of Ireland.

An added pleasure in supervising Kevin’s research is his achievement in being awarded the Weir Prize at the end of this academic year.

Kevin lives in Wicklow and has served his internship as a deacon in Saint Brigid’s, Stillorgan, and All Saints’, Blackrock, with the Revd Ian Gallagher.

In his dissertation, he asks: “In the light of recent discussions among the Porvoo member Churches, is the permanent diaconate a distinctive ministry for implementation within the Church of Ireland, and what are the consequences for understanding the three-fold ministry?”

An interesting aspect of Kevin’s dissertation comes when he turns to the Preamble and Declaration to the Constitution of the Church of Ireland, which declared in 1870: “The Church of Ireland will … maintain inviolate the three orders of bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons in the sacred ministry.”

It would be unimaginable to have a diocese without a bishop and priests, but many dioceses are without deacons, and those dioceses with deacons see them as deacons in transition to the priesthood.

I have taken part in some of these Porvoo Consultations, and it has been a real pleasure to journey with Kevin during this research.

I travelled a similar journey with the Revd Suzanne Cousins, whose dissertation topic is: “Generous Love in Multi-faith Ireland: towards mature citizenship and positive pedagogy for the Church of Ireland in local Christian-Muslim mission and engagement.”

She describes the aim of this research as identifying “hindrances to Christian engagement in Church of Ireland parishes and dioceses, with a view to stimulating the future development of a contextualised teaching resource on Christian-Muslim engagement for use by clergy and laity in the Church’s changing mission context.”

Once again, this is a subject area that I have worked on in a number of contexts, and it is a particular pleasure that the external examiner has considered this work to have been carried out at doctoral standard and has recommended it for publication. We celebrated together over lunch on Thursday [23 June 2016].

Suzanne lives in Newcastle, Co Down, and has served her internship as a deacon in Saint Mark’s, Newownards, with the Revd Chris Matchett. She is to be ordained priest in September to serve in the parish of Saint Columba’s, Moville, Co Donegal, in the Diocese of Raphoe, and Kevin is to be ordained priest to serve in the parish of Saint Patrick’s, Dublin, in the Diocese of Dublin.

As I reflect on the anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate, I have a special prayer for these two deacons in particular as they prepare to move on the priesthood.