20 January 2018

The cycle of life as the year
passes in a country parish

At the introduction to the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes on 20 January 2017

Patrick Comerford

Donald Trump may be marking one year in the White House today, although gridlock on Capitol Hill means there is no joy in the White House on this day. Indeed, the world may be fretting at how so much has changed in the past year. To be humorous, Norwegians may be very happy that so few of them emigrated to the US in the past year.

But this evening I am marking one year since I was introduced by Kenneth Kearon as priest-in-charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes.

The service of introduction took place in Holy Trinity Church a year ago this evening, on 20 January 2017, and the preacher was Archbishop John Neill.

Since then, it has been an eventful year, working through the full cycle of life, with Baptisms, Confirmations and Funerals – and, hopefully this summer, a wedding too.

On my first Sunday morning, I got lost on my way to my first service, in Castletown Church near Pallaskenry. But I think I am now beginning to find my way.

I never thought I was going to find myself in a parish like this in this part of Ireland. I have very few, and very thin, distant family links with Limerick, and in the past it was either a county to pass through on the way to other parts of Ireland, or a venue for rugby matches at Thomond Park.

If you asked me two years ago where I though I was going to be at the beginning of 2018, I would probably have guessed a parish in England, or retired to a quiet place in Ireland, offering myself for Sunday duty in parishes I know and love or in sunny places in the Mediterranean.

But I have been blessed in these past 12 months in this group pf parishes, stretching across west Limerick and north Kerry.

There has been the usual Sunday rota of church services, and I have now worked through a full year in the Church Calendar. There have been pastoral visits, hospital and nursing home chaplaincy, school assemblies and boards, charity committees, and a new take on church synods, committees and meetings. There have been moments of deep sadness, including a number of funerals in the past week, but there have been moments too of great joy.

I have been blessed too in my opportunities to engage in Ministerial Education and training in the diocese. I continued my academic work until last year’s MTh students were conferred with their degrees in Trinity College Dublin. This new role is a different way of engaging with the application of theology, organising in-service training days, providing liturgical and preaching resources in the diocese, and bringing clergy and readers together.

I have been blessed in a new role as the Canon-Precentor in the three cathedrals in this corner of the Church of Ireland. The chapter is now meeting regularly, arranging to visit each other’s churches and parishes, and enjoying each other’s company.

And I have been blessed in finding myself in a corner of Ireland I never knew before. There have been new towns, rivers and beaches to explore, new walks, new places to photograph. Most of all, there have been new people to meet, new friends to make.

As I head into a second year in these parishes and this united diocese, I am also blessed by what the Benedictines know as stability, celebrating the Eucharist in one parish with one people on a week-by-week basis, and by what George Herbert recognised in the ordinary, daily and weekly round of the country parson among his people, recognising the cycle and rhythm of life as a sacramental sign of the breath and pulse of God.

New book on preaching

The ‘Church of Ireland Notes’ in ‘The Irish Times’ today [20 January 2018] begin with this report:

A new book, Perspectives on Preaching: A Witness of the Irish Church, published by Church of Ireland Publishing (CIP) in conjunction with the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (CITI), will be launched by the Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, in the Music Room of Christ Church cathedral, Dublin, next Monday evening at 5.30pm. With contributions from a wide range of notable preachers and thinkers, the book has been edited by Canon Maurice Elliott (Director of CITI) and the Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey (Lecturer in Missiology and Pastoral Studies at CITI).

The book engages with the themes of preaching scripture, denominational charisms and preaching to the culture, across twelve different chapters. In addition to the editors, the contributors include three bishops, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Bishop of Down & Dromore and the Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin & Ardagh; Katie Heffelfinger from CITI and her former colleague, Canon Patrick Comerford; the Revd Barry Forde, Chaplain in QUB; and the Revd Dr Robin Stockitt, Rector of Donemana. There are contributions also from outside the Church of Ireland by the Revd Dr Shane Crombie, Curate of Tullamore; the Revd Dr Brian Fletcher, Minister of Cullybackey Methodist Church; and the Rt Revd Dr Trevor Morrow, Minister Emeritus of Lucan Presbyterian Church.

At €11/£10, the book will be available at the launch and thereafter from https://store.ireland.anglican.org/store/product/140/perspectives-on-preaching-a-witness-of

An impressive landmark
bank building finds
a new life in Limerick

The former bank on the corner of Sarsfield Street and Henry Street is a landmark building in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

As banks close their branches and try to make us use more plastic and to do our banking online, they may leave many customers unhappy and frustrated. But they also leave a legacy of some fine buildings that are of immense architectural interest and that retain their imposing presence on squares and street corners in towns and cities across these islands.

In recent weeks I have written about buildings like these on the squares, streets and corners of towns from Limerick and Listowel to Lichfield.

Another fine example of this type of commercial architecture designed to make a grand statement is the former bank on the corner of Sarsfield Street and Henry Street. It began as the Munster Bank, later became the National Bank of Ireland, in more recent years was the Limerick branch of United Colours of Benetton, and is now Hook & Ladder.

When I passed by earlier this month, it was still delightfully decorated in Christmas colours.

Back in 1872, this site was marked on maps as the Munster Bank. The present building dates from around 1880 and possibly incorporates a number of earlier structures.

It is a six-bay, three-storey over basement building, distinguished by a full-height two-bay entrance breakfront, a full-height three-bay bow to the north-facing side elevation, and a two-bay three-storey return facing Henry Street.

There is a hipped artificial slate main roof with an eye-catching semi-conical slate roof over the bow end bay, with copper flashing lining the junction of the two.

The painted ruled and lined rendered walls have stucco detailing, rusticated quoining and a parapet entablature. The windows have moulded stucco architraves, and triangular pediments and plain and shouldered entablatures.

There is a centrally-placed square-headed door opening at the breakfront, and a classically inspired limestone doorcase with fluted Doric pilasters on a plinth base joined by a Doric entablature, elongated beneath the frieze to form a name plate with raised limestone lettering reading: National Bank of Ireland.

The building was extensively renovated in the late 20th century, and the ground floor window sill levels were lowered to create display windows. However, the façade composition of the former bank building remains largely intact.

Hook & Ladder refitted the ground floor and basement, opening the living café concept in May 2014. Today, the Hook & Ladder Living Café offers a unique experience with a variety of store concepts under one roof – café, cookery school, furniture and home accessories store. There is a wide selection of premium coffees, speciality teas and assortment of fine wines. In addition, there is unrestricted Wi-Fi, books and daily newspapers.