The bishops of the Church of Ireland at the General Synod in Galway
Church of Ireland Theological Institute
MTh Year II
EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:
Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 12 noon, The Hartin Room.
Thursday, 19 January 2012
Who we are (1): Introduction to Anglicanism in Ireland today:
Who are we?
The West Door, Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny … the Preamble and Declaration of 1870 says the Church of Ireland is “the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)
The Preamble and Declaration adopted at Disestablishment by the General Convention of the Church of Ireland in 1870, offers us a four-point “solemn” definition of the Church of Ireland on behalf of “the archbishops and bishops of this the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland, together with the representatives of the clergy and laity ...”
1, The first point says the Church of Ireland:
(1), accepts and believes all “the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as given by inspiration of God, and containing all things necessary to salvation,” and continues to profess the faith of Christ as professed by the Primitive Church.
(2), continues “to minister the doctrine, and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded; and will maintain inviolate the three orders of bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons in the sacred ministry.”
(3). as a reformed and Protestant Church, reaffirms “its constant witness against all those innovations in doctrine and worship” that have “defaced or overlaid” the “Primitive Faith” and that were disowned and rejected at the Reformation this Church did disown and reject.
2, Secondly, the Church of Ireland receives and approves:
● The 39 Articles;
● The Book of Common Prayer;
● The Ordinal;
3, Thirdly, the Church of Ireland is committed to maintaining communion with the Church of England, and with all other Christian Churches agreeing in the principles of the Declaration, and seeks “quietness, peace, and love,” among all Christians.
4, Fourthly, the General Synod, consisting of the archbishops and bishops, and of representatives of the clergy and laity, is the chief legislative and administrative power in the Church of Ireland.
[See: The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 776-777.]
Does that tell the casual reader of The Book of Common Prayer enough about the Church of Ireland?
The Church of Ireland has two archbishops, ten bishops, two provinces and 12 dioceses
On the other hand, in a perhaps more exhaustive way, the website of the Church of Ireland describes this Church in the following way:
The Church of Ireland:
● is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion which has 70 million members in 164 countries.
● is an apostolic church, maintaining an unbroken link with the early apostles and drawing on the apostolic faith in its teaching and worship.
● is a Catholic and Reformed church.
● is able to trace its roots to the earliest days of Irish Christianity.
● is a church with three orders of sacred ministry – Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
● has services which follow an accepted liturgical form and structure.
● has one prayer book – The Book of Common Prayer (2004) – plus other services authorised for use by the General Synod.
● keeps a balance in doctrine and worship between Word and Sacrament.
● has the Holy Communion or the Eucharist as its central act of worship.
● is one church embracing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
● has 390,000 members – 275,000 in Northern Ireland and 115,000 in the Republic of Ireland.
● has two provinces, Armagh and Dublin, each with an Archbishop.
● has 12 dioceses, over 450 parochial units and over 500 stipendiary clergy
● is a representative church, with each diocese electing those who will represent them at the General Synod, the ‘Parliament’ of the church.
● has in its General Synod a House of Bishops which has 12 members and a House of Representatives which has 216 clergy and 432 laity.
● also has Diocesan Synods where representatives of the parishes meet usually once a year.
● has a parochial system where decisions at local level are made by Select Vestries whose lay members are elected each Easter by the people of the parish.
Is that a good enough, concise and precise, summary of the Church of Ireland?
How do you introduce family members, friends, neighbours, strangers to the Church of Ireland?
How were you introduced to the Church of Ireland?
There are other definitions of what it is to be an Anglican. And we shall encounter some of this in the course of this module, and as we look at the wider Anglican Communion.
Facts and figures
In the Republic of Ireland, the Church of Ireland population has increased by over 46 per cent in recent years, but may be on the decline in Northern Ireland, according to a study by the social statistician Malcolm Macourt of Manchester University.
In his book, Counting the People of God? The Census of Population and the Church of Ireland, Malcolm Macourt shows, through a comparison of the 1991 and 2006 census returns, that the Church of Ireland population in the Republic of Ireland has grown from 82,840 to 121,229 – which is almost 38,000 higher than the figure given on the Church of Ireland website, an increase of 46 per cent over a 15-year period when the general population rose by only 20 per cent.
On the other hand, in recent years, the Church of Ireland has seen a drop in members in Northern Ireland, along with many other churches, including the Methodist Church. The 2001 UK census shows the Church of Ireland in Northern Ireland has 257,788 members, or 15.3 per cent of the population – which is almost 17,000 less than the 275,000 on the website.
The largest denomination in Northern Ireland is the Roman Catholic Church with 678,462 members or 40.2 per cent of the population, followed by the Presbyterian Church with 348,742 or 20.7 per cent.
So, it appears, the Church of Ireland is growing in the Republic, while it may be in decline in Northern Ireland, although in both places to be a member of the Church of Ireland remains being a member of a minority.
The Church of Ireland experienced major decline during the 20th century, both in Northern Ireland, where around 65% of its members live, and in the Republic of Ireland which contains upwards of 35%.
However, the Church of Ireland in the Republic has shown substantial growth in the last two national censuses; its membership is now back to the level it was at 60 years ago – albeit with fewer churches and fewer clergy.
Church membership increased by 8.7 per cent in the period 2002–2006, during which the population as a whole increased by only 8.2%.
Some cautionary comments
Of course, Church membership, counted according to Church affiliation entered after each name, does not equate with Church attendance, or active participation in the life of the Church.
Do census questions of religious affiliation receive “cultural answers”?
The statistics and census categories do not try to distinguish between:
● “being” Church of Ireland;
● “behaving” in a Church of Ireland way;
● believing what the Church of Ireland teaches.
Are we talking about:
● cultural attachment?
● religious label?
● tribal identity?
Is it possible that some people think that belonging is hereditary? After all, in many parts of Ireland we still talk about “Church of Ireland families.”
Indeed, there is evidence that the figures for membership of the Church of Ireland may have been exaggerated until the second half of the 19th century because people thought in terms of “Church of Ireland households.”
Some the ways membership may be defined when it comes to revising the Easter Vestry lists include:
● Being baptised
● Living within the parish boundaries
● Contributing regularly to the finances of the church
● Being an “accustomed” member of the parish – going to church regularly in a particular church.
But what if you have been baptised in another tradition?
What if you have been baptised but not confirmed?
If membership is defined by practice, how often do you have to go to Church to be a member?
Once a week?
Once a month?
Once a year?
And if you stop going to church, how long should pass before you stop being considered a member?
How often should you contribute financially?
Is there a minimum subscription?
And, of course, many may not sign the forms to have their names entered on the vestry roll – because they think they may move to another parish later on; because they do not feel at home where they are; because they are reluctant to give more financially; because they fear being asked to sit on the Select Vestry or become a churchwarden; because, because, because ... who knows?
Decline in the past:
The figures show the Church of Ireland population in what is now the republic of Ireland as follows:
We do have figures yet for the 2011 census last year.
Why did membership of the Church of Ireland go into decline from 1861, and in particular, in what is now the Republic of Ireland, from 1921 until the last two census counts?
Some of the reasons offered include:
● The impact of the Ne Temere decree from 1908 onwards on “inter-Church” marriages.
● The “Great War” or World War I.
● the migration of civil servants, military personnel and administrators after independence.
● The Civil War.
● Different fertility rates – in 1936, for example, the fertility rate for Church of Ireland couples was 54.7 per cent, barely half that for Roman Catholic couples.
James Craig famously described Northern Ireland as having “a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people.”
On the other hand, the General Synod sent an official delegation to Michael Collins to ask if they were “permitted to live in Ireland or if [it is] desired that they should leave the country” – this despite the role of many members of the Church of Ireland in the War of Independence, including Constance Markiewicz (Constance Gore-Booth), Erskine Childers, Sean O’Casey and Robert Barton, and that the first President of Ireland would be a son of the rectory, Douglas Hyde.
After partition, the Church of Ireland population continued to decline in the area that is now the Republic of Ireland.
Statistics show a noticeable decline particularly in both border counties and in provincial towns.
Surprisingly, emigration did not take the same toll, comparatively, as is often imagined.
In the period 1946-1961, 15 per cent of Roman Catholics emigrated, while 10 per cent of Protestants emigrated.
To what degree were numbers retained through maintaining separate social structures, such as schools, hospitals, sports clubs, dances, homes, orphanages, and so on?
Was there a presumed, unspoken definition of community?
Did we create a myth of a shared common ancestry?
Did we imagine a new, separate “ethnic group”?
Did we try to convince ourselves that we are a separate cultural community, united by common cultural traits?
The feeling of exclusion among many southern Protestants was exacerbated by a number of well-known cases:
● The Mayo Library case (1930);
● The Tilson children custody case (1950);
● The Fethard-on-Sea boycott in Co Wexford (1957).
Examples and exceptions:
Saint Nicholas’ Church, Galway … in Galway City, the Church of Ireland population grew from 260 to 1,383, a virtually five-fold increase (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
From 82,840 members in 1991 to 121,229 is an increase of over 46 per cent in membership of the Church of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland, at a time.
Let me give you some examples and some exceptional statistics:
The 2006 Census in the Republic of Ireland shows the numbers of people describing themselves as members of the Church of Ireland has increased in every county. The highest percentage growth was in the west – Co Galway, Co Mayo and Co Roscommon; and the largest numerical growth was in the mid-east region – Co Wicklow, Co Kildare, and Co Meath.
Co Wicklow is the county with the highest proportion of Church of Ireland members (6.88 per cent).
Greystones, Co Wicklow, has the highest proportion of any town (9.77 per cent). But if we look at parishes, then there are some unusual figures: Donaghmore (27.3), Donard (7.5 per cent) and Dunlavin (7.4 per cent) is one parochial union in the Diocese of Glendalough.
In the six furthest western counties, taken together – Mayo, Roscommon, Galway city and county, Clare, Limerick city and county and Kerry – the Church of Ireland figures have more than doubled, from 6,831 in 1991 to 15,839 to 2006 – an increase of 9,008 or 132 per cent, and, I imagine, welcome news in the Diocese of Tuam and the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.
In the midlands farming counties of Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, North Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford – the Church of Ireland figures have increased by almost 40 per cent, from 14,342 in 1991 to 19,972 – an increase of 5,630 or 39 per cent, and, I imagine, welcome news in the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory, the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, the Diocese of Meath and Kildare, and part of the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.
On the other hand, in border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal the increase has been more marginal (3 per cent). Allowing for inward migration and natural increases, this may, in fact, reflect a decline in those counties.
There has been a major rise in the Church of Ireland in provincial towns. Between 1991 and 2006, the proportion of people describing themselves as Church of Ireland increased in 57 towns, and more than doubled in 19 of those towns. For example:
In Tuam, Co Galway, the Church of Ireland population grew from 10 to 121 – a twelve-fold growth, in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, from 16 to 122, almost eight-fold.
In Ennis, Co Clare, the Church of Ireland population increased from 68 to 400 – a six-fold growth, in what is, numerically, the least Protestant county in Ireland.
In Galway City, the Church of Ireland population grew from 260 to 1,383, in Navan, Co Meath, from 111 to 541, and in Kildare Town from 32 to 177, virtually five-fold increase.
In Newbridge, Co Kildare, it was from 91 to 402.
Remarkably, the only town showing a decline was Bandon, Co Cork, where – in a saying that reflected past differences and tension – it was once said “even the pigs are Protestant.”
The Church of Ireland population of Dublin city and county, and the neighbouring counties of Wicklow, Meath and Kildare, increased from 40,428 in 1991 to 53,642 in 2006 (37 per cent). This is below the overall figure of 46 per cent, but it means – if we had in the remaining parts – about half the Church of Ireland population in the Republic lives in two dioceses: Dublin and Glendalough, and Meath and Kildare.
We have fewer farmers and fewer urban working class members of the Church of Ireland. Almost half fit into the social statisticians’ category of “professional, managerial, technical” – typical Irish Times readers, if you like.
In Northern Ireland, the census returns from April 2001, show a continuing decline in the Church of Ireland population, which is most marked in areas with higher unemployment and lower levels of professional employment.
The Church of Ireland is alone among the larger denominations in showing a marked reduction in numbers – almost 8 per cent lower than 1991 and over 26 per cent lower than its highest numbers in 1951.
Compare this with an increase of 12 per cent in the number of Roman Catholics and a smaller increase of 3.5 per cent in the number of Presbyterians.
For example: the Church of Ireland percentage in Lisburn fell from 26.4 per cent in 1991 to 21.1 per cent in 2001, a drop of one-fifth.
The Church of Ireland predominates among Protestants in the Lagan Valley, North Armagh, south Tyrone and Fermanagh, and parts of the far north of Co Antrim, as well as among the working-class population in Protestant areas of Belfast.
It will be interesting to see the figures for the latest census, on 27 March 2011, but the breakdown on religion has yet to be published.
Looking at the difference
The nature of religion has changed in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland in recent decades.
However, Malcolm Macourt suggests that in the Republic ‘being’ Church of Ireland “seems to have still carried with it some connection with religious observance, as well as connection with Church-managed schools.
In Northern Ireland, “‘religion’ was the label given to competing ‘tribes’.”
What does this mean for the future of Church of Ireland identity in those two regions?
How do we explain this phenomenon of growth in the Republic of Ireland?
Indeed, some rectors may be asking whether the data reflect a genuine increase.
Is it correct to presume that after a long decline ever since 1861, Irish Anglicanism is undergoing a period of growth?
Some of this growth is explained by immigration, but some is also due to members of the Roman Catholic Church transferring their membership to the Church of Ireland.
The reasons suggested for this increase include:
● The relaxation of the Ne Temere regulations that stipulated that children of Roman Catholic-Protestant marriages should be brought up as Roman Catholics.
● The decline in the fertility rate for Roman Catholics.
● The inward migration of English-born Anglicans – they may account for up to 80 per cent of immigrants who now declare themselves Anglicans in the census.
● The number of Anglican immigrants who have moved to Ireland recently from countries with a considerable Anglican population, such as Nigeria.
For example, in the Western counties that I referred to, counties that form the greater parts of the Diocese of Tum and the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, migrants contributed just over half the increase (4,800 out of 9,008), with three-quarters of those coming from the UK.
In the Midlands counties, two-thirds of the 39 per cent increase (3,620 out of 5,630) was attributed to immigrants, of whom two-thirds were from the United Kingdom.
What are the challenges?
Responding to the 2002 census figures, the then Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, said they did not come as a surprise. “When visiting parishes I have noticed an increase in many congregations, particularly in rural areas. I am very pleased to have it officially confirmed.”
However, he said the figures bring fresh challenges to the Church of Ireland.
He identified three important facts are reflected in the figures:
● In many parts of the Republic, and indeed overall, there are now many centres of growth in the Church of Ireland and the decline in the Church’s population has been halted.
● There are people claiming allegiance to the Church of Ireland who may not be in close touch with their local parishes. This reminds all members, clergy and lay alike, of our responsibility as a Church to minister to them.
● Fellow Anglicans from other Churches are making their home in Ireland, but while they are visible in local parishes, “we are not doing enough to make our churches more welcoming and open to cultures and worship other than our own.”
Creating and dealing with problems
The downturn in the economy over the past three or four years has seen a large number of immigrants who came to the Republic of Ireland from Eastern Europe, and who worked here as casual labourers, begin to return home. They are not going to show up in the rising unemployment figures, and once they are gone no-one is going to follow up their needs, pastorally, economically or socially. It will be a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”
Those who remain may, I fear, as the “real” unemployment figures rise further, face increasing resentment that may be expressed in racist terms. The jobs that were once despised, and left to Chinese workers who came here on “student” visas, are becoming attractive once again to our own teenage and young adult children – the late night grille at fillings stations, the cleaning and casual labouring shifts, the stacking and shelving jobs in the middle of the night in supermarkets.
These are major moral issues for the Church today. Any outside observer or commentator looking at the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Communion over the past four years or so would have thought the only moral issues we face are those that dominated the agenda at Gafcon and the Lambeth Conference in the summer of 2008.
But what about the major moral issues facing us in the Church today when it comes to welcoming the stranger in our midst and to providing pastoral care and support for our new immigrants?
The ‘stranger’ in our midst today
The changing face of Ireland? Polish magazines on sale in a shop in Capel Street, Dublin (Photograph Frank Millar/The Irish Times, 2009)
The statistics analysing the 2006 census returns in the Republic of Ireland produced unusual and curious details about the number of Greek Muslims, Chinese travellers, teenage widows and the two Maltese divorcees living in Ireland – perhaps they should be introduced to each other ... or perhaps their problems started when they were first introduced to each other.
They help us to underline the way in which we have all come to realise and accept: that Ireland has become a diverse and multicultural society. We never were a plain, boring, mono-cultural society. We have always been an island that has been diverse and plural because of the people who come to our shores: from the Celts, Parthalons and Vikings, to the Anglo-Normans, both English and French, the Gallowglass and the settler Scots; from the French in the Middle Ages, to the Huguenot refugees and the weaver of Dublin’s Liberties.
Who do you think are the single largest identifiable groups of people in the Republic of Ireland on any one day? And I mean among those who were not born in the Republic?
Despite the way we compile statistics, the two largest groups on any one day are:
● firstly, people born in the United Kingdom;
● secondly, tourists.
We do not notice the first group, because many of them were born in Northern Ireland or were born in England of Irish parents, and they speak and look like the vast majority of people here.
The second group we welcome with open arms. They provide us with income, revenue, and in economic terms the equivalent of exports – they bring in money from other countries, and, so, they are vital to a key sector of the economy.
I have never heard anyone complain in racist terms that the country is being swamped with Italian tourists. But I regularly hear gross exaggerations about the numbers of Nigerians and Somalis here.
Who are our immigrants?
Bunclody, Co Wexford … the town in the Republic of Ireland with the largest Polish population (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
So who are the strangers in our midst?
The face of Ireland appeared to be changing in the first years of this century. The pace of that change may have slowed more recently, or even retreated in some cases. But, nevertheless, that face is changing, and much of the change is irreversible and – we have to accept – is for the good.
Today, the second most common first language in the Republic is no longer Irish – it is Polish. Poles make up the largest single ethnic minority in the state, and the last census figures showed at least 63,000 Polish nationals living here.
In recent years, the Poles, Lithuanians and Latvians have pushed the Chinese into fourth place, but Chinese remains one of the largest language minority groups, especially in the greater Dublin, where there may have been a Chinese population of up to 60,000 people in recent years.
Research at the National University of Ireland Maynooth found that more than 167 different languages – from Acholi to Zulu – in use by 160 nationalities among the people in Ireland as their everyday first language of choice.
Ireland has become a multilingual society, so that the 2006 census was conducted in 13 languages. Apart from English and Irish, these languages are: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Spanish. In addition, information was also available in Estonian, Magyar (Hungarian), Slovak, Turkish and Yoruba.
The share of foreign-born people living in the Republic of Ireland is about 11%, although the census figures include 1.3% born in Northern Ireland. The Central Statistics Office estimates that 9% of immigrants are now Chinese, and 8% are nationals from Central and Eastern Europe.
Asylum seekers and refugees are a very small proportion of the number of foreign-born people in Ireland at any one top. In Ireland, the top five countries of origin for new asylum seekers over the past decade have been Nigeria, Somalia, Romania, Afghanistan and Sudan. And over the past decade, their numbers have been decreasing steadily.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the number of foreign-born nationals in the Republic of Ireland is about 457,000, out of a total population of 4.1 million, or about 11 per cent.
When immigration was probably at its highest, in the middle of the last decade, more than one-third of 70,000 immigrants in the 12-month period up to April 2005 came from the new accession states in the European Union: 17% (11,900) came from Poland and 9% (6,300) from Lithuania. But those numbers were totally outweighed by the 19,000 returning Irish citizens (27%), and close to the number of UK nationals moving here (6,900 or 10%).
Of the 50,100 people who came to Ireland as immigrants in 2004, one-third (16,900) had Irish nationality – they were returning Irish emigrants, their children, or people from Northern Ireland.
The Polish community is the single largest ethnic minority in the state. At their height, there were about 100,000 Poles here with PPS numbers, although some trade union estimates put the number of Poles here at 200,000 to 400,000. In a controversial article, Newsweek described Newbridge as the capital of Polish emigration, saying there were 30,000 people living in the Co Kildare town, although the 2006 census shows Bunclody, Co Wexford, is the town with the largest Polish population.
The second largest group comes from Latvia, and at one stage numbered 25,000 to 30,000. At one time, the Irish mushroom industry, a multi-million Euro industry, and they have been of economic benefit to us. But there are a number of problems:
● They are often exploited and paid below the minimum wage.
● They leave behind children who are cared for by grandparents – creating what the Latvian media has called a new generation of “mushroom orphans.”
● They are over-qualified for their jobs, so they are part of a brain-drain on Latvia, which has paid for their training and education and needs their skills.
● They are easy victims of racism. After one industrial protest, an American newspaper ran the headline: “For Irish, Latvians fill the role of bogeymen.”
The Chinese are probably the third largest of these ethnic groupings. There may be 60,000 Chinese living in the state, perhaps half in the greater Dublin area, and many are here on student visas and without work permits.
Patrick Comerford with the authors of a report on Chinese students and immigrants, Dr Lan Li of University College Dublin and Dr Richard O’Leary of Queen’s University, Belfast, in the Chapel of Trinity College Dublin in 2008
Many of the Poles are Roman Catholics, but worship in their own parishes and congregations. Many of the immigrants from the Baltic countries are Lutherans, and under the Porvoo Agreement they are full communicant members of the Church of Ireland while they are here. But we have very little pastoral or liturgical engagement with them, and many of them probably have no idea of who we are.
The Chinese have their own Catholic parish in Dublin, with Masses in Chinese, while the Chinese Protestant Church is a very conservative evangelical church.
However, despite the increasing popularity of celebrations such as the Chinese New Year, which is being celebrated in Temple Bar Square, Dublin, tomorrow evening [Friday 20 January 2012], we know very little about the religious beliefs and practices of the majority of Chinese people here.
Despite their visibility, the number of Nigerians in Ireland is probably lower than many of the public estimates. Of the 30,000 Africans thought to be in Ireland, about 20,000 are probably Nigerians. They suffer racism not only from Irish-born people but from other Africans too. Yet they make a positive contribution to public life in Ireland: Rotimi Adebarai became Ireland’s first black mayor in June 2007 in Portlaoise. Other African communities in Ireland include people from DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.
The Romanian population is largely Dublin-based. There may be 20,000 Romanians in Ireland, although the numbers are dropping significantly at the moment, according to the priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
They often complain that they are all categorised as Gypsies or Roma. Yet there may only be about 2,000 Roma in Ireland, and many of those come from other Easter and Central European countries, including the Czech and Slovak republics, the former Yugoslav republics, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Admittedly, the census statistics are always on the low side when it comes to telling us who is living among us. Too many people are too afraid and too scared to register themselves at census times, worried that once noted they may face discrimination or forced deportation.
Immigrants and the Church of Ireland
The Discovery services in inner city Dublin ... providing ‘Anglican liturgies with African flavours’
What has this got to do with the Church of Ireland today, with who we are and what our mission is?
Apart from the duty on church members to comfort those who are in fear and to welcome the stranger, it is important that we do not see those who have arrived among us in recent years as problems, either in themselves or in the reaction of some sectors of society and government. They enrich our society, and they enrich our Church life too.
The fact is that immigrants have disproportionately enriched the life of the Church of Ireland. Today, 2 per cent of the Church of Ireland population in the Republic of Ireland is from an African country, compared with 0.8 per cent of the population as a whole.
The members of the Church of Ireland throughout this state include:
● 1,404 born in Nigeria;
● 1,156 who are Germans;
● 578 from Lithuania;
● 537 South Africans;
● 336 from Poland;
● 251 from the Netherlands;
● 161 from Denmark;
● 134 from Latvia; and
● (as Garrett Casey showed in a recent analysis of those statistics), 77 members of the Church of Ireland who are French nationals.
If Ireland is not monochrome or mono-cultural, then neither is the Church of Ireland.
How is the Church getting it right?
How is the Church getting it wrong?
What are the challenges?
And what are the opportunities we can grasp in the Church of Ireland?
A positive example of the Church of Ireland has adapted and changed is provided by the Discovery programme based at Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church in inner city Dublin, including the Discovery services, choir and chaplaincy.
This has been positive for the church, for the parish, and for the international community. But it also led to other initiatives, such as the U2charist.
But success was only possible because the then priest-in-charge, Canon Katharine Poulton, now Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, was open to taking risks. And because her congregation was supportive as she took those risks.
The implications for ministry are obvious. We must be willing to be adventurous and innovative, who are risk-takers. We are ordained to be “messengers, watchers and stewards.” But instead, parishes often want their clergy to be building surveyors, caretakers and boiler-fixers.
A negative example comes from hospital chaplaincy. I heard someone say recently not that he, but that other members of the Church of Ireland, would not like the idea of a black African chaplain visiting the wards. Why not? He protested that he is not racist. But the implications are frightening.
Many of our hospital and prison chaplains find themselves cast into the role of advocacy. They are the ones people – staff and patients or prisoners – turn to for advice about other minorities. Are our chaplains, lay and ordained, trained properly, and knowledgeable enough for this role in ministry?
There is a large new school in the Greater Dublin area under Church of Ireland management. Before September 2009, there were 58 or 60 children in the old schoolhouse, which was dilapidated and in need of repair or replacement. About half of those children were non-nationals.
The national school has moved to a new building. Other schools in area were giving priority to Roman Catholic children, and so their school rolls were full. After the new school opened under Church of Ireland management in September 2010, the number of children reached 240-250. Of these, 80% were Nigerian by birth or parentage, 10% were from Eastern Europe or other nationalities, and 10% were Irish-born. In the senior infants’ class, there were 31 children, of whom three were “white,” and of those, only one is Irish-born.
Were the parishioners withdrawing their children?
Is this an appropriate move by that Church of Ireland parish?
What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of this scenario?
And of course, what are the implications for teacher training or for raising awareness among parishioners?
How best can we use our Church buildings? The former Church of Ireland parish churches in Harold’s Cross and Leeson Park are now being used by the Russian Orthodox and Romanian Orthodox Churches, while Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s, and the parish churches in Donnybrook, Swords and Tallaght are providing hospitality for various Syrian and Indian Orthodox communities.
How can we best use our church buildings to reflect the needs of the changing and changed Ireland?
A closing conundrum:
Some images and perceptions still have to be dealt with.
How do we relate all this to:
● The decline of the Anglo-Irish gentry?
● The loss of the substantial Church of Ireland working class population in Dublin (and perhaps soon in Belfast too)?
● The changing ethos of formerly Church of Ireland hospitals?
Is there still a sense of “Protestant identity” – north and south?
According an opinion piece by Mark Kenny in the Irish Independent a few years ago, 10 per cent ordinands in the Church of Ireland were former Roman Catholics.
Is that true today?
(This year, excluding those already ordained deacon but including part-time students, the figure is 10.5 per cent; if you include deacon-interns and other categories, the figure is 10.7 per cent.)
Does it matter?
What are the social consequences – for Roman Catholics and for the Church of Ireland?
How does this compare with England, where some Anglicans – including some bishops – have become Roman Catholics?
If religion is inextricably linked with culture, then how does the Church of Ireland engage with the context of the culture in which it flourishes in the Republic of Ireland?
And how might these figures eventually impact on how the Church of Ireland in the Republic relates to its closest neighbour?
Heather Crawford, Outside the Glow: Protestants and Irishness in Independent Ireland (Dublin: UCD Press, 2010).
Patrick Comerford, Embracing Difference (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
Guidelines for Interfaith Events & Dialogue (prepared by the Committee for Christian Unity and the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland, Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
Malcolm Macourt, Counting the People of God? The Census of Population and the Church of Ireland (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2008).
A. McGrady (ed), Welcoming the Stranger: Practising hospitality in contemporary Ireland (Dublin: Veritas, 2006).
Richard O’Leary and Lan Li, Mainland Chinese Students and Immigrants in Ireland and their engagement with Christianity, Churches and Irish Society (Dublin: Agraphon Press, 2008).
Gordon Wynne, Pastoral Care in the Recession (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing: 2009).
1.2: who we are (2): Introduction to the Anglican Communion today.
2.1: The mission of Patrick and early Irish Christianity.
2.2: Challenges facing the communion of global Anglicanism today, including the Anglican Covenant.
Readings for that seminar:
The Anglican Covenant (supplied).
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture, on 19 January 2012, was part of MTh Year II module, EM8825, Anglican Studies in an Irish context.