Friday, 11 May 2012

Welcomes and hospitality at the General Synod

Deans and canon waiting for the procession in Saint Patrick's Cathedral last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

The debates at General Synod are being reported on other websites and blogs at the moment, and I am part of the team compiling the reports for next week’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

I’m not going to comment on yesterday’s debates and procedural hiccups, but there were two interesting personal highlights during the day.

I am part of the team looking after our ecumenical guests, who include Father Keiran McDermott and Father Pádraig Murphy (Roman Catholic Church), Mrs Helen Hood (Episcopal Church of Scotland), the Revd Ian Henderson, President, and Mrs Dorthy O’Ferrall (Methodist Church in Ireland), the Very Revd Norman Hamilton, former Moderator, and Mrs Cherry Poynton (Presbyterian Church), the Revd Paul Holdsworth (Moravian Church), Father Irenaeus du Plessis (Antiochian Orthodox Church), and Mr Mervyn McCullagh of the Irish Council of Churches.

As Archbishop Michael Jackson said this morning, “our synodical meeting over these three days is much enriched by the presence of our ecumenical guests.” I too have been enriched by our conversations listening to debates, over coffee breaks and at meal times.

The Revd Niall Sloane, who seconded the report of the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, also suggested interfaith representatives could also be invited to the General Synod as observers.

Then last night, the chapter of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin was invited to robe for the General Synod Service in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. We processed with the deans of the cathedrals of the Church of Ireland, the chapter of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and the bishops of the Church of Ireland.

I have been a member of the General Synod for about 20 years, but I cannot remember an invitation like this to the chapter of Christ Church. It shows new, refreshing and welcoming attitude in Saint Patrick’s and that the new dean has created a genuinely friendly atmosphere in the cathedral.

C of I experience of deacon-interns shared in Edinburgh

Today’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette [11 May 2012] carries the following photograph and news report on p. 4:

Anglican participants at the Edinburgh consultation on the diaconate (from left): Canon Patrick Comerford, Revd Frances Hillier, the Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner, Bishop-elect John Armes and Elspeth Davey, Church Relations Officer of the Scottish Episcopal Church

C of I experience of deacon-interns shared in Edinburgh

The Church of Ireland was represented by Canon Patrick Comerford, of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, at a recent seminar in Edinburgh on ‘Deacons, the Diaconate and Diakonia.’

The seminar was organised by the Diaconate Working Group (DWG) of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) as part of the Porvoo Communion consultations on the diaconate and diakonia ministry, and was chaired by the Very Revd Dr John Armes, secretary of the Diaconate Working Group.

The participants included the Rt Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, representatives of the four Anglican Churches on these islands – the Church of Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales and the Church of England – and representatives of a number of Churches in Scotland, including the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, the Salvation Army, and the United Reformed Church.

Dr Armes said the seminar had been called because the Scottish Episcopal Church, as a member of the Porvoo Communion, is committed to exploring diakonia and diaconate, and in the light of the 2009 consultation in Oslo, is committed to exploring the meaning of diakonia and what to do about diakonia and diaconate.

The seminar was an exercise in extending this discussion by listening to the experiences of the other member churches of the Anglican Communion on these islands and the experiences of the other denominations in Scotland.

Canon Comerford spoke of the new ministry training programme at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and of the experiences of third-year ordinands who had been placed in parishes as “deacon-interns” in their third year.

The Revd Frances Hillier said most permanent deacons in the Church of England tend to be NSMs, and tend to be in caring professions. Although some are canons and she is a bishop’s chaplain, they cannot be archdeacons.

Bishop Strange said a number of people feel called to a different type of ministry in the community that is not tied up with being a priest. He asked whether there is a role for deacons where it is not assumed that they are going to go on to being ordained as priests.

The Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner described her experience as a deacon in the Church in Wales as being “a lone voice.”

The Revd Tony Schmitz spoke of a developing understanding in the Roman Catholic Church of “diakonia of altar, diakonia of word and diakonia of caritas.”

The Porvoo Contact Group meets in October, and the a similar seminar be called in Edinburgh again in preparation for the Porvoo Consultation in Dublin in March 2013.