21 April 2016

Commission for Christian Unity
and Dialogue welcomes Scottish
Episcopal Church delegation

Members of the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue and the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Inter-Church Relations Committee during their visit to Marsh’s Library, Dublin

The following press release and this photograph were issued last week on behalf of the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue of the Church of Ireland:

The Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue (CCUD) was pleased to host a visit of the Inter-Church Relations Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) on Monday 11 April. Meetings were held in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and focused on national and global ecumenical partnerships and the Church of Ireland and Methodist Church Covenant.

The group attended evensong in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and was given a tour of Marsh’s Library.

Commenting on the visit, the Bishop of Clogher and Chairman of CCUD, the Right Revd John McDowell, said: ‘We were delighted when the Inter-Church Relations Committee of the SEC suggested that they might visit Ireland to discuss matters of common interest, especially the origin and development of interchangeability arrangements between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland. Our discussions were very wide-ranging and we benefited from a first-hand account of developments within the SEC and their relationships with other Christian traditions.’

The Church of Ireland was represented by:

The Right Revd John McDowell (Co-Chair)
The Rt Revd Michael Burrows
The Revd Canon Patrick Comerford
The Very Revd Nigel Dunne
The Revd Canon Dr Ian Ellis
The Revd Canon Niall Sloane
The Ven Helene Steed
Ms Cate Turner

The Scottish Episcopal Church was represented by:

The Revd Canon John McLuckie (Co-Chair)
Ms Elspeth Davey
The Revd Canon Dean Fostekew
Mrs Norma Higgott
Mrs Helen Hood
The Revd Andrew Letby
Dr Alastair Mason
The Revd Sandy Montgomerie

The Most Revd Dr Brendan Leahy (Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick) was also in attendance.

Gasping for air on the beach in Bettystown
and learning lessons from Connacht rugby

Walking on the golden sands in Bettystown, Co Meath, on Wednesday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

I almost lost my voice last Sunday while I was presiding at the Eucharist. Since then, speaking out loud has been a testing task, my throat is closing before I can even open it and my lungs feel they are pushing too hard at too little air.

I think all this is a flare up on my lungs of my sarcoidosis symptoms following medical procedures almost two weeks ago and it is feeling quite uncomfortable. As yesterday progressed, I was worried about not being able to speak at a diocesan synod in Athy, Co Kildare.

But by lunchtime yesterday, there was a clear blue sky, I could feel the sunshine on my face, and there was a real feeling that summer may be on the way.

Some cousins from the English Midlands were passing through Dublin on their way to Ennskillen. We meet up near my old school at Gormanston shortly after mid-day, and five of us went to lunch in Relish in Bettystown, Co Meath, looking out over the sandbanks and out towards the Irish Sea.

The tide was out, and with such clear blue skies and clear blue seas, the lengthy stretch of sand was beautiful expanse below us stretching from Laytown to the south to the mouth of the Boyne at Mornington to the north.

After lunch, we went for a walk on those golden sands, out to the shoreline, before returning for coffee on the terrace at Relish.

Walking on the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath, on Wednesday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

By the time I got to Saint Michael’s Church, Athy, my lungs had enough energy to speak against the proposed diocesan changes, including removing six parishes from the Diocese of Glendalough and transferring them to the Diocese of Meath and Kildare.

As I explained last night, I have nothing against either Meath or Kildare: I went to school in Co Meath and one of my degrees is from a university on Co Kildare.

But this Bill fails because it is based not on ecclesiology and the needs of the church, with the diocese as the basic unit, but because it is based on financial needs and sees the parish as the basic and transferrable unit of the church. As I said last night, a bill that made similar presuppositions in the past was labelled as “national apostasy” by John Keble – not because of what it was doing, but because of the presumptions on which it was founded.

An archdeacon in another diocese asked me on social media whether this was a “NIMBY synod.” But it can never be. It must be about the needs of the whole church.

This Bill presumes we should only have bishops where we can afford them. The reality is we should have bishops not where we can afford them but where we need them for the life, ministry and mission of the Church of Ireland.

Bishops are about leading the Church, not about managing the Church.

The proposals must be addressed as a whole, and not just how they affect individual dioceses. I said it was unimaginable to consider a new diocese that would stretch from Achill Island in the north-west, to Valentia Island in the south-west, and embracing parishes in Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Mayo, and parts of Sligo, Offaly and North Tipperary.

I pointed out that these proposals would live the Church of Ireland without a resident bishop in the whole province of Connacht. And I pointed out that the IRFU had also tried to get rid of Connacht Rugby – and look at how wrong they were about that.