Thursday, 25 June 2020

20 years in ordained
ministry and some of
my guiding challenges

At my ordination as deacon in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 25 June 2000 with (from left) Canon Roy Byrne, who was ordained priest that day, and the Revd Avril Bennett and the Revd Tim Close, who were ordained deacons (Photograph: Valerie Jones, 2000)

Patrick Comerford

I was ordained deacon 20 years ago today [25 June 2000], and priest 19 years ago yesterday on the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist [24 June 2001].

At the ordination of deacons, bishops recall that deacons ‘remind the whole Church that serving others is at the heart of all ministry.’

They go on to say: ‘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 [those with no-one to care for them] and the indifferent, and minister to the sick, the needy, the poor and those in trouble.’

Deacons are asked at ordination: ‘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 …?’

In today’s world, with the rise of racism, anti-Semitism and far-right populism, who needs compassion that is extended with humility?

How do I care for the sick, the poor and the needy, and speak up for the oppressed today?

How do we promote unity, peace and love among all?

I hope these challenges have guided me through 20 years of ordained ministry, and that continue to challenge me in the years ahead.

I recalled yesterday how my path to ordination began 49 years ago when I was a 19-year-old in Lichfield, following very personal and special experiences in a chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist – the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

Later that same day, after Choral Evensong in Lichfield Cathedral, I was challenged by, I think, Canon John Yates (1925-1980), then the Principal of Lichfield Theological College (1966-1972) and later Bishop of Gloucester and Bishop at Lambeth. He amusingly asked me whether a young man like me had decided to start going back to church because I was thinking of ordination.

As I said yesterday, I had taken the scenic route to ordination. Eventually I was ordained deacon by Archbishop Walton Empey in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on 25 June 2000 along with the Revd Averill Bennett and the Revd Tim Close – Canon Roy Byrne was ordained priest that day too – and I was ordained priest a year later on 24 June 2001.

With Archbishop Walton Empey at my ordination as deacon in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 25 June 2000 (Photograph: Valerie Jones, 2000)

I had been in reader ministry in Saint Maelruian’s Parish, since 1994, and was ordained for Whitechurch Parish, Rathfarnham. I remained there as a curate until 2006, when I joined the full-time staff of the Church of Ireland Theological College.

This morning, I pray for those preparing for ordination and recall and pray too for the 13 other men and women who were ordained deacons that same summer 20 years ago:

● The Revd Avril Bennett, a resource teacher at Kildare Place School, was ordained for the Parishes of Crumlin and Chapelizod (Dublin). She is now an NSM curate in Saint Maelruain’s, Tallaght (Dublin).

● The Revd Christopher Bennett was ordained for the parish of Larne and Inver (Connor). He is now curate assistant, Belvoir (Down).

● The Revd Tim Close was ordained for Glenageary (Dublin), and is now priest-in-charge of the Church of the Ascension, Cloughfern, Newtownabbey (Connor).

● The Revd Hilary Dungan was ordained for Saint Mark’s Parish (Armagh). She retired as Rector of Maryborough in 2011, and she has been an interim, part-time Dean of Residence and Chaplain in Trinity College Dublin.

● Canon Michael Johnston became Bishop’s Vicar and curate assistant in Kilkenny (Ossory). He was the Rector of Shinrone (Killaloe) the Prebendary of Saint Munchin’s and Tulloh (Limerick and Killaloe) until he recently retired from ministry.

● The Revd Melanie Lacy, ordained for Saint Comgall’s, Bangor (Down). She was the Ireland team leader at the Crosslinks mission agency and today she is Director of the Theology and Praxis for Children’s and Youth Ministry stream at Oak Hill College, London.

● The Revd David Luckman, a former RE teacher in Poole, Dorset, was ordained for Saint Mark’s, Portadown (Armagh), and has been the Ireland team leader at Crosslinks since 2015.

● The Revd Alan Millar, once in ordained ministry in the United Church of Canada, was ordained for Drumglass, Dungannon (Armagh). He was the Rector of Rathcoole (Connor) from 2006 until he retired in 2011.

● The Revd Willie Nixon, who had worked on the family farm, was ordained for Saint Paul’s, Lisburn (Connor), and has been the Rector of Drumbeg (Down) since 2012.

● The Revd Daniel Owen, who had worked in an outdoor activity centre in Sligo and in the RCB offices in Dublin, was ordained for Saint Donard’s Parish, Belfast (Down). Since 2015, he has been the chaplain at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham.

● The Revd David Somerville, a former RE teacher in Rathfriland, was ordained for Shankill Parish, Lurgan (Dromore). He was the Rector of Richhill Parish (Armagh) and had been appointed a Vicar Choral in Armagh Cathedral when he died suddenly in 2016.

● The Revd Alice Stewart was ordained for the Church of the Ascension, Cloughfern (Connor).

● The Revd Louise Stewart was ordained for Saint John’s Church, Malone Road, Belfast (Connor). Since 2011, she has been the Rector of Finaghy (Connor).

Letters of ordination as deacon on 25 June 2000 by Archbishop Walton Empey

The Collect for vocations to Holy Orders:

Almighty God,
you have entrusted to your Church
a share in the ministry of your Son our great High Priest:
Inspire by your Holy Spirit the hearts of many
to offer themselves for ordination in your Church,
that strengthened by his power,
they may work for the increase of your kingdom
and set forward the eternal praise of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Inside the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital in Lichfield … the beginning of the road to ordination (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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