COI Gazette – 16th February 2018

Helping young people to explore the Bible

From left: Barbara Swann, CIYD Office Manager; Simon Henry; Steve Grasham; and Archbishop Richard Clarke (Photo: Lynn Glanville)

From left: Barbara Swann, CIYD Office Manager; Simon Henry; Steve Grasham; and Archbishop Richard Clarke (Photo: Lynn Glanville)

Lent offers an opportunity for young people to take up a regular Bible-reading pattern that helps to build their faith, according to the Church of Ireland’s National Youth Of cer, Simon Henry.

He is encouraging young people to use Fuel, the Church of Ireland Youth Department’s new resource, which is based on a reading plan for John’s Gospel and includes a 50-page journal.

Simon explains: “Lent is a time of repentance and preparation for the coming of Easter, and also a time of self-examination and reflection – a great time to start things that are good for our Christian faith.




There is something fascinating about fly-on-the-wall documentaries. We love to see how other people live their lives and whether they face the same things we do. Many of us have been watching A Vicar’s Life over the past few weeks. The BBC documentary series follows the daily lives of a number of clergy from rural parishes in Herefordshire. It gives the viewer an insight into how clergy in that part of the world live their daily lives. Just as interesting is to observe the changing place of faith and the Church in those local communities.

The vicars featured in the programme come from a surprising range of backgrounds. Some of them began in ordained ministry very early in their lives. Others had various careers outside the Church, bringing the experience and skills they picked up into their ministry. All of them grapple with the challenge of communities that have become increasingly distant not only from the Church, but also from faith.

Last week our front-page story described a recent gathering in the Church of Ireland Theological College. The purpose was to look at how vocations to ordained ministry might be encouraged in a changing Ireland. It is very encouraging to see a group of people willing to apply fresh thinking to an issue.

The Director of CITI, Dr Maurice Elliot, said that on average, since 2009, 15 people were ordained each year. What challenges will these new clergy face as they join the hundreds of other clergy faithfully ministering in all corners of this island?

It needs to be acknowledged that every type of work or role has its own challenges. Ask the person who is self-employed, those working in an office or on the shop floor, running a household, responsible for managing others or answering to someone more
senior. Every one of us, no matter how we describe our own role, will be able to identify the challenges we face. That applies to us all – whether clergy or not.

In the majority of situations, clergy have a role of preaching and leadership in local situations. They do this at a time when we are going through a profound cultural shift with regards to religion, not only on this island, but also in the West. We are becoming used to identifying how people in both jurisdictions are becoming less engaged with the Church. This is reflected both in numbers as well as in how people are changing the way they see the Church in our society. But something else may be happening as well – a change in the way people engage with faith at all.

In his book, The Rise of the Nones, James Emery White notes that the fastest growing religious grouping of people in America is those who identify themselves on surveys as ‘none’. Those who self-identified as at least nominally affiliated with a religious group in the past are increasingly finding it easier to just check the box that says, ‘none’. This is a trend that is likely to move beyond the shores of the USA.

His book examines who these people are, why they are disassociating with religion, what factors are contributing toward this cultural shift, and how churches need to think differently if they are going to reach the people who lie beyond the margins of traditional faith.

This brings us back to the challenges that ordained clergy face. Chief among them is to find a way of communicating the faith and leading at a time of profound shift. It is not that vocation to ordained ministry is an undoable job. It is to suggest that how it may be done is changing.


Home News

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  • Diocese of Clogher institution
  • Diocese of Raphoe institution
  • Recommissioning of Down and Dromore diocesan readers
  • Derry parish toddler group has all-age appeal
  • Archbishop of Armagh to launch 400th anniversary celebrations of Clonfeacle parish church
  • Church Army – moving in mission
  • Information pack on data protection in the Church available to parishes



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Letters to the Editor


CANON HARRY TRIMBLE in his letter to the Gazette on 2nd February states that “Freemasonry does not claim to be a religion, nor a religious organisation”. This is a statement brought out from time to time to try and justify Freemasonry’s claim to be all embracing to men of goodwill.

I have long since left the order and my main reason for doing so was that I could no longer support its religious (even quasi) practices which stand against Christian faith.

Readers should be aware that lodges are structured on a religious basis. Each lodge has a chaplain, who often is an ordained minister, whose duties include opening and closing meetings with prayer. Such prayer must never refer to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit or the Holy Trinity. Instead it is the creator God who is summoned, being referred to in such terms as the Great Architect or the Great Geometrician of the Universe.

I know of a clergyman who, as chaplain, once inadvertently ended a prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord”. He was taken aside after the meeting and told in no uncertain terms never to do this again.

The Holy Bible, called the Volume of the Sacred Law by Freemasons, lies open in the centre of the Lodge during meetings. Any reference to or reading from the Bible is strictly confined to the Old Testament and it is always overlaid with the square and compass to make clear that it can only be interpreted through the mores and teachings of Freemasonry.

Masonic hymns are sung to tunes well-known in our hymnal but, again, reference to Jesus or the Holy Spirit are not included in the wordings. Solemn oaths are taken by candidates to the various degrees and they are required to ratify these oaths with their lips on the Holy Bible. Severe warnings apply to any who dare to break these oaths.

Canon Trimble refers to the “universality of the Masonic Order”. Regular Masonic lodges are for men only. Excluding half of humanity is hardly universal.

I leave it to readers to decide whether or not Freemasonry is organised on a religious basis. I have no doubts that it is.

Peter T. Hanna (the Revd) Innishannon

Co. Cork

Sustainable Synods

I HAVE to say the RCB is now doing a decent job on tracking its steps on climate change, biodiversity and reducing pollution. The investment and pension funds are being cleaned up by removing investments from fossil fuels and the RCB’s collaborative engagement muscles are being flexed by telling large corporations that they must speed up the transition to a carbon-free future.

It is also encouraging that the RCB is piloting an energy audit in Down and Dromore Diocese, highlighting the joint Eco-Congregation’s and Bishops’ Appeal #jars4journeys Lent project, and introducing bee hives (a third of food crops needs pollination but bees are in serious decline, see The policy on trees – “Plant two trees for every one cut down on church property” – is good, but do Diocesan Councils really follow up on this after they approve requests for tree removals?

Church House is also reducing plastic waste by ditching the single-use coffee cup. They now encourage staff to use KeepCups at local coffee shops and in the office.

An example to all of us.

Perhaps General Synod in Armagh should build on the #jars4journeys initiative and have ‘Bishops’ Appeal buckets’ to support those affected by climate change. Plastic waste could be reduced by serving hot drinks in compostable cups or by selling reusable KeepCups. The 2018 Church of Ireland General Synod could even start a new trend for ‘Sustainable Synods’.

Stephen Trew

Lurgan Co. Armagh

President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

HAVING SPENT some of the happiest days of my ministry in Ireland, I was saddened to read the letter from Colin Nevin, regarding President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.

He writes of Jews miraculously gathering in the land of their fathers, but fails to mention that, in the first place, this gathering meant the expulsion of many Palestinians from their homes through terrorist activity. This caused them to take refuge in camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza. The camps remain to this day, with the inhabitants  suffering hardship.

The Barnabas Fund, reporting on Christians facing discrimin- ation from Jews and Muslims, says that ultra-Orthodox Jews have targeted Christians, especially those with a Jewish background. Messianic churches have been vandalised.

The Jewish people are commanded in the Bible to help and support the stranger. Yet, Eritrean refugees (mainly Christian), who have fled persecution, are suffering greatly from government policies. Many are held in detention centres where, as well as being in terrible
circumstances, they are not allowed to take part in Christian worship. The suffering caused by the occupation of the West Bank is too great to mention in the space of this letter.

I feel that Jesus is led to tears, as it was in his own day, rather than expecting a welcome. Perhaps we should support Bishop Christopher Chessun and other Christian leaders in urging the British government to recognise the state of Palestine.
John Sutcliffe (the Revd)

Burnley Lancashire


News Extra

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