Church of Ireland Notes

This week’s Church of Ireland notes have been published in The Irish Times.

Before and After

On the cusp of a new year thoughts inevitably turn, Janus like, both to things past and things yet to come.

The year past has been eventful with a number of major anniversaries to recall, some with pleasure, some less so. Undoubtedly the major anniversary in the life of the Church, and one marked with considerable sensitivity by the state, was the end of World War 1. Major acts of remembrance in Europe and in the large cites and cathedrals of Ireland were complemented by small, local ceremonies where, with almost unbearable poignancy, the names of the fallen were read from memorial plaques on church walls. On a happier note the 850th anniversary of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and the 750th anniversary of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, were celebrated and was the bi–centenary of Taney, the largest Church of Ireland parish in the Republic of Ireland.

There were some firsts to remember. The first woman Dean of Cloyne, the Very Revd Susan Green; the first lay Keeper of the Armagh Robinson Library, Dr Robert Whan; and the first Church of Ireland Governor of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory. And some events, perhaps never to forget – the visit to Ireland of the Pope, and the return to Christ Church, Dublin, of the heart of St. Laurence O’Toole.

Of course, much of the Church’s life revolves around routine – the faithful acts of worship, the regular conduct of business, and the happily anticipated annual celebrations. The General Synod returned to Armagh, the Church of Ireland Historical Society also met in Armagh, and in Dublin, where in the autumn the annual Jonathan Swift commemoration took in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Every week, Earl Storey and his staff produced the Church of Ireland Gazette, and Search, the Church of Ireland’s only theological journal, edited by Ginnie Kennerley, continued to challenge the faithful and not so faithful to consider and re-consider their beliefs. In Braemor Park, Canon Maurice Elliott and his staff continued the vital work of training ordinands and the RCB Library sought to meet their needs and the needs of a wider community who wish to know more about the Church, past and present.

And what of 2019? Well, who knows, but some things, apart from the routine, have been flagged. The Church of Ireland Gazette will move from being a weekly to a monthly publication promising ‘more debate … more views … more features … and more fun’. It is a bold move and one which it is hoped will garner more support for one of the vital parts of the Church’s life.

Next year also brings the 150th anniversary of disestablishment, or more precisely, the anniversary of the passing of the Irish Church Act. The legislation did not come into effect until 1870 and it was some time before it was fully implemented, so the celebrations may be prolonged. The centenary celebrations produced three books – a collection of centenary essays entitled Directions which was published by APCK; Irish Anglicanism, 1869–1969, edited by Fr Michael Hurley; and RB McDowell’s The Church of Ireland, 1869–1969 (even though this did not appear until 1975!) – a number of shorter historical studies, and a splendid exhibition, with a catalogue, in the National Gallery. What the 150th will produce is still largely unknown although there will be a book of essays reflecting on aspects of the life of the Church of Ireland between 1969 and 2019.

And no doubt there will be the unexpected, whatever that might be!

To visit the ‘Religion & Beliefs’ section of The Irish Times, click here.

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