Connor’s new Bishop, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, was installed and enthroned in his Cathedral of Christ Church, Lisburn, at joyous service on Thursday September 6.
Here the Bishop began his ministry in Connor, praying for the Church and the community, before responding to the acknowledgement of his pastoral responsibility from the clergy and to a pledge of support from the laity of the diocese.
Bishop Abernethy was installed and enthroned by the Dean of Connor, the Very Rev John Bond, at the command of the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Alan Harper. The Dean also dedicated the Bishop’s new Pastoral Staff.
In his sermon, Bishop Abernethy described himself as ‘a fellow struggler who has failed to be what God wants me to be.’
But he said he was also the recipient of God’s amazing grace which meant he could look to the future with hope and joy knowing he was loved and forgiven.
“My prayer is that we may learn to rejoice in our brokenness and weakness and thereby welcome and accept all who need to know that being a disciple is not about being good and perfect but it is about recognising that we are fellow travellers on the road of grace that allows us to be human and gives us hope that we might just be better people by that same grace,” the Bishop said.
He based his sermon on the Gospel of St Luke chapter 15, which he described as the parable of the ‘Forgiving Father.’
While the love and grace of the father is the miracle, the critical part of the story is the reaction of the older brother, the Bishop said.
“We have found the sting in the tail. This forgiving father in being merciful and full of grace appears to be unjust. This grace and love is actually unfair. The lesson the older brother has to learn is difficult, grace is not fair. Grace is about failure. Faith in Jesus is not about being good and holy and perfect, it is about being able to admit we are not good enough.”
The Bishop urged parishes to be places of welcome and acceptance, where the grace of God is dispensed and not bottled for the select few.
He concluded his sermon: “I look forward to journeying with you as your bishop and I pray that I may be filled with grace of God to help me be a channel of that same amazing grace. This is the grace that is about failure and hope.”
During the service, the Bishop prayed for the diocese and the community. He remembered the late Rev Tom Priestly, Rev Priestly’s family, and his parishioners in St Colman’s, Dunmurry, and a silence was observed.
The former rector of Ballyholme parish in the Diocese of Down and Dromore was appointed Bishop of Connor by the House of Bishops on the Church of Ireland which met in Dublin on April 17. He was Consecrated Bishop at a service in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on June 29.
Following the Service of Installation and Enthronement, the congregation enjoyed tea in the Cathedral Hall.
Photos by John Kelly and Karen Bushby.