The Rev Denise Acheson, former curate assistant in Ballyholme Parish, Diocese of Down, was instituted as rector of St Colman’s Parish, Dunmurry, on Thursday May 1.
The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, led the service. Mr John Williams (Parish Reader), Rev John Budd (Rural Dean), Rev Don Gamble and the Rev Simon Doogan also took part. The Bishop, assisted by the Rev Clifford Skillen (Bishop’s Chaplain) and Rev William Taggart (Registrar), conducted the Act of Institution.
The Bishop welcomed the new rector to the Diocese of Connor, as well as the many visiting clergy and well-wishers who packed the church for the service.
In his address, the Bishop told the congregation: “Your new Rector has a love for people – you have a wonderful new chapter ahead.”
He went on to say that Denise had had a life of joy and great pain and she had found the love of Jesus a strength and help in her journey. Speaking as her Bishop and friend he said: “She has a wonderful story to tell – she wants to tell you about Jesus.”
Bishop Abernethy concluded by asking the congregation to look after their new rector, assuring both Denise and her new congregation of his prayer and support as they go forward with Jesus.
Organist Alan Yarr and the Parish Choir led the worship and a musical group from Ballyholme Parish brought some items of praise including, ‘One Again’. Following the service, refreshments were served in the Parochial Hall providing the opportunity for Dunmurry parishioners to welcome their new rector and for the many Ballyholme parishioners present to say their goodbyes and wish Denise well in her new Parish.
Denise was born in Manchester but spent most of her life in the village of Churchill, Fermanagh where she worshipped at Inishmacsaint Parish Church.
Following her marriage to William she moved to Australia where her first two children, Ruth and Dean, were born. The family lived there for seven years before returning to Northern Ireland where their third child Robert was born.
Denise worked as a lab technician at Collegiate Grammar School in Enniskillen for 13 years, despite a strong sense of vocation. “Ever since I was a teenager I felt a calling to the church, but my life took different roads. When I was in my thirties I was doing a lot of things within the church and working for a living got in the way,” she said. “Eventually I just had to apply and was accepted.”
Denise’s husband William died in 1994, when Robert was still very young. Denise admits bringing up the family on her own was trying. “I would never choose to be a single parent, but God is faithful and you get there through pushing, struggling, help and all sorts. It was not easy,” she said. Robert continues to live with his mother, Dean has returned to Australia and Ruth lives in England. Denise has one grandchild.
After her ordination in June 2005, Denise went to Ballyholme as curate assistant to the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, who is now Bishop in Denise’s new diocese of Connor. “Alan started me off. He trusted me in many things which was a great affirmation and certainly he let me have great experiences. He shared his ministry with me,” Denise said.
Speaking of her move to St Colman’s she said, “I am excited and terrified. Dunmurry is going to be very different to Ballyholme, but I knew nothing about Ballyholme when I started there and it turned out to be a wonderful place and I am hoping it is going to be the same in Dunmurry. I pray that God has used all of the experiences with Alan and during the months on my own in Ballyholme to prepare me for the next stage of moving on.”
The vacancy in Dunmurry arose following the death of the Rev Tom Priestly in August last year.
Photographs by John Kelly