Rathlin welcomes visitors from St Columba’s Knock

Friday August 9th 2013

Visitors from St Columba's, Knock, in St Thomas's Parish Church, Rathlin Island.Main Report by Linda Wilson (Parishioner of St Columba’s Knock)

Sunday August 4 will be remembered as a day of great fellowship, food and fun for a group of parishioners from St Columba’s Knock, Diocese of Down and Dromore, who visited Rathlin Island to join in worship with the congregation of St Thomas’ Parish Church.

While the group of 40 parishioners gathered to await the ferry, the sun shone, the sea was calm and the signs were good for a pleasant boat ride to the island. As the ferry approached Rathlin the spectacular scenery of the island was clear for everyone to see.

As the church bell rang a much larger congregation than usual made its way into St Thomas’s.

There was a wonderful sense of fellowship and friendship as we worshipped together in the service of Holy Communion. The Celebrant and Preacher was the rector of St. Columba’s, Knock, the Rev John Auchmuty. During his sermon he reminded us that different congregations within the Church of Ireland have in common a faith which sustains them in everything they do and in coming together offer each other great support.

He said: “It was a great joy and delight to have been given the opportunity by both the priest–in–charge and the Bishop of Connor to conduct this Sunday morning service in St Thomas’s Church on the day of our Parish Outing to Rathlin Island. This beautifully restored church was clearly identifiably to us all from the ferry as we made our way over to the island from Ballycastle. I am most grateful to the churchwarden, Julie–Ann McMullan, for her very generous welcome and for all her assistance. It is a great privilege to begin our Parish Outing by sharing in this service with you before we explore the island after lunch.”

After the service, as the congregation mingled, there was the opportunity to learn more about the church and the island from the residents. Members of St Thomas’s were delighted to have a full church and expressed their great appreciation for our presence at the service.

In keeping with tradition, after church we headed off for Sunday lunch which was safely stored in well stocked picnic baskets! A very pleasant spot beside the beach was located for the group and the picnic benches were quickly taken. The next stage of our visit which was to enjoy each others’ company in the beauty and calm of this rugged Island was well underway.

All too quickly it was 5.30pm and time to board the ferry for Ballycastle. On the journey it was clear that the day had been a great success for all involved. As a group we had been able to develop friendships within our own parish whilst offering support to the islanders. A joyful and successful day for all concerned.

The Rev Patrick Barton, priest–in–charge of St Thomas’s, Rathlin, said: “I am delighted that the Rector and people of St Columba’s Knock have come up with this innovative idea to come and share in worship with the parishioners of St Thomas, Rathlin Island.

“I believe our small congregation was encouraged by this gesture of solidarity and that both congregations will be enriched by the experience. May the people of St Columba’s be the first of many to come and experience this peaceful holy place.”

The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, said: “I am delighted to commend the rector and parishioners of St Columba’s Knock for this venture. It would be wonderful to see other parishes avail of this opportunity and it would be a great encouragement to the people of Rathlin.”

For more information on how you might join with the congregation in Rathlin for a service in St Thomas’s Church, please contact the Rev Patrick Barton Tel. 028 2076 8155 email patribart@aol.com.

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