The Rev Barry Forde, Chaplain of the Hub, the Church of Ireland Student Centre at Queen’s University, is to become Archdeacon of Belfast, Diocese of Connor.
Barry succeeds the Ven George Davison, Bishop-designate of Connor, who will be consecrated as bishop of the diocese on September 3.
The 45-year-old is married to Claire and they have three children.
Barry studied law at Dundee University before training to be a barrister in the Legal Institute, part of Queen’s University, for a year. He practised as a barrister for three years before working for a financial services company.
He studied Theology at Trinity College Dublin from 2004-07 and successfully undertook a set of special examinations to became a Trinity College Scholar in 2006.
Barry was ordained a deacon at Christ Church Cathedral, Lisburn, in June 2007, and was ordained a priest in St James’ Church, Belfast, in June the following year. In 2018, he completed a Masters in Canon Law from Cardiff University.
He said the invitation to be Archdeacon of Belfast made him feel ‘privileged, humbled, fearful and hopeful.”
“I was genuinely taken aback by the invitation to consider taking on the role by our bishop-designate. It has come at a time of wider societal uncertainty that is having a profound impact on all our lives and that of the diocese, and at a time of discerning my own personal journey of vocation, but I simply asked that under God my ‘yes’ would be ‘yes,’ or my ‘no’ would be ‘no.’
“After much thought and prayer by myself and my wife Claire, I am delighted to have a real sense of God’s peace about saying ‘yes.’ I’ve served in Connor Diocese since I was ordained, and for the past decade have ministered in the city of Belfast.”
Barry said he has endeavoured to support the work of the diocese, and was ‘extraordinarily grateful’ for the support, under Bishop Alan Abernethy, that Connor Diocese has afforded him and the work of Chaplaincy. I’m really looking forward to seeing where, under Bishop George, we go next, and to do what I can to help along the way,” he said.
Reflecting in the challenges of his new role, Barry commented that Belfast has a wide range of socio-economic groups, along with cultural, political, and religious interfaces; inner city and suburban areas.
“Some communities are deep-rooted, whilst others are very transient, with one indication of this being the diverse community of students living in the city centre,” he said.
“The needs of its children, youth and young adults are self-evident given the multiple schools, universities and colleges in the city, whilst the impact of the current pandemic will be hugely challenging to its retail, commercial and social sectors for years to come.
“In the midst of all this, the people of the Church of Ireland, along with other churches, are responding in a variety of ways in their local parishes, through the ministry of chaplaincy, a Centre of Mission, and through the presence and role of the Cathedral at the heart of the city.
“The challenge and opportunity is to get alongside these ministries and help to encourage and shape how we live and move and have our being in the city.”
Barry said that when he first arrived at Queen’s, he was struck by the name given to the chapel of the chaplaincy – the Church of the Resurrection. “We are resurrection people, and so whatever the challenges and obstacles, we are a people of life and of hope. That’s good news,” he commented.
The new archdeacon said he was looking forward to working with Bishop George.
“As the outgoing Archdeacon of Belfast he has left big shoes to fill!” Barry said. “Thankfully, I don’t have to fill them. I can just wear my own, and be very grateful for the fact that he’s in charge!”
He added that he is also looking forward to working with the Archdeacons of Connor, the Ven Dr Stephen McBride, and Dalriada, the Ven Paul Dundas. “I have been full of admiration for the manner in which our three archdeacons have worked alongside one another, with and for the greater good of the diocese, throughout an extended period of episcopal vacancy,” he said.
The new archdeacon will continue in his role as university chaplain. He said the work of university chaplaincy had been significantly impacted by the pandemic and the lockdown.
“Every physical aspect of our ministry on campus closed down. Our residential centre, café and worship space. We have been building up links with the parish of St Stephen’s and St Anne’s Cathedral in reaching out into city centre accommodation, colleges and universities, but every university building was shut.
“Behind all of these physical closures was the loss of the ‘student experience.’ Of being in lectures and tutorials, working in labs, socialising with friends, walking across a stage at graduation, planning for summer work and electives.
“I guess in March we thought we could all just ‘hunker down,’ get to June and pick up where we left off. That’s evidently not the case.”
Barry added that the confusion around A-Level results meant universities are still not sure how many students they can take, and potential students are not sure if they will have a place.
“The actual experience of being ‘on campus’ will change, and we have had to make decisions about a reduction in residential numbers, in our cafe offering, and what we can do with other churches and in university buildings,” he said.
“We can try and ‘get back’ to some sort of diluted version of what we were able to do before, or we can ‘grow forward’ and discover new ways of making disciples as we worship God, build Christian community, and reach out across our campuses. We’re opting for the latter.
“I remember going on a Tearfund visit to an HIV project in a slum area in Kampala, Uganda. Every morning their staff team would have a time of devotion and one of their refrains would be, ‘God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.’ I would look around and think – wow, if they can say that here, then we’ve no excuse. As I said, we’re resurrection people – life and hope!”
Bishop-designate George Davison said: “I am delighted that Barry has accepted my invitation to become Archdeacon of Belfast.
“Through the ministry that he already offers, Barry is known and appreciated by many in Connor Diocese.
“His lively faith, warm personality and strategic mind will be a great gift to the archdeaconry and the wider diocese as we negotiate the challenges of the current times and seek to assist parishes in the task of proclaiming Jesus as the hope of the world.”
There is no date yet for the installation of the new Archdeacon of Belfast.