Report by the Rev Clifford Skillen
You may see some familiar faces in the photo above! The Retired Clergy Association (Northern Ireland) recently held its first meeting for over two and a half years, when 25 members came together in the parish church of St Philip and St James, Holywood, Co Down.
The guest speaker was the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Rev Andrew Forster, who was brought up in Holywood and was delighted to be returning to his boyhood roots.
The morning began with a service of Holy Communion, celebrated by the Associate Vicar of Holywood, the Rev Ken McGrath, who welcomed members and passed on the apologies of the Vicar, Canon Gareth Harron, who was attending a Diocesan Clergy and Leaders’ Day Conference.
This was followed by light refreshments, when members were able to catch up with all their news since the last meeting prior to the first lockdown in March 2020.
Taking as his theme ‘From Holywood to Derry,’ Bishop Forster charted, in a compelling, engaging and humorous address, his personal and ordained journey from a chorister in Holywood parish choir to his election as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in 2019.
He spoke of the positive influence and impact on his life of family, friends, church and school as he was growing up in Holywood.
He also described a number of significant events and circumstances in the course of his ordained ministry in the varied settings in which he had served, both north and south of the border, events which he identified as personally important ‘models of incarnational ministry.’
The Association’s committee has planned a programme of events for the remainder of this year, including an outing to Enniskillen in April and the resumption of the annual buffet lunch in Tullyglass House in May, and members hope to entertain their southern counterparts from the Dublin and Glendalough Retired Clergy Fellowship when they visit Portadown on a date to be arranged in October or November.
The chairperson of the Retired Clergy Association, the Rev Canon Ken Smyth, said: “It was great to see the Association up and running again after our enforced break and to welcome both existing and some new members to the meeting.
“We got off to a good start with Bishop Andrew, whose talk was entertaining, informative and very encouraging to us all.”
(For further information about the Association’s work and future events, contact the Honorary Secretary, the Ven. Donald McLean, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).