My dear friends,
One of the features emerging from the discussions on how - as a diocese - we should face into the future has been the conviction that the pastoral care of the people of our parishes can no longer be regarded as a matter for the clergy only. It is not that this will not continue to be a primary aspect of the work of clergy but rather that in the future we should seek to understand it as a ministry shared between clergy and laity. It is not a development into which every parish may wish to launch itself immediately, but it is becoming increasingly clear that many people are “up for it” in a way that would have seemed inconceivable a generation ago.
We now have structures in place in Armagh Diocese that make this a real practicality for those who wish to be part of the venture. The Revd Elizabeth Cairns and Revd Andy Heber have already undertaken the training of lay pastoral visitors in different areas of the diocese and I have had the privilege of commissioning those who have been trained. Such a ministry is obviously not something for everybody (and clearly care must be taken in a discernment process for individuals before training even begins), and it is equally true that not every parishioner would necessarily appreciate receiving such ministry, but the opportunity is there and both Elizabeth and Andy have expressed willingness to continue training courses should these be seen as of value to others. My hope is that parishes and individuals may see such a ministry as an important asset to the spiritual and pastoral life of the diocese.
All that we do should be undergirded by prayer and, some time ago, I was asked by a number of people if the “Archbishops’ Roadshows” this autumn might be on the theme of prayer and praying. I will be taking prayer as our theme at the roadshows, although I can make no claim to be an expert on prayer – who can? – and the dates will be as previously announced. The roadshows will be at the three (now usual) venues over three weeks in November, with a gap of a week after the second week, and each evening session will begin at 8.00pm. The first week will be the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 3rd, 4th and 5th and November, the second the same weekdays of 10th, 11th and 12th November, with the final week being (again Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) the 24th, 25th and 26th November. The Tuesday meetings will in Mullabrack, the Wednesdays in Killyman, and the Thursdays in Derryloran parish centres. I hope in the first week to look at “ways of praying”, in the second week the Dean of Armagh will introduce us to ideas of contemplative prayer, and in the final week I will lead a session on the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that we all say regularly but perhaps need to think about a little more as we say it.. I look forward to meeting many of you there.
Earlier in the summer, Canon Jim Campbell retired from the stipendiary ministry. We thank him for his wonderful ministry in St Mark’s Parish Portadown over 14 years and wish him and Barbara every blessing and happiness in retirement. Revd Derek Dunn is also leaving Acton and Drumbanagher after six years of ministry there as a Bishop’s Curate and again, we thank him for the energy and initiative he brought to the life of those parishes. Finally, it is a pleasure to welcome to the diocese Peter Smyth whom I ordained to the diaconate - as an intern deacon – on Sunday 13 September for ministry over these coming months in St Columba’s Parish Portadown. Please pray for him and for those who will be responsible for his continuing formation in ministry in the time ahead.