The congregation was swelled to capacity for Choral Evensong on Sunday 23 September 2018
at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. This was no ordinary service,
this was a celebration to mark 750 years of the present cathedral building.
The Dean of Armagh, the Very Reverend Gregory Dunstan welcomed those present –
the many visitors, clergy, readers and special guests including The Earl of Caledon, Lord Lieutenant for County Armagh; Councillor Julie Flaherty, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon
and the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, the preacher at the service.
The Cathedral Choir led the worship, directed by the Master of Choristers – Dr Stephen Timpany and the Assistant Organist – Revd Dr Peter Thompson. The Bible Readings were brought by Lady Sheil, a Lay Canon of the Cathedral and Dom Mark-Ephrem Nolan, an Ecumenical Canon. Prayers of Intercession were led by
Diocesan and Parish Readers representing the 6 Rural Deaneries in the Armagh Diocese.
For his Sermon, Bishop Stephen Cottrell used the following text from Hebrews chapter 12 and verses 22 -24:
“You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.
You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.”
Bishop Stephen spoke of how it was “profoundly moving to be standing and proclaiming the gospel in the footsteps of St Patrick” and he said “What an inspiration, simply to stand at the plaque in your Cathedral with the name of Patrick at the top left-hand corner and the name Richard at the bottom right. This alone demonstrates the continuity and the particularity of our faith. The God who is everywhere has chosen to be somewhere. And when we find God somewhere – even here in this cathedral this afternoon – we can then find God everywhere. The very stones sing out.” But he reminded us he had been asked to speak about the future life and witness of this Cathedral Church and its part in the mission of God’s church in this land in the years which are to come. Bishop Stephen went on to say “But there is a big challenge. As I told the Chapter of Peterborough Cathedral all those years ago: the stones that sing out the glory of God are speaking in a language that fewer and fewer people understand. People growing up in Ireland today have less and less knowledge of the Christian tradition and less contact with the Christian church. Therefore, when they do encounter the Christian faith and when they come into our great buildings, they are not able read or understand what they say and they are not able to interpret the stones. Therefore, the first task of mission for this Cathedral Church and for every church is to translate the Christian faith into the languages and cultures of the people we are called to serve.”
In closing Bishop Stephen left the congregation with these words “This is the way we will really engage with the world. It will be through the beauty of the gospel, and the beauty of Christ, reflected and communicated through the beauty of our own lives. Whether the church grows or not is of course a matter for God. He is the Lord of the harvest not us! But in the scriptures, fruitfulness always flows from faithfulness. Therefore I can think of no better way to celebrate the 750th anniversary of this cathedral than by asking you, the people of God in this place, churches together in this land, and people of goodwill from all walks of life who care about the life of this nation, these islands and this continent of Europe, to give yourselves to the task of translating the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ into the languages and cultures of today; and into your own life, so that your life may speak of the beauty of the gospel and sing out; for the very best way of communicating the Christian gospel is through a Christian life
and you are called to be living stones .”
For the full text of the sermon click here
Dean Gregory Dunstan, Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Julie Flaherty (Lord Mayor),
the Earl of Caledon (Lord Lieutenant for Co Armagh) & Archbishop Richard Clarke