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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop’s Monthly letter – December




This month Bishop Burrows concentrates chiefly on the topic of Ordained Local Ministry.


Dear Friends


I mentioned last month that in the December issue I would say a little more about the matter of Ordained Local Ministry.

It has recently become clear to the House of Bishops, and to other bodies such as the General Synod Commission on Ministry, that there is a need to nurture and affirm authentic vocations to ordained ministry that may not be easily lived out according to patterns currently available to us, such as full-time stipendiary ministry. Moreover, such full-time ministry (as we already well know) is not always contextually appropriate in every parochial situation, not least in numerically smaller parishes of a rural diocese where population is scattered.


There will be times when, guided by the Holy Spirit, a local worshipping community or cluster of such communities may identify, encourage and call forth someone from their own midst who, subject to the wider discernment processes of the diocese, might be trained and ordained to provide a ministry of Sacrament and Word essentially in their own area. This would be a voluntary ministry locally exercised under the oversight of the bishop and other appropriate clergy, but yet functioning totally subject to the principles of catholic order and discipline.


It is this sort of thinking which has given rise in recent times to a decision by the Church of Ireland to select, train and ordain fit persons to serve in a ministry that is visibly local, but never exercised without awareness of a bigger picture. Candidates will be selected at diocesan level (albeit with the assistance of outside and objective wisdom) and they will pursue a course of largely regionally  delivered training which, while robust in itself, should not be unduly compared in either content or length with the Master’s degree programme pursued particularly by aspiring stipendiary ordinands.


Vocation to OLM is to be seen as something distinctive and having its own integrity. It is therefore not envisaged that there will be easy transfer from it to full time ministry. Any persons aspiring to such transfer will receive careful scrutiny, and would be required to offer for Selection anew at Central church level, and thereafter to pursue a full academic programme at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.


OLM if clearly understood offers great potential for the enrichment of parochial and sacramental life in a diocese such as our own. Obviously the concept is somewhat experimental at this stage, and much will be learned from our initial experiences of implementation. That said, we truly hope and believe that there are people, perhaps a small number initially, ‘out there’ in the diocese who may consider this to be a calling for them, or indeed who may be encouraged to think thus by other faithful and perceptive people who themselves also have an acute awareness of local pastoral needs. Some aspirants may already have served in a form of Reader ministry … Others may not.

I would ask readers of these words to reflect carefully on how the advent of OLM might possibly affect and enrich their particular contexts. There may be individuals who are already talking quietly, honestly and searchingly with their rectors about a possible vocation to this form of service. There may be people who have followed the debate about this potential manifestation of ministry in the General Synod and elsewhere, and who have clear ideas about how it should function among us. All these are the sort of people the diocesan Director of Ordinands, Dean Paul Draper, would love to meet. Indeed, he would like these conversations to begin in the fairly near future if we are now to bring the vision of OLM to life in this diocese.

We need to emphasise that OLM is exciting and heartening for us and I have great faith in its capacity to work fruitfully. However there have to be a few caveats. Not everyone who expresses an interest in pursuing this will necessarily be ordained … As with all forms of ordained ministry there will be a demanding process of discernment which will include psychological testing of character and aptitude. OLM is not meant to diminish or impede the rich variety of lay ministries, including liturgical ministries, which already exist among us. And it is not being implied that more traditional parochial ministry will suddenly cease to be the norm in a large number of our parishes! … far from it. OLM will complement the many styles of ordained ministry we already have, from full-time incumbency, to part-time stipendiary, to diocesan-based non-stipendiary. But the emphasis here will be upon the local, upon the capacity of local communities in appropriate circumstances to raise up ministry for themselves, subject to the ratification and authentication of the whole Church of God in the diocese.

It will certainly be a new and exciting challenge for me to oversee the early stages of the implementation of OLM in these parts and in due course I hope to conduct the first ordinations of qualified candidates. To all this I look forward with much enthusiasm and joy.


It is delightful to note the appointment of the Reverend Ian Cruickshank to Kilanne Union – it will be great to have him in the diocese once again. The Institution service will be in Kilanne church at 19.30 on Friday December 15 and the preacher will be the Reverend William Bennett.


As we think of the discipleship and service of the faithful departed I personally am conscious of three friends who have left this world in recent weeks. Gordon Bradley of Stradbally Union gave extraordinary service not only to his parish but to the wider Church of Ireland over several decades. Truly he was one of our ‘leading laypeople’, committed to the good governance of the Church, generous in his stewardship of his time and talent, willing not only to take on demanding tasks but also to see them through. At the Standing Committee of the General Synod he was regarded as a voice of common sense, a man with his finger always on the pulse of the spiritual life of rural Ireland. Pearl Deacon was a committed and cherished Diocesan Reader based in Kilanne Union, epitomising how we would not be what we are without dedicate and devout lay ministry. Poppy Bolton was a talented and inspirational character in her own right … Over many years she and her highly scholarly husband Dean Deric Bolton made a contribution to the life of Leighlin Cathedral and parish that will indeed go down in history.


Finally I renew my sincere thanks to all who generously and enthusiastically supported me during Route 66 … Total contributions are now nearing the thirty thousand mark which is seasonal good news particularly for the many women we strive to empower through the gift of literacy. I much appreciated the work of the Revd Patrick Burke and Ms Margaret Hawkins in providing an excellent supplement with the last issue of the magazine chronicling all the peregrinations.

To the Editor, and to you all – a very blessed and happy Christmas. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I look forward to being part of the festal worship of Clonenagh, Dunleckney, and Portlaoise/Ballyfin


Michael Cashel Ferns & Ossory