DIPPING TOES BACK IN THE WATER
I write as churches begin, cautiously and carefully, to reopen for public worship. By the time you read these words the situation should have evolved significantly and (one prays) positively. Yet one is almost reluctant at this stage to use the future tense in relation to all forward planning!
One is profoundly thankful for the resilience, generosity, imagination and indeed ingenuity which have been displayed in so many areas of diocesan life over the past year and more. It is too early to assess the degree to which we will have been changed in the long term by what we have experienced …. the degree to which worship will remain online or ‘hybrid’ as opposed to in-person, and the extent to which there will be understandable continuing nervousness about aspects of public gathering. We can only proceed cautiously yet hopefully, sensibly yet cheerfully. Nothing can ever rival the atmosphere and the joy of authentic gathering and the sense of participation that goes with it …. but we must be sensitive to those who will remain apprehensive for some time yet.
As I write the pace of vaccine rollout, the easing of restrictions and the sense of impending summer are changing the public mood…. but probably for years yet we will be ‘living with’ this virus and its almost inevitable variants. And those who are young today will one day tell their grandchildren of how life was experienced and transformed in ‘the pandemic year’.
The Reverend Alex Morahan licensed for ministry in this diocese
By the time this letter appears, the Reverend Alex Morahan will have been licensed for ministry as a priest in the context of this diocese and the Church of Ireland. Alex has in recent times been a most effective, sensitive and delightfully distinctive presence as full-time chaplain in Kilkenny College and it is good that he will now enrich that ministry as he resumes his priestly ministry in an Anglican setting. The licensing ceremony will have been of necessity attended by few, but we know it will prove to be of significance for many.
Ordinations of the Reverends Mike O’Meara and Ger James as deacons
Again, by the time you read these words, the Reverend Mike O Meara and the Reverend Ger James will have been made deacon on the Feast of Pentecost for service in the context of Ordained Local Ministry in Cashel Union and Carlow Union respectively. These were ordinations postponed twice – they should have occurred in November of last year, and then at the beginning of January ‘21. However, we pray now that our two new deacons will be richly endowed with the Spirit for a manifestation of ordained ministry which is still relatively new among us, but full of potential. The ceremonies themselves will have been somewhat ‘low key’, but their significance again is great.
I had already noted in previous letters here that I felt that the vast majority of Confirmations in the diocese would be in the final quarter of the year. That remains my view, and I hope it will soon be possible to offer dates to parishes and clergy with reasonable confidence. Of course, I must first try to attend to a few Confirmations still, like the Ordinations, held over from last year. At the moment my capacity to plan is somewhat constrained (I hope temporarily) by public health advice to the authorities of the various churches in Ireland that ceremonies such as Confirmations should not yet take place. There is clearly an assumption or a fear (and who am I to judge whether it is justified…) that such events may be followed by the kind of sociable gatherings where current public health requirements might, even with the best of intentions, be difficult to uphold.
Other impending changes
In the next issue I will write further of some other impending changes amongst those involved in ministry in our dioceses and in the life of our schools.
Summer is coming
The summer always seems to bring with it a good deal of adjustment …. meanwhile I do hope that same summer offers many of you, perhaps in the context of a staycation, some measure of refreshment and change after all we have been through. It will be interesting to see the incoming staycation impact on our part of Ireland and indeed on our own parishes; in saying this I am keenly conscious how, most notably in our coastal parishes, much employment depends on tourism and hospitality.
With limited attendance levels it may be more challenging than usual for some of our churches with a traditional ministry to visitors to fling wide their doors (although letting plenty of fresh air into our buildings when people gather will be a particularly appropriate and healthy thing!) but one hope that parishes will in some measure be able to reconnect with their visitor ministry.
Toe back in the water
As I begin to move quietly around the diocese again over the summer, I certainly plan to find myself back in some of our seaside churches. Kilkenny is a wonderful place to live, but (like many people) I long to see and smell the sea, to hear the gulls, to put my toe back in the water. And that last phrase is about the best metaphor for all we will strive to do, cautiously and carefully as I said at the start, in the coming months.
Wishing you a summer of blessing and hope
Michael Cashel Ferns and Ossory