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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop’s November 2020 Letter



 Dear Friends

 As I write in mid-October, on a Sunday when once again public worship is suspended, one comes to the sad conclusion that it has become virtually impossible at present to plan anything other than Zoom meetings.

It is impossible to anticipate what the surrounding circumstances will be even by the time this letter appears in print. It may well be that my visits to our 150 places of worship, due to commence on November 12th, concerning which I wrote at length last month, will have to become an entirely online event…or it may not.

(Note: This is going ahead online – information about the 150 Virtual Tour will be available on this website shortly)


At present in the Diocesan office we are working on the plans for an online meeting of the Diocesan Synod at the end of November or beginning of December.

Members will be informed fully of all the emerging arrangements, and the holding of such a synod will certainly be an interesting and historic event in our shared life. As I write we still await returns from a few parishes concerning who has actually been elected to the synod at the ‘Easter’ Vestries. And in this context I make an important point – it is now the law of the land that bodies such as ourselves which have a duty of accountability and good governance may now hold their business meetings at all levels remotely, even if their own internal rules have never provided for this.

In fact, not only have we the freedom to hold such meetings; we have an obligation to do so while traditional – style meetings remain impossible or unwise. Whether at parish or central church level, it is our responsibility to provide an online platform where the voices of members and contributors may reasonably be heard. The fact that 100 per cent of our people may not be able to access such platforms does not diminish our obligation to provide for, and actually hold, meetings using an online format. Thus even the General Synod itself is likely to meet online… as a matter of lawful obligation…by the end of 2020.


It will be quite an experience to be part of a ‘remote’ gathering of around 600 people all over Ireland, trying to do the business of the synod which includes, of course, legislating for the needs of the church.

Our thoughts are with the four Honorary Secretaries of the General Synod who have to arrange it all, with help from the staff of Church House Dublin who are themselves mostly working from home. Among the Honorary Secretaries is Ms Hazel Corrigan from our own diocese. And not only will the General Synod itself meet remotely … it is quite likely that the same will apply to the continuing proceedings of the Electoral College to choose a bishop for the vacant diocese of Clogher. Changed and strange times indeed!


I shall not at this stage dare to mention Christmas in any significant way, but obviously next month it will be at the forefront of our minds. Come what may, it is going to be different, and indeed difficult at a liturgical, pastoral and emotional level. We may be far more dependent on striving, as it were, to hear the eternal music of the angels than on hearing live human carolling.

In this context our Diocesan Communications Officer /Magazine Editor Margaret Hawkins is working on a marvellous project to produce an online version of the Christmas hymn ‘It came upon the midnight clear’ through which voices from every parish will be aligned in cyberspace with the songs of the angels. No doubt she will write more about this herself, but essentially voices from all 32 parochial units in the diocese will be brought together to share in a 32-line hymn that recalls when the angels themselves sang the first Christmas carol to the listening shepherds.


Amidst it all we try to continue the steadfast life and witness of the diocese, which brings its own changes of personnel. Bunclody rejoiced and Waterford lamented as news broke of the nomination of the Reverend Trevor Sargent to the incumbency of Bunclody Union. It is marvellous that we will have Trevor’s many gifts and rich experience available in the diocese for we hope many years to come, and the Institution in Bunclody is likely to be on February 5th.


The Reverend Canon Ian Coulter and the Reverend Canon Ian Cruickshank have been appointed to the chapters of St Canice’s and St Edan’s respectively and we warmly congratulate them. Both epitomise fruitful and varied service to the wider diocese as well as to their own parochial contexts, and one has served in a non-stipendiary context and the other in a stipendiary one. At the moment we cannot be sure when their installations might take place, but (to avoid any doubt!) their canonical titles can correctly be used from the moment of appointment!


At the October online meeting of the Diocesan Council it was announced that Ms Elizabeth Keyes is to be the new Diocesan Secretary in succession to Mrs Denise Hughes.

Elizabeth is already well known to many of us particularly through her years as administrator at St Canice’s Cathedral. She will bring to the diocesan office great gifts of commitment, experience and skill. Above all she has a deep instinct already for the atmosphere of the diocese and how, in its sometimes multi-layered way, the Church of Ireland actually ‘works’. In the cathedral she is used to juggling a myriad of administrative challenges simultaneously yet always dealing with enquirers and visitors with cheerfulness and patience! We are sure that Elizabeth will work extremely fruitfully in the coming years with Ms Rita Cammaer (who continues to be very much the public friendly face of the office particularly in the financial side of its work), Ms Margaret Hawkins, our indefatigable DCO and Mr Leslie Moynan our meticulous Diocesan Accountant. It is a cheerful little team, very much at the heart of the life of the diocese, working daily too with myself and the two archdeacons.


Denise Hughes will overlap for a period with Elizabeth Keyes after the latter’s arrival in the office in December, as the transfer (if it be possible!) of Denise’s encyclopedic knowledge of diocesan affairs and situations will take some time. Happily, Denise will still be very much ‘around’ well into 2021 – also retaining involvement in, for example, the Magazine and Media committee and in certain tasks she does for me personally, including the See House Committee.

That said, Denise’s phased ‘retirement’ from her main duties is truly the end of an era in the history of the diocese, and I personally find myself filled with a blend of sadness at her departure, gratitude for her service and almost disbelief that we can manage without her! Of these things I will say rather more in another issue.


Finally, we are delighted that the next President of the Methodist Church in Ireland (taking up office next summer) will be our very good friend Waterford’s Methodist minister the Reverend Dr Sahr Yambasu.

As readers will know, Irish Anglicans have a unique covenantal relationship with the Methodists and I myself (an alumnus of Wesley College Dublin after all!) am the Church of Ireland co-chair of the Covenant Council which oversees that relationship. Thus to have the President as a near neighbour as well as a good friend offers all sorts of hopes and possibilities. Sahr’s many friends in the Church of Ireland in the South East warmly congratulate him, and I look forward to his being an Episcopal Minister with whom I can enjoy rich fellowship.


 Michael Cashel Ferns + Ossory