300+ people gathered in Shillelagh Parish Church for the ordination as deacon of former Minister of State, Trevor Sargent.
It felt like a wedding – a village church standing sentry on a hill, stone and grass steeped in August sunshine, white marquee flanking the scene.
Cars snaked up the road too, to guided parking places, and everywhere, people were gathering – clergy, parishioners, guests, well-wishers – walking up steps and under arch, each adding a little wave of sound and splash of colour.
Photographers were there too but in this case they were from the press because this was not a wedding but an ordination with a difference. This time, a former politician, Trevor Sargent, was being ordained a deacon in the Church of Ireland. The last politician to cause such a stir in Shillelagh Parish Church in County Wicklow was probably William Ewart Gladstone who ‘attended Divine Worship’ here in 1877 as the guest of Coollattin’s Lord Fitzwilliam.
A former politician’s ordination is an unprecedented event in the church’s annals according to Bishop Michael Burrows who would preside over this 2017 event.
As the crowds gathered early to get a seat, Trevor arrived, white collar and black shirt looking crisp and new on their first airing. The word ‘Reverend’ was getting a tentative airing too in the middle of hugs and handshakes to celebrate the day that was in it. It wouldn’t be long now…
Going in, he was accompanied by his wife, Aine Neville, his parents Mildred and Harold, and family members and friends from the many fields in which he was and is involved – civic, educational, political, environmental and ecumenical.
By four p.m. it had begun – the one-and-a-half hour service that would ordain Trevor to the Diaconate in the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory, the first stepping stone to – and the cornerstone of – priesthood.
It was a bi-lingual service, something to be expected when the Irish language is close to Trevor, a former school principal’s, heart.
Siuil, Siuil, i solas De…
Walk/Walk/In the Light of God…
The day that was the culmination of much work and preparation by student, parish and Diocese had finally come – a red mitre and cope (cape) day, too, for the Bishop.
Trevor was then presented by his sponsors.
Yes, those responsible for his selection and training were satisfied that he was ready.
Yes, I believe that God has called me.
The Bible readings came next. Isaiah. Romans. Mark…
Here am I; send me!
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…
And then the man who preached because he had been influential in the ordinand’s spiritual journey took to the pulpit – the Reverend Canon Cecil Hyland.
“The journey from Minister of State to minister of God sounds like a massive leap,” he said, “but both are based on the idea of service…and service is central to Trevor’s life.”
He talked of how the ordained ministry always comes out of our faith community and is always exercised within that community and of how ministry is the task of all of us.
He also spoke of how Trevor will bring the ordained ministry many insights, skills and talents.
At a time when the world cries out for a vision of hope and healing his final message was: Dedicate yourself and be yourself – good advice for a deacon and for all of us.
Then it was time for the Creed and more music, Newman this time – Firmly I believe and truly… then prayers and congregation joining in with choir and trumpet before all focus turned to the aisle for the declarations.
Will you strive to…?
Will you be faithful…?
Will you accept…?
Will you promote…?
By the help of God, I will.
Then it was the congregation’s turn. Would we uphold him in his ministry? A resounding response. WE WILL!
Then the intercessions for the candidate and the whole church sung while ordinand, Bishop and Dean were on their knees.
The soothing notes smoothed the path from prayer to prayer.
Ky-rie, ky-rie el-ei-son…
Lord, have mercy…
Next came the act of ordination – the laying on of hands.
And we give you thanks that you have called this your servant, whom we ordain in your name, to share the work of ministry entrusted to your Church…
Another resounding response – the collective AMEN!
Next came Trevor being vested with this stole and the New Testament being given to him as to each new deacon and applause this time to echo the resounding responses and lift the roof and heart.
After that it was the peace and Eucharist administered by some of the many clergy and diocesan readers in attendance and the sweet skill of Stephen Adams on organ and Anthony Nolan on trumpet to add flourish to Be Thou My Vision and Alleluia.
At the church door the crowds then filed out to impart smiles, hugs and handshakes, celebrating the day that was in it.
There were photographs taken for posterity too and refreshments served in the marquee across the road amid chat and good humour with the church standing backdrop – building and people – to this new chapter in the life of an individual, a parish and a Diocese.
Congratulations to the Reverend Trevor Sargent, ordained on 26 August 2017.
Here are some images from this day of celebration and links to radio interviews done by Trevor the following Monday:
South East Radio (click on this and on Morning Mix for Monday 28th August 2017