THE UNITED DIOCESE OF CASHEL FERNS & OSSORY
DIOCESE OF OSSORY
RATHDOWNEY UNION OF PARISHES
THE INSTITUTION TO THE INCUMBENCY OF
THE REVEREND RICHARD SEYMOUR-WHITELEY
St Andrew’s Church, Rathdowney
Sunday 22nd March 2015
The institution of the Revd Richard Seymour-Whiteley to Rathdowney took place on Sunday 22nd March 2015 with the Procession heralded by the hymn ‘O Jesus, I have promised,’ and the Bishop welcomed everyone: parishioners and those from the wider ecumenical and civic community. These included Fr Jackie Robinson, Cllr John King and Cllr Brendan Phelan all from Borris-in-Ossory. He welcomed especially those from Clogher who had travelled a second time in the weekend to support the new ministries of the Seymour-Whiteleys.
It was, he said, an historic occasion as it had been 38 years since there had last been a service of institution here, such was the long tenure of Archdeacon John Murray – perhaps a record. Since it is the custom that the previous incumbent be not present at this time, the Bishop had spoken to John during the day and assured all present of his good wishes.
The Bishop thanked all those who had been responsible for the evening’s service, the music with organist Ruth Wallace, the hospitality, the refurbishment of the rectory and the attention given to the parish during the vacancy by the Revd Victor Fitzpatrick.
The Bishop then at this Passiontide went on to lead the service celebrating the new ministry of Richard. The Archdeacon, the Ven. Andrew Orr presented Mr Seymour-Whiteley to the Bishop who commended him to the prayers of the congregation and when silence, better than any words, was kept.
Ministry of the Word
The lessons were read by John Thompson from Rathdowney and the Revd Victor Fitzpatrick from Kilcooley and the Gospel by the Revd Dr Stella Durand.
In his address Archdeacon Andrew Orr spoke of the inevitable connection always to be found in the Church of Ireland. Richard was Rector of Greyabbey in the Ards Peninsula, where Andrew’s grandfather was Rector for 30 years in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.
Andrew continued with the story of a number of council members discussing the qualities needed for an incumbent: ‘What we need’, one man said, ‘is someone who’ll lead us where we want to go’. No one challenged him in that huge flaw in his thinking – the call of the Christian community is not to go where we want but where God wants.
So, what is God’s call for this union of parishes: perhaps three ways in which Richard and the parish can begin to discern what the Spirit of God is saying.
First, there is ‘being here’. Nowhere else is the same, the parish has its own shared history, its own sense of itself, its ethos, its characters, its parish unity and even its parish disputes! Richard’s first task is to understand this. To be here. To visit, to walk the parish, so that he can see and be seen.
Also to listen: a three way process, a constant ‘trialogue’ between priest, people and God: to listen with respect to one another and to God, is at the essence of parish life. Richard comes to with many gifts: his musicianship as a singer and player of a variety of stringed instruments, and particularly as an artist. The parishioners will have to remember that Richard is not Archdeacon Murray and accept that Richard will not fulfil everything expected from him, expectations are not to be unrealistic, he will do things that some will not like, and not do things that others would like him to do.
In all of this he will have Alison to support him: occasionally in some sections of the Church this is seen as a problem, an issue to be managed. Not in this diocese. It can be a double blessing in the support both formal and informal and without getting in the other’s way.
Parishioners will quickly discover that Richard is a person of deep faith, with a rich life of daily prayer and devotion to the liturgy of the Church. In the weekly Eucharist, Richard will focus this community’s prayer and learning. It is Richard’s privilege to serve in the most profound way and through our Lord’s Supper to offer his ministry also.
Nothing remains the same. God calls us onward to face these changes. We must follow where He leads. It’s a challenge, but it’s also immensely fulfilling, and also meant to be enjoyable. The Christian calling is a calling to a joyful life. So Richard and parishioners, get out there and enjoy yourselves. God bless this parish and its new rector – the best is yet to be.
‘Signing the Contract’
This Institution Service is the nearest there is under God to a contract between priest and people in terms of their mutual responsibilities and duties.
The first part encompasses the public, legal side of the occasion. The Bishop read the act of institution prepared for him by the registrar and with declarations and signings completed, the Bishop presented the Revd Richard Seymour-Whiteley to the congregation and commended his ministry, asking him to accept a share in the care of God’s people here in Rathdowney and surrounds and invited him to serve as Rector of the cure of parishes.
The Bishop and Richard then stood and faced the people as the Bishop presented him to the congregation as priest asking them to support and encourage him in his ministry, praying for him as he will pray for them, to which they agreed and they applauded him enthusiastically.
Then followed the more pastoral and, in symbolic language, the teaching and sacramental as well as pastoral ministry of the new incumbent is contemplated. The congregation is called to witness to the love of Christ and to serve others in the name of Christ. This is shown by presenting symbols of the teaching, pastoral and sacramental ministry of a priest by members of the congregation.
Philip Thompson from Aghaboe brought a bible from the pulpit; Sarah Handcock from Rathdowney presented a container of water from the font; Hazel Moynan from Donaghmore brought a copy of the Book of Common Prayer from the Prayer Desk; Ray Galbraith brought forward bread and wine; Janet Coyley from Rathsaran presented a vial of oil; Carys Davies from Rathsaran presented a towel representing the washing of feet; and the Revd Máirt Hanley presented copies of the Diocesan Directory and finally Philip Dreaper churchwarden in Rathdowney brought forward a key of the church. The Bishop reminded the new rector the importance of open doors, of inclusivity and welcome and witness and through his own discipline of prayer, to enter and pray publicly, receive the key and let the doors of the church be open for all.
The Prayers of the People were led by Richard and who then announced a service of Holy Communion the following Sunday at 10.45 a.m. in Rathdowney.
Following the conclusion of the service some words of welcome were spoken in the church. Olive Moynan on behalf of the Union paid words of welcome to Richard to the parish and to his new home along with Alison. She thanked all the volunteers for all the work in preparation for the new rector. She hoped that he would settle in well after the move from England and that he can take time to relax as well as taking up his duties within the parish.
Fr Jackie Robinson from Borris-in-Ossory spoke on behalf on the Catholic community and on behalf of Fr Maher from Rathdowney unable to be present. He recalled the great times he had had with John and Irene Murray and looked forward to that good relationship continuing, being all together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Bishop then invited Mr William Allen to say a few words from Richard’s previous ministry in the Diocese of Clogher, Down and Dromore. He unreservedly said that Richard’s sincerity, sensitivity is unparalleled.
In reply Richard spoke on behalf of himself and his wife for the warm welcome afforded. Having arrived in Dublin they had made their way without problem to Rathdowney and straightaway felt ‘at home’ among a wonderful land and a wonderful people. They look forward to living and working and serving for many years amongst the parishes, developing and understanding and getting to know everyone through their ministry.
The evening concluded with refreshments offered in the adjacent parish hall afterwards.