DIOCESE OF CASHEL FERNS & OSSORY
DIOCESE OF CASHEL
TEMPLEMORE UNION OF PARISHES
THE LITURGICAL INTRODUCTION TO MINISTRY IN THE PARISHES OF
THE REVEREND ALISON SEYMOUR-WHITELEY (part-time Priest-in-Charge)
St Mary’s Parish Church, Templemore
Friday 20th March 2015
‘The Flower of Scotland’ provided the unusual and unique opening to this service of introduction for the Revd Alison Seymour-Whiteley and her prospective parishioners.
The reason being the presence of three Scottish bagpipers from the Templemore Pipe Band who played at the entrance as the clergy gathered. The pipers created a stirring sound as they marched up the aisle and played to the congregation from the Chancel. Then from the West Door the Revd Ian Coulter announced the first hymn ‘And can it be that I should gain’ as the clergy processed led by the Archdeacon of Ferns and the priest-elect. Hazel Tyner took over the accompaniment on the organ.
The collected local congregation was augmented by the wider diocese and local community, including the ecumenical representation of Fr Tom Dunne, the Very Revd Murphy from Drom and the Very Revd Canon Eugene Everard from Templemore. There were also sisters from the local Sisters of Mercy present. Cllr Joe Burke represented the local political sphere.
The Bishop welcomed everyone and made special mention of those who had travelled from the Diocese of Clogher where the Seymour-Whiteleys had previously ministered before moving to England. He acknowledged all those who had prepared this evening: the music, the piping, the hospitality, the decoration of the church and the preparation of the rectory. Also those who had looked after the parish liturgically and otherwise through the vacancy period, Charles Wallace and others, and the very significant ministry of Ian Coulter.
One also thinks, continued the Bishop, of those who were not here, especially the previous incumbent who by custom is not present on such an occasion. Thoughts are therefore with the Revd Peter Cole-Baker and indeed the Bishop had been talking to him earlier in the day.
Since he is not the immediate past incumbent it was good to welcome the Revd Canon Tom Sherlock to the gathering.
The Bishop underlined the word part-time and this had been discussed with the parish and he hoped it would work fruitfully provided that there would be measure of respect for boundary. Alison will not be available every single moment, except in case of emergencies.
The Archdeacon then presented the Revd Alison Seymour-Whiteley to be introduced by the Bishop who commended the prayers of the congregation and silence was kept.
Ministry of the Word:
The lessons were read by Mr Charlie Wallce and the Revd Richard Seymour-Whiteley and the Gospel by the Revd Ian Coulter.
The Sermon was given by the Venerable Chris Long, Archdeacon of Ferns.
The Archdeacon began with the tale of the clergyman who couldn’t deliver a sermon without it being written out in full. On one occasion he dropped all the pages in the pulpit and exclaimed ‘Well, we’ll just have to start again!’ Despite being uneasy without a script he stumbled through the address and afterwards, one elderly parishioner thanked him for being so helpful. ‘How so?’ enquired the rector,
You said: ‘Well, we’ll just have to start again.’ There are many occasions in life when we have to do just that, when we leave school, change jobs or move house. Alison is starting again and we welcome her warmly amongst us.
This is not Alison’s first experience of starting again. On leaving school she studied Art and Interior Design in London. She then worked in Education with a wide-ranging group of people from Pre-school age children, young people in schools to adult learners with disabilities and adults in University and College settings.
Alison is someone who wants other people to flourish, to grow to their fullest extent and to make the most of their opportunities using their own individual skills, abilities and interests.
As part of her training for ministry Alison worked in a parish in East Belfast. Many years previously, when the Archdeacon was studying theology at QUB, in the early 1970s, he spent 15 months working in the same parish.
After East Belfast, and ordination in Clogher Diocese and subsequent work in the Cathedral parishes there Alison eventually felt called to Chaplaincy and has been working in Mental Health for the past three years. Archdeacon Chris Long was also a (Military) Chaplain for 23 years before coming to Enniscorthy 10 years ago!
In some respects Chaplaincy is different from the parochial ministry: very often chaplains work in an ecumenical way – with the advantage of opening up possibilities for ecumenical dialogue. So Alison has had a wide and rich experience of ministry – especially ministry with an emphasis on pastoral work. That said she will have much to learn about parochial ministry. She needs time and all the encouragement that is required.
But Alison has pastoral skills and experience to offer that many parochial clergy would envy.
Alison is married to Richard who was educated at the same theological college in Lincoln as the Archdeacon.
For two clergy couples there is an important issue here about days off and time off.
It is important that Alison and Richard are able to organise their work in such a way that these coincide or dovetail. Hopefully that can be managed.
Lent is a good time for all of us to make a new beginning, to, retain certain things while relinquishing other things. Christian living is about making a new beginning, constantly re-assessing our lives.
There is good in keeping a love for and a commitment to the family A loyalty to the church, or an employer A faith that is meaningful.
But equally, painful memories of failures, frustrations and hurt feelings, petty resentments, prejudices and guilt are best forgotten.
Lent is an excellent opportunity to pause, reflect, take stock and re- assess. We never stop growing: – in maturity, in wisdom, in experience and in faith.
Perhaps the question we need to be asking of ourselves is this: ‘What do I need to let go of in order to go forward with new growth?’ God bless you Alison in your new ministry.
The legalities having already been completed and Alison already licensed there remained for the Archdeacon to present Alison to the Bishop who introduced her to the congregation and commending her ministry, asked her to entrust to her a share in the care of God’s people here and invited her to serve as priest-in-charge of the parish.
The Bishop and Alison as priest-in-charge stood and faced the people as he presented her to the congregation as priest and pastor asking them to support and encourage her in her ministry, praying for her as she will pray for them to which they agreed and they welcomed her with enthusiastic applause.
There followed the ‘Charge’ to the congregation to be 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.
The Revd Máirt Hanley brought a bible from the pulpit; Lyla Stanley from Thurles presented a container of water from the font; Adrian Young from Templemore brought a copy of the Book of Common Prayer from the Prayer Desk; Dorothy Bradish from Templemore brought forward bread and wine; Mary Wallace from Templemore presented a vial of oil; Edward Dudley from Kilfithmone presented a towel representing the washing of feet; and the Very Revd Gerald Field, Dean of Cashel presented copies of the Diocesan Directory and finally Mervyn Bradish from Templemore as churchwarden brought forward the key of the church, the door of which is frequently open and which tradition the Bishop remarked, Alison would continue in a world of inclusivity and openness. The sign of Peace was exchanged by all.
Prayers of the People:
The Prayers of the People were led by Alison and who then announced the services for the Union for the following Sunday in all three churches.
The service concluded with the great Welsh hymn ‘Guide me O thy great Jehovah’. The Bishop quipped that Alison had chosen this before it was known that a key rugby match would be played the following Saturday between Ireland and Wales.
Maybe the Bishop hadn’t realised the implication of the Scottish pipers that opened the service! However, as we all know, the Saturday proved a exceptional day’s sport and culminated in Ireland’s favour!
Some words of welcome were then spoken by various representatives who welcomed Alison to the Union and wished her every happiness and the parish is very much looking forward to getting to know her.
Fr Eugene Everard spoke on behalf of the ecumenical community and offered a warm word of welcome and wished her a very pleasant and happy time in Templemore with much cooperation and coming together between the various communities.
Sister Rosario also welcomed Alison to the area and quoted some apt lines of poetry by Brendan Kennelly:
‘Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
That always seems about to give in
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion
Insists that we forever begin.’
This prompted the Bishop to recall his acquaintance of the said poet in TCD.
The Bishop concluded the words of welcome by saying that it was lovely to be greeting Alison this new chapter in Templemore and Richard in that ‘other county’! He hoped that while they will be sharing each other’s lives and will be complementing their ministries with ‘appropriate’ overlaps for after all, one being in the province of Munster in the county of Tipperary in the Diocese of Cashel, while the other in the province of Leinster in the county of Laois in the Diocese of Ossory. What could, speaking figuratively, be further apart?!
Referring to the manner in which he had contacted Alison and Richard re returning to Ireland the Bishop said it all happened after an initial approach, then a time lapse before the situation for both evolved here, then he duly and rather doubtfully perhaps left a second invitation on an answering machine in England and which has finally borne the fruits of endeavour for as the Bishop and his clergy greeted Alison outside the church afterwards he exclaimed, referring to appointments that ‘we are once again full!!’
Alison had also replied that she had resisted change all her life, from the time when her parents ran a refugee camp in their house so change was never ending. On coming home for the holidays she found packing cases in the hall which meant move and change. Despite being delighted with this change this one is also somewhat difficult moving everything back across the Irish Sea but he feels it is ‘coming home’ as she was ordained in the Church of Ireland. She thanked everyone for bringing all this about and looked forward to working with the parish.
Tea and refreshments were then served in the town at the Templemore Arms.