Irish news digest – July 1

Reports on church life throughout Ireland

 St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, re-opens

St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen (Photo above) was one of the first churches in Northern Ireland to reopen on Monday, 29th June following the relaxation of Coronavirus Covid 19 lockdown restrictions.

A service of Morning Prayer was held on the Feast Day of St. Peter and Dean Kenneth Hall said it was great to be preaching to a congregation in church once again.

A range of measures were introduced for the first in-church service with signs at the entrance advising those not feeling well to remain at home and sanitising stations and signage to enforce two metres social distancing throughout the Cathedral building.

A congregation of 95 people gathered at the 11am service and among those attending was the First Minister, Arlene Foster.

In his introductory remarks, Dean Hall publicly thanked the First Minister and her team at Stormont for leading Northern Ireland through the crisis even though they had to make some difficult and unpopular decisions.

He said he was glad to reopen St Macartin’s Cathedral on the Feast Day of St. Peter, the person whom Christ founded his church of St. Peter, and to allow people back to have fellowship with each other and with the Lord. Although they had been worshipping online for the past few months, it was not the same, he said.

‘Gathering for worship in God’s house means so much to so many people,’ he added.

He said they were thinking of those who were shielding and unable to attend and thoughts and prayers were with them.

He told the congregation, “This building may be nice but it is only a building you are the church.

“It is true, when each service is over the church leaves the building to love and serve the Lord!

“This past 15 weeks you the church, were very active in worship by the viewing of our broadcast services – some weeks viewing was four times the number of worshippers we would have out at all our Sunday Services. So thank you for you continued support and the kind comments to Jane and myself.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jane McKinley for enhancing our worship over each Sunday and who even took time off work to sing again today.

He also thanked William Holmes and Ronne Carson for helping with broadcasting technology.

Bishop Storey – The Irish Church on Mission – on Alpha Ireland today

Alpha Ireland’s Explore Series continues today, Wednesday July 1 at 1.00pm. The speaker today in the popular Zoom webinar series will be the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Most Revd Pat Storey.

Bishop Storey will speak on the topic ‘The Irish Church on Mission’ and will talk about her diocese and how Alpha is a key part of her plan for leadership, discipleship, and evangelisation.

You can register for the webinar on the Alpha Ireland website – https://ireland.alpha.org/explore-series

Dublin & Glendalough Church Review free online

The July/August 2020 issue of The Church Review is available FREE online now. The summer edition features a host of stories from the United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough.

Among the highlights are details of a new programme set up to assist people emerging from domestic abuse. CRiTiCall is coordinated by a number of organisations including the Community Office of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

How young adults have connected with their faith during lockdown is the focus of a survey by the Foundational Leadership Programme which as yielded interesting results. Dublin & Glendalough Youth Council is also looking at the pandemic and equipping teenagers to deal with it.

The cover story features Holy Trinity Rathmines’ community art exhibition. Straffan parishioner Dee Huddleston’s 5k a day for Christian Aid is also documented. There is also a report from the Dublin community of Irishtown and Ringsend which has been revitalised by a fund created to combat social issues arising from the pandemic.

The Revd Robert Marshall continues to chart Disestablishment in the year of the 150th anniversary. And Canon Patrick Comerford’s monthly column continues.

The backbone of every edition is news from each parish in the dioceses.

Where possible, subscribers and parishioners will receive an email with a link to the Church Review. However, it is free for all to read so please do share this with everyone you feel may be interested. You can read it below or use this link if you wish to send it to someone:
[ https://online.flipbuilder.com/xwed/oysd/mobile/index.html#p=26 ]

Armada tree falls in Connor parish

The area around the Spanish Chestnut tree is cordoned off for heath and safety reasons.

A little piece of history came crashing down in the early hours of Thursday June 25, in the form of an ancient Spanish Chestnut Tree in the graveyard at St Patrick’s Church, Cairncastle, Diocese of Connor.
The tree, also known as the ‘Armada tree,’ has graced the graveyard for centuries.

It is widely believed that the tree grew on the spot where a shipwrecked Spanish sailor was buried at the time of the Armada. According to local folklore, the sailor’s body was washed up in Ballygally Bay and brought up to the churchyard for burial. The tree then grew from a chestnut in his pocket – chestnuts were eaten by sailors to ward off scurvy on their long voyages.

It is certainly true that many Armada ships were wrecked off the coast of Ireland and the grave of another drowned Spanish sailor exists in nearby Glenarm. Analysis of the tree found it dates back to the 16th century, also giving credence to the local legend.

The Rev Philip Benson, rector of Kilwaughter and Cairncastle, said that CCTV footage showed the tree falling around 5.30am on Thursday. There was no wind at the time, and a tree surgeon has diagnosed that the ancient tree was suffering from root disease.

A popular attraction for tourists both local and from abroad, the area around tree has been cordoned off for health and safety reasons. “The tree has come to rest on top of a number of graves and headstones, so we need to act quickly,” said Philip. He added that families whose graves are affected have been advised of the situation.

The tree is to be looked at again by tree surgeons, and an archaeologist is due to examine the site where it grew. “The roots will have disturbed whatever lies below, but, if we have permission to look closer, it would be wonderful if we find something relating to the Spanish sailor,” Philip said.

He added the parish would be taking advice from experts on whether it might be possible to re-seed further trees from cuttings from this tree, but said that whatever happens, this famous Spanish Chestnut Tree will remain part of the parish.

“We hope that the smaller branches can be crafted into carvings, and as there is quite a bit of the trunk left it could be turned into furniture or doors for the church – there is even a suggestion that it could form the basis of a sculpture of a Spanish sailor, but these are just ideas at this stage,” Philip said. “We do not even know if the wood will be suitable for carving or turning. The tree is very well loved and the parish will want to mark it.”

In 2017, the chestnut was named runner up in the Woodland Trust’s ‘Tree of the Year’ competition, with a panel outlining its story installed at the top of Larne’s Main Street.

Wider interest in the Armada legend saw the tree become something of a tourist attraction. “It’s amazing how popular it was,” said Philip. With the Game of Thrones connection nearby, we’ve had people make a detour to go by the church and photograph the tree.”

Points for prayer

God in Creation