From the Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell
“Queen Elizabeth II, like her father, did not pass her childhood in any certain expectation of the Crown. But already we know her well …”
‘Those words were written by Winston Churchill on hearing of the death of Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI. If the old statesman could claim that the young Queen was well known to her people then, how much more can we say so now, who have watched and admired as her steady hand, her searching eyes and her warm smile graced so many occasions of great significance in the life of the United Kingdom.
‘All deaths are inevitable, but few are as unimaginable as that of Queen Elizabeth II. She has been on the throne and the stage of public life longer than any person, living or dead. The burden of such a life was rarely visible except when she chose to share her feelings about a particular event or “annus horribilis” with a sympathetic public. Mostly when she spoke it was to draw attention to others.
‘She reigned at a time when monarchy was under unparalleled and unforgiving scrutiny, often accompanied by searing comment. It was with the support of the late Duke of Edinburgh that she weathered the storms with unfailing dignity and cheerfulness. Can anyone doubt that the loss of her “liegeman of life and limb” after over sixty years of love and friendship was perhaps the greatest sorrow Queen Elizabeth ever faced in her long and eventful life?
‘For all who met her, it was clear that she was interested in people from all backgrounds and that she respected them. In the privacy of their meetings she also shared the riches of her incomparable experience of public affairs with 15 Prime Ministers. Her many visits to Northern Ireland were evidence of her awareness that she had been crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her conscientiousness in living out that role.
‘I was privileged to be there when, on her Diamond Jubilee visit to Enniskillen, she walked the twenty yards from the Church of Ireland Cathedral of St Macartin and into St Michael’s Roman Catholic church. Barely a hundred paces, but a walk which covered countless miles in the long and unfinished journey of peace on these islands.
‘Her affection for Ireland as a whole was clear for all to see during the memorable State Visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, and her speech at the State Banquet ranks in political foresight and Christian conviction with the Golden Speech which Queen Elizabeth I made to the House of Commons in 1601. That in the past “we would have done things differently or not done them at all” and that “we should bow to the past but not be bound by it” have been little gems of hope to many peacemakers in the following years. That they came from someone who had felt the tragedy of Ireland so close to hand and who had lived through the uncertainties of a World War, when the outcome was often far from clear, gave her words an unchallengeable authority.
‘We thank God for the life of Queen Elizabeth II, for her faithfulness to Him and to her calling, from which we have gained so much. To finish with some words from the first Elizabeth’s Golden Speech but which find an echo in the life of Queen Elizabeth II, “… and we do confess that we passed not so much to be a Queen, as to be a Queen of such subjects … for whom we would willingly lose our life, ere see such to perish. I bless God that he hath never given me this fault or fear; for he knows best, whether ever fear possessed me, for all my dangers; I know it is his gift; and not to hide his glory, I say it”.
‘The prayers of the people of the Church of Ireland are with the Queen’s family and all who were closest to her. May they know the presence of God very near to them.’
God save the King
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Letter From The Bishop
3 September 2021
Recently a friend expressed something that I too have been sensing. His words were these: “What the Holy Spirit is putting on my heart is that we need to move into a new season of renewal”.
We are living in days when society around us desperately needs a Church and a people whose love for Jesus, whose influence in society and whose truth, power and integrity bring hope and comfort, life and healing into weary homes and communities.
As a Church we need to rediscover the presence of God and his power to change lives. We want to see the Church renewed to transform individuals and society with the life of Christ and the good news of forgiveness, peace, healing and joy that is given to those who would submit to Jesus.
Any season of renewal is always given to us by God. It is God’s gift and God’s doing for, as it says in John 3:8, ‘The wind blows where it wills, and we cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.’ Nevertheless, if we are to move into a new season of renewal there are responsibilities and challenges that rest with all of us.
Firstly, every historic move of God and every season of renewal in the life of the Church has been preceded by the people of God pursuing him through prayer. To encourage a fresh approach towards prayer in our local parishes three diocesan prayer events have been planned for this autumn. The first of these is an Agape Meal in Down Cathedral on St Matthews Day, 21st September at 7:30pm. The evening will be very simple and safe in its format as we enjoy some food, pray together, and conclude with Holy Communion.
Two further prayer events will follow, and details can be found on the diocesan website.
Secondly, every season of renewal in the Church that has lasting significance involves a rediscovery of biblical truth, a fresh commitment to preaching and teaching the scriptures and a new love for studying the bible. To that end I will be asking every church to promote a bible reading plan for 2022 that enables all of us to read a portion of the bible every day. Watch out for details of this in the coming weeks.
Thirdly, every significant season of renewal in the history of the Church has seen an increase in signs and wonders following the preaching of God’s word. Renewal gives way to miraculous works of God with demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power at work in people’s lives, especially in bringing them to repentance and faith in Christ.
Fourthly, every season of renewal among God’s people is accompanied and often preceded by an increase in faith and in generosity. It has struck me that we must step more and more into a lifestyle of faith and generosity, and I would like to suggest some ways in which we might do this.
Emerging out of Covid-19 our government has pledged to give all of us a £100 gift voucher. Rather than this being absorbed into our weekly shopping, may I encourage you to spend it in a local business that has been adversely affected by the pandemic. Please also consider making a matching donation of £100 to a local charity of your choice.
Secondly, please take some time to review how much you give to your local church and consider increasing it.
And finally, please consider enabling our diocese of Down and Dromore to plant new congregations by taking out a standing order for our Diocesan Church Planting Fund. Alternatively, you might like to help us revitalise and reenergise parish ministry as needs arise by taking out a standing order for our Diocesan Rejuvenation Fund. The appropriate forms may be downloaded from the diocesan website.
Together, let’s step up in generosity and step out in faith together, believing and crying out for a new season of renewal. Let’s join as one across our diocese to pray, to be strengthened by God’s word and to be expectant for signs and wonders as God the Holy Spirit brings new life to his Church.
I love a prayer that’s found in the Book of Common Prayer that I recall being used a lot when I was much younger.
‘Holy Spirit, come in power and bring new life to your church, renew us in love and service and enable us to be faithful to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
Yours and His,
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Free Will Offering
Sadly, as you will all now know, our Sunday services are changed from their usual format.
Should you be unable to attend Church regularly or feel you would like to switch to Standing Order for your Free Will Giving, contact us and we can send you the appropriate information. Standing orders are easily set up if you have online banking, or can fill the form in and post it to your bank.
Thank you in advance.
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