They say time flies when you are having fun, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a year since our last Easter General Vestry Meeting. Of course, that may be because it hasn’t been a year since our last Easter General Vestry Meeting!
In the midst of all the uncertainty last year, the central Church allowed the parishes to postpone these meetings and hold them outside the designated times dictated by the Constitution so, in order to meet the public health requirements, we met last September in the church building and incorporated our meeting into an Act of Worship.
This year for whatever reason, no such allowance has been made, and so I apologise to any of our parishioners who would have liked to attend an -in-person meeting but didn’t feel equipped to attend online.
In the intervening time since our last Easter General Vestry meeting, our church has been closed more often than not. None of our in-person activities have been able to resume, and while we now see light at the end of the tunnel with the continuing roll-out of the vaccine, we know we are not there yet. So, while we look forward to being able to reopen our church again when restrictions are eased, I believe it is right to wait until we can do so safely, without putting anyone at risk.
Thankfully, God’s presence is not confined our beautiful buildings, and we continue to worship him and gather together virtually through the wonders of modern technology.
Without doubt the hardest part of trying to minister throughout this last year has been at the times of death and bereavement. It has been heart-breaking not to be able to be with some stalwarts of this parish as they were passing from this world, or not to be able to give them the send off they deserved, or to give their grieving families the support they deserved.
Tonight we remember with thanksgiving the lives and witness of those whom we have lost since the last Easter General Vestry Meeting: Dorothy Taylor; Alan Harper; Cecil Medcalf; Freddy Condell, and Sylvia Larmour. We keep a few moments silence in their honour…
Out of the difficulty and frustration of trying to support grieving families this past year, the new Dublin Bereavement Support Service has come. Under the auspices of Clontarf Parish, this is an initiative of which we should all feel proud, and I wish to thank Jim Kieran and Tony Walsh along with all the volunteer counsellors for bringing it to fruition. Free, professional, bereavement support is available to all who need it through the website www.bereavementsupport.ie: please feel free to spread the word to any who might benefit from this service.
In any normal year, the list of people I want to thank publicly is long: that is because we are blessed with a vibrant parish in which many people play a vital role. Tonight, I particularly want to thank the people who have supported my efforts to continue to minister effectively to our parishioners and keep us all connected in the course of the ongoing pandemic:
- Rev. Anne Lodge and Mark Acheson for their support and contributions to all the online services, and the few in-person services we have had since last September. I would also like to thank all those who take part in the services by recording readings, and Albert Adamson who organises the readers rota every week.
- Trevor Garrett, who has spent much of the past year working inside and outside an empty Parish Centre, but who has ensured that both our church and centre have been maintained and cleaned, and our grounds have been kept and indeed enhanced.
- Jonathan Boyle who has had the unenviable task of liaising with all the Parish Centre users in the midst of much uncertainty and shifting goal posts.
- Our out-going church wardens Rhoda McConnell and Ola Obikoya who took such care to make sure in-church worship was conducted safely for as long as we were allowed to do so, and for their counterparts at the 8.30am service, especially Denis Henderson.
- To John Davis, who single-handedly cleaned the pews which had been used at the 8.30 service before the 10.30 service, for as long as we could meet in-person, and to Stephanie Maxwell, our organist, who happily played our favourite hymns before and after services in the church, even though we couldn’t sing them.
- To Nadine Watters, who jumped through many hoops to get our online banking set up and has ensured that all bills and financial obligations have been met throughout lockdown.
- Sandie Stirling, who has continued to lodge the donations made in the church envelopes and to ensure that the tax has been reclaimed on all eligible donations.
- To Brendan Teeling, our webmaster, for keeping our website up to date and for setting up the donate button which has allowed online donations to be made.
- To all the parishioners who supported the raffle before Christmas, making it our most successful raffle ever, despite not being able to sell tickets at Nolan’s or the Autumn Fair, and to all who have dropped in donations or made online donations throughout the period of church closures. As you will hear from our Treasurer in a little while, we have been spared the financial devastation which some parishes have endured this past year, thanks to all those who have continued to contribute to our parish finances, and even more so thanks to the generosity of some of our dear departed who left substantial legacies to the parish. We are indeed indebted to them.
- To the team of people who have delivered letters through countless letterboxes, helping me to keep in touch with parishioners, and to Philip Godden who has delivered many Church Reviews while the church has been closed.
- Jeanne Colvin, who not only continues to act as secretary to the Select Vestry but has taken on the new role of Safeguarding Trust Panel member as well.
- The Glebe Wardens, Grahame Walsh and John Davis for looking after any issues with the Rectory.
- And last but not least, to all who encouraged me and kept me going by your kind comments and affirming messages over the course of this incredibly difficult year. I look forward to rebuilding in time all that we have lost during the pandemic and know that with your help and support we will come back stronger than ever.
As we continue to face the challenges of the present and look forward to a brighter future, we are reminded once again of God’s faithfulness to us in good times and bad. We have been afflicted but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not perplexed. We go forward in the faith of the Risen Christ and do not lose heart. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory.