Rector’s address at the 2019 General Vestry

[Remarks by Rev’d Robinson at the General Vestry on 8th May 2019.]

I’m glad of this annual opportunity for us to reflect on the past twelve months in the life of our Parish, and to thank the myriads of people who work, often in the background, to ensure the smooth running of our worship and witness.

2018 was a very busy year which in addition to all our usual events, saw the addition of a Choral Competition promoting the performance and enjoyment of hymns and religious songs. Our church is a wonderful venue and having now held two such competitions it is great to see the popularity of this event continuing to grow. Next year we plan to introduce a special category for parish choirs. Thanks are due to Nicole Robinson, for instigating and organising the competition; and to the large team who look after the staging, lighting and catering on the day.

We also held our second Ecumenical Conference, which was well received by all who attended, despite disappointing numbers. It is our hope to continue this conference, perhaps bi-annually, and will be trying to secure some funding to subsidise its running. On a practical level, ecumenism continues to be at the forefront of our mission, with participation in the Good Friday Walk of Witness, the Easter morning Sunrise service, The Pentecost Peace Walk, along with the regular Bible studies led by Fr. Martin Hogan and myself. The clergy of the six different parishes meet for lunch throughout the year, and I am welcomed to participate at the First Holy Communion and Confirmation services of the Roman Catholic children attending Greenlanes National School- all good work in building up the Kingdom of God in Clontarf.

I’m delighted to say that 2018 was our most successful Autumn Fair to date, clearing over €20,000. This remains our primary annual fundraiser and it takes a mammoth team effort to get such a result. The success of last year was due in part to an increase in raffle ticket sales, and in spite of the fact that many of our usual helpers were away on the weekend of the Fair. The cost of such success was many exhausted bodies by the time the tidy up was completed that night. For your information, the Autumn Fair always takes place on the last Sunday of September – I would genuinely appeal to you therefore to mark it down in your diary now and do you best to be available to help over the course of the weekend- a large team of able bodied helpers makes a huge difference to the viability of what has become a major community event in Clontarf and its environs.

During this past year we have increased the number of opportunities for spiritual growth and development – something which must remain a priority of any parish. In addition to the weekly prayer group, monthly Healer Prayer group, and regular Bible studies, we now hold regular Quiet Days and parish Retreats. These are times of fellowship and gentle reflection and are to be commended to all to seek to deepen their relationships with God, and to find the peace and quiet which often escapes us in the busy daily routines of our lives.

In 2018 we also welcomed the Rev’d Professor Anne Lodge as part of our Ministry Team. Anne works in the self-supporting ministry and despite an already demanding schedule has generously offered her time and considerable talents to us a Curate.

This too is an exciting development as we seek to reach an ever-diversifying audience with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Once again last year we were blessed in this parish with a large number of baptisms, fourteen in all since our last Easter General Vestry Meeting- and we will continue to encourage those families to engage with the life of the local church. We had two weddings in our beautiful parish church in 2018: Russell Clancy and Charlotte Atherton who came over from England to be married here in August, and Andrea Finnegan and Neil O’Briain who were married in November.

Sadly, the last thirteen months have seen a much higher than usual number of funerals in this parish, and we have lost some faithful servants and stalwarts. Tonight we remember with thanksgiving the late David Appleyard, Molly Reynolds, Olive Jackson, Bruce Maxwell, Olive Poff, Violet Dawkins, Sam Warner, Ted Jones and Edna Clark – all of whom have passed away since our last Easter Vestry meeting – I ask you to keep a few moments silence in their honour…

While each of these deaths represents a particular loss to this parish and of course a much bigger loss to the families concerned, I must make special mention tonight of Bruce Maxwell, who has been by my side at every Easter General Vestry meeting I have had since coming to this parish in 2013. Not only was Bruce the Honorary Secretary of the Select and General Vestries, but among many other parish roles held through the years, he was instrumental and integral to the design, building and running of this wonderful parish centre. The Select Vestry and myself were anxious to acknowledge his immeasurable contribution in some way, and so tonight, with the agreement of the Maxwell family, I am pleased to announce that we are renaming the Meeting Room in this Parish Centre, the Maxwell Room, as a perpetual witness to his legacy.

At this point I would also like to acknowledge with gratitude the support and sympathy shown to me by all of you since the untimely death of my dear sister Gwyn last August – despite our grief, the girls and I are blessed to be surrounded by such love: thank you.

I also want to take this opportunity to say a public ‘thank you’ to the many people who give of their time and talents to keep the parish running so smoothly.

To that end, may I take this opportunity to thank in particular:

  • My colleagues, Anne Lodge and Mark Acheson, for their assistance and support in worship, ministry and administration.
  • Our outgoing churchwardens, Olwen Lynch and Ziva Newman, for their dedicated and efficient service in their respective roles (Olwen over two years), and also those who filled in for them when they were absent. I also want to thank the team of volunteers who look after set-up and welcome at the 8.30 Sunday morning services- Tom Waller, Damien Peat, Ronan & Jennifer Kelly, Denis Henderson and Philip Godden.
  • Our outgoing Glebe wardens, Jonathan Boyle and John Davis, who are always on hand to help sort out any problems related to the rectory or church grounds, along with Jonathan’s continued oversight of the church.
  • Our organist, John Rowden, our reserve organists, Sandra and Stephanie Maxwell.
  • The members of the outgoing Select Vestry for their care of the fabric, furnishings and finance.
  • Our outgoing Honorary Treasurer Nadine Watters for her consistent dedication and expertise in keeping our accounts and ensuring we are compliant with the charity’s legislation, and also to Albert Adamson who looks after the lodgements so efficiently.
  • Trevor Garrett, for his invaluable work in the Parish Centre and the Church, and for all the events to which he contributes so much- what a wonderful ambassador he is for this parish
  • Jonathan Boyle, who has taken over the lion’s share of the work of the PCMC.
  • The members of the Needs Group, under the leadership of Mary Cunningham, who take on much of the planning and the practical work around most of our parish events.
  • Sunday Club leaders: Elma Jackson, Helen Rosaldo, Heather Hunter, John Davis, Jean Acheson, Derek Shaw, and Martin & Lisa Murphy – we have more leaders now than previously and their ministry is greatly appreciated by our young families.
  • Wendy Walker, Vimal Raj, and Mark Acheson, who along with myself, coordinate and run the youth activities. However, we have been struggling with low numbers and the future of the youth club will very much depend on a greater degree of engagement from our teenagers.
  • Cathy Atkin, Principal, Greenlanes NS, for preparing the school children for Family Services and Helen Rosaldo, who marshals the children in the church.
  • All who read the lessons week by week; Albert Adamson, who coordinates the Readers’ rota, and Shirley Davies, Olwen Lynch, Albert Adamson and Ziva Newman who help administer the Chalice at Holy Communion as needed.
  • Those who decorate the church and keep it adorned with flowers, especially Iris Acheson, Heather Hunter, Sheena Harper, Maureen Dixon & Hazel McCullagh. Also thanks to Iris for keeping the fair linen beautifully laundered, one of those tasks that just happen invisibly in the background.
  • The Ladies who dust the church each week on a rota basis and their coordinator, Sandra Maxwell.
  • Those who provide refreshments after church, and Dorothy Godden, co-ordinator. We will need to get a rota in place for the Summer months, so a request will be going out in due course.
  • Jill & John O’Neill for all their help with catering special events (cue a plug for the parish breakfast next Sunday), and all who supply homemade traybakes and sandwiches when required. Our hospitality is acclaimed far and near.
  • Sandie Stirling, stewardship recorder
  • Hazel Garrett, who administers the columbarium
  • Charles Kinch, car parking attendant for funerals
  • Officers and those who help to run all the parish organisations including BB, Guides, Prayer Groups, Badminton Club, Tennis Club, Indoor Bowls Club, Table Tennis Club, Mothers’ Union & Whist Drives.
  • Lynn Boyle for producing the weekly Notice Sheet and Brendan Teeling for maintaining the website.
  • Arthur Parkinson and Ciara Burns for their work alongside myself on the Safeguarding Trust Panel
  • Ryan Ashley & friends who lead the music worship at our monthly Evening Praise services.
  • All who help run all the various events that make up our varied spiritual, social and fundraising calendar.

That is indeed a long list, and a lot of people – we are incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful team of willing helpers. However, we do need to make sure that the load is spread, and so we are always grateful of new people coming on board, particularly for events which require set up and clean up.

Three has also been a distinct if unintentional trend for this to become an increasingly female dominated parish in some regards. We currently have a female rector, a female curate, two female churchwardens, a female treasurer, and a 13-4 ratio of women to men on the outgoing Select Vestry. This is in stark contrast to the opposite kind of gender imbalance I encountered when I arrived – so I want to encourage all you men to step up and play your part in ensuring that this parish continues to be an inclusive community, to which everyone relates, where all people are equally valued, regardless of age, gender or any other labels society may chose to put on us.

Finally, I want to thank my two daughters, Nicole and Danielle, for their help and support, love and laughter, and for always, always keeping me humble!

I truly feel so blessed to be the Rector of Clontarf – this is my 6th Easter Vestry here, and I still can’t believe my luck to have been appointed to this wonderful parish. I pray that together we will continue to go from strength to strength and to shine as a light in this community, reflecting the glory of our risen Lord and Saviour.

To God be the glory. Amen.