Rector’s remarks at the Easter General Vestry held on 24 April 2023

Dear Friends,

How good it is to be able to meet together in person without any restrictions and with what is now a very low level of anxiety concerning covid 19.

Thanks be to God for all that has been accomplished in overcoming the threat of the virus and all that has been rebuilt of that which was temporarily lost. Looking back on the last three years it all seems a bit surreal- our church and parish centre closed, being confined to our homes, cocooning, living in fear, our movements and freedoms curtailed. With everything now back to ‘normal’ we have much to be thankful for, and hopefully the lessons learned and values we reprioritised will stay with us as we carve out a new future.

However, we must not forget those who continue to suffer as a result of the pandemic- those who lost loved ones and who couldn’t share their final moments or celebrate their lives appropriately, those whose financial situations were severely adversely affected, those who have had a medical diagnosis delayed, those continuing to suffer from long covid, and those who were isolated and are finding reintegration into society difficult.

As a parish, we will continue to seek ways to reach out and help those who need a bit of support at this time. Our monthly Coffee & Chat mornings are one way we are encouraging social reconnection as is the recent return of refreshments after the Wednesday morning service in addition to after the 10.30 Sunday services.

As we continue the process of rebuilding after Covid, we have many positives to report: attendances at our Sunday services are back pretty well to pre-Covid levels, new families and parishioners continue to join our parish, our youth club is continuing to thrive, we had the most successful Autumn Fair ever last September and our biggest Retreat yet in Co. Tipperary last month, and we have had a number of very successful social events like the International Pot Luck Supper, the Parish Breakfast and the Lenten Lunch. As you will hear from our Treasurer shortly, we are currently in a healthy financial situation due in a large part to having received more very substantial bequests from parishioners- we are indeed indebted to them and very grateful for their generosity.

However, there are some challenging trends to report also, including far fewer families with children attending Sunday worship, to the detriment of Sunday Club and the monthly Family Services. We need to find new ways and possibly new days and times to reconnect with them.

The Wednesday morning service numbers have been very small and I would encourage anyone who is free to consider making this part of your mid-week routine- it consists of a thirty minute Morning Prayer service in the church followed by hospitality in the Maxwell Room in the Parish Centre.

And we have not been able to revive the 12th Company Boys Brigade-something that will take time and effort from any interested parties if it is to be achieved.

All things considered though, I feel we are in a very fortunate position coming out of Covid and have been greatly blessed throughout. It is now time to consolidate all that is good and flourishing and to start building the future we want to have as a faith community. That future suddenly looked very different from how any of us would have imagined it when we lost our dear friend and colleague, Mark Acheson.

In fact, sadly, since we last gathered together as a General Vestry on 31 March last year we have lost a number of stalwarts we held dear, and I will be remembering them all by name a little later on, but I have to take a few moments firstly to address the enormous loss we all suffered with the news of Mark’s death last October.

Many of you will have known Mark a lot longer than I did while some of our newer parishioners might only have been getting to know him, but regardless of how long or how well we knew him, we can all attest to his warmth, wisdom, kindness, friendliness, sincerity, integrity and wit. His dedication to this parish was limitless- as a Lay Reader, a BB leader, a Select Vestry Member, a Parochial Nominator, and in so many other ways. You could always count on Mark to support and encourage anyone or anything that needed it. As a colleague, he was a complete joy to work with and I personally miss that constant support and encouragement. I know that many of you also still feel his absence greatly.

The days around his funeral have been among the most difficult days in my ministry but also genuinely contributed some of the most incredible experiences I have had in ministry- a whole parish united in grief for a much-loved friend, united in support for his much loved family, and united in a commitment to give him the best send off humanly possible. Pride might well be one of the seven deadly sins but I could not be prouder of how we pulled together to achieve just that, in very difficult circumstances.

But we are an Easter people, so let us not forget that Mark, who served the Lord so well in this life, now stands in his nearer presence and sees him face to face. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory. The new Select Vestry will be liaising with Mark’s family about putting an appropriate memorial in place.

I also want to remember with thanksgiving the other members of our parish who have gone home to God since our last Easter General Vestry Meeting, many of whom also served in various ways: Thelma Turner, Gerald Franck, Bill O’Meara, Valerie Sheridan, Maureen Dixon, Jeanne Colvin, Maureen Macartney, Olive Condell, Derek Stewart and Harry Poff. We prayerfully hold them in memory during a minute’s silence…..

Thank you. An appropriate as it is to honour the dead, it is equally important to honour the living and tonight I want to publicly thank and pay tribute to the very many people who contribute to the life and wellbeing of this parish:

Trevor Garrett, who works tirelessly to ensure that both our church and Parish Centre are well maintained and clean, that our grounds are kept neat and tidy, and that our Centre users have what they need in place when they need it. Trevor has indicated his desire to reduce his hours and his duties in a transition towards retirement. Not only will he be a hard act to follow, but he will be an impossible act to follow, as we are unlikely to find someone else with all the necessary skills and attributes to replace him. We will probably begin the transfer of duties by acquiring contract cleaners for the Parish Centre- if any of you can recommend a company please let us know. But thank you Trevor, for all you have done, all you continue to do, and all we hope you’ll do in the future!

Jonathan Boyle who manages most of the affairs of the Parish Centre, including liaising with the licensees, timetabling, correspondence, chasing down payments, and much more, all on a voluntary basis and while juggling a busy work and family life. We promise, we will call in the reinforcements soon!

Kris McCaffrey and Ola Obikoya our out-going church wardens for their commitment to their tasks and their vital ministry of welcome. Kris consistently travels all the way from his home in Monaghan to perform his duties, which he always does with warmth and good humour. And Ola and her entire family travel from Santry every week so that she can be in good time to greet everyone at the door with her cheery welcome and lovely smile. Both Kris and Ola are always willing to assist our worship in any way possible, and that is much appreciated by me and I’m sure by all who are present each week.

Stephanie Maxwell, our wonderful organist, whose talent is matched only by her cooperative and supportive nature, and to her mum, Sandra, who usually steps in ably if Stephanie is unavailable.

Denis Henderson, Damien Peat, Ronan Kelly, Jennifer Kelly and Philip Godden, who take turns to act as wardens for the 8.30am Sunday service.

Trevor Knott and John Davis, our outgoing Glebe Wardens, for their work in keeping the Rectory and the Church Grounds in good condition.

Albert Adamson who organises the readers rota every week and carries out the monthly parish lodgements- both duties he inherited when he became church warden some years ago but with which we cunningly left him subsequently.

Nadine Watters, who continues to serve diligently and expertly as our honorary treasurer, including keeping us up to speed with the increasingly onerous requirements of charities governance.

Sandie Stirling, who lodges and keeps track of the donations made in the church envelopes and organises the tax reclaims on all eligible donations. This additional income from planned giving, recorded confidentially, is hugely important to the parish- if any of you are not already on this scheme and think you might be eligible, please get in touch.

Rachel Rossney, our honorary secretary of the Select Vestry for taking the minutes, including tonight, and for issuing notice of meetings.

The Youth Club leaders who help me run our monthly gathering for secondary school aged young people. Having lost two key leaders last year when Nick and Aoife Schofield returned to Canada, I worried about the sustainability of this ministry but was blessed with the addition of three new volunteers, Michelle Lynch, Karl Black and Gillian Grant, in addition to Kris McCaffrey, who continues in his role as a leader. We usually have between twenty five and thirty teenagers each month, including those preparing for Confirmation.

Brendan Teeling, our webmaster, for keeping our website and Twitter account up to date.

Arthur Parkinson and Michelle Kelly, our Safeguarding Trust panel members.

Iris Acheson, who quietly makes sure the church linens are kept laundered, and to her and the other ladies who help with the church flowers and decorating, particularly Heather Hunter and Hazel McCullough.

The organising committee of the Autumn Fair: Clive Jackson, Jonathan Boyle, John Patten and Rachel Rossney, and all whose trojan work over the weekend of the Fair makes it possible.

All who take turns in providing and serving the refreshments after church each Sunday: another very valuable component of our ministry of hospitality.

The members of the outgoing Select Vestry for their commitment to the parish, and to the outgoing Parochial Nominators and the outgoing members of the Diocesan Synod.

All the volunteers on the church dusting rota and Sandra Maxwell who coordinates it, and those on the lesson reading rota who proclaim the scriptures for us week by week.

I hope I haven’t left anyone out! We certainly have a vibrant parish and a great team of people involved but I did note as I was compiling this list, that in many cases the same names are present every year. We would love to spread the load and would welcome the involvement of new people.

As we look to the future, I am delighted to report that both Kris McCaffrey and Ziva Newman have been selected and commenced training as Diocesan Lay Readers. We wish them well in their studies and look forward to them becoming more involved in our worship in the future. Please keep them in your prayers.

In conclusion, may I thank you all for your continued support and friendship as I approach the 10th anniversary of my Institution as Rector of Clontarf in September- it continues to be a huge pleasure and privilege. I will also be celebrating another milestone in ministry this year- on 22nd June, God willing, I will be 20 years ordained as a Priest. I hope to mark this occasion with a service of Holy Communion in the Church followed by refreshments in the Parish Centre- and I hope as many of you as possible will join me.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to
accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all
generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:20-21).