The year in reviewFriday 28 September 2018
Each September we look back on a year in the diocese. At both parish and diocesan level, Down and Dromore continues to be a very busy and vibrant place to minister. This year saw the completion of several different projects and there were many one–off events that we couldn’t mention. Read on for the summary…
The JIGSAW Sunday School Curriculum was one of the major projects completed in Down and Dromore in 2018. Children’s Development Officer, Julie Currie, and her team, spent 18 months in research before piloting JIGSAW over three years. The result is a completely resourced curriculum which has proved hugely popular with Sunday School teachers. JIGSAW is being used in over 60 parishes in the diocese and in many other parts of the Church of Ireland. Well done Julie!
Staying with children and young people, congratulations and thanks to all the parishes who ran Holiday Bible Clubs and summer schemes in July and August. The clubs and the Kilbroney Adventure Camps make such a difference in the lives of hundreds of children, and often nurture the beginnings of Christian faith.
We are grateful too to the churches who hosted celebrations for the 322 young people and adults confirmed in the diocese this year. One of the most memorable was the service held in glorious sunshine at the Nendrum Ancient Monastic Site on the shores of Strangford Lough.
It’s been a busy year, with seven clergy taking up new positions in the diocese and the recent ordination of four deacons and two presbyters. Our drive to raise up new lay leadership also continues, not least with our church planting programme. Moneyreagh Community Church has a new leader–in–charge and one of our diocesan evangelists is pioneering a new community in the Killicomaine estate in Portadown. Three more diocesan evangelists were added in June and we were thrilled to commission 18 new diocesan readers this month. They join the existing team of 26 who were recommissioned earlier in the year. All are, or will be, deployed in the diocese to support parish ministry and mission.
Lower down the age–range, our Youth Officer, Tim Burns, has pioneered the SERVE Course to develop young leaders. The course began in September with 19 young people from across the diocese and ended with everyone graduating at a special celebration in November. Many of the SERVE participants helped lead the Saturday Night Live youth events and in July, a dozen of them travelled to our link diocese of Albany where they served at the Beaver Cross Ministries Summer Camp. Team member Simon summed up his experience: “Now that I’m here and have spent 11 days doing camps I can honestly say that this is one of the best experiences of my life and it will hold a place in my heart and mind forever. I’m also excited at the thought of our two dioceses interacting more with each other in the future and hopefully creating more opportunities like this for people to have amazing experiences like ours.”
Both of our link dioceses marked important events this year and representatives from Down and Dromore were there to share them. The Episcopal Diocese of Albany celebrated its 150th anniversary at its annual Convention in June whilst the Diocese of Maridi, South Sudan, saw changes in leadership. We rejoiced in April with Bishop Justin who became the Archbishop of Juba and Primate of South Sudan. Bishop Harold and Bishop Bill Love (Albany) were among the guests at the service. At the end of May, Revd Moses Zungo became the new Bishop of Maridi. Both men face huge challenges as they lead, and the diocese is committed to supporting them in prayer and with whatever practical help we can give.
Building for the future
Three parishes completed building projects in 2017–18. In November St Gall’s, Carnalea, opened a new extension which added a community cafe space, church offices, toilets, choir room, extended chapel and front porch. In January, Magheralin Parish completed extensive work to enhance their building. They have created a warm, bright and welcoming worship space with more flexibility to host events, including this year’s diocesan synod.
Also in January, Bishop Harold opened Killyleagh’s new £500,000 Parish Centre, marking the end of a long journey which began in 2001. Rector, Revd Colin Darling said, “We’re so thankful for the facilities we have now and we’re looking forward to using them as much as possible. People in the community have given to us through many years of fundraising and we want to offer this space back to them.”
The Christian Residential and Conference Centre at Kilbroney, Rostrevor, continues to be upgraded, and now has a Development Officer, Jan Peach. Jan will be helping the centre achieve long–term sustainability and, most importantly, to reach out to many more people through this ministry.
Finally, it was with mission and church growth firmly in mind that we engaged the Church of England’s statistician, Dr Bev Botting, to analyse all the statistical information available on the diocese. Each parish now has access to an individual ‘dashboard’ which graphically represents statistics based on the NI state census (2011), our annual Easter Vestry returns and the 2016 Church of Ireland Census. The statistics highlight the key challenges and encouragements in Down and Dromore and offer parishes another helpful tool as they plot a way forward in mission.
This article appeared in the Church of Ireland Gazette, issue 28 September 2018.