• 10 June 2024

Called to Diocesan Reader Ministry: Robert MacBride

Robert is a parishioner of St Mark’s Dundela, and was commissioned as a Diocesan Reader on Sunday 9 June at a service in St John’s Newcastle.

I grew up in what could only be called a very firmly Church of Ireland family. We went to church at least once every Sunday and there was an absolute expectation that life should be lived in accordance with Christian principles. The faith which dwelt in my mother was as deep as it was quiet; it was tested multiple times and not found wanting. My father died when I was very young, I have no memories of him.

I attended a very traditional church where I acquired a solid grounding in the Holy Scriptures, in the liturgies, and in the teachings of the Church. I was left, too, with an example of caring pastoral ministry for which I will always be grateful, and which remains an inspiration today.

At university I was involved in the Christian life of the institution, was a weekly communicant in chapel, served on the ecumenical council, and, for my sins, was a youth member of synod.

I was for many years extensively involved with the charity, Samaritans, and that involvement meant extensive travelling the length and breadth of the island. My experience there awakened in me an intense awareness of the depths of pain, despair, hunger, and need which lie just below the surface of society, often in unexpected places. The experience of illness, healing, and death in my own immediate family brough an equally intense awareness of the solid reality of our God and the very substantial, tangible changes His love and power can make when introduced into any situation.

My call to the role of reader was quite unmistakable. My rector invited me for coffee and asked me directly to consider it. I did, and I said yes. If I have any advice to anyone else considering applying, indeed facing any decision in life, it is this: “Say yes to the Lord” (and to your rector).

My training with Revd Willie was extremely focused and practical, it gave me many useful tips for constructing a memorable sermon and the confidence to deliver it in front of an audience. My training in CITI led to the acquisition of many new friends and, most importantly, to a huge growth in my respect for Word of God. There is an article in that alone.

St John the Evangelist writes of his selection of material for his gospel: ‘these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name‘. That is the challenge I take into my preaching ministry: to testify to the divinity of Christ so that all who respond may enjoy the fulness of His resurrection life.

I expect to work in the St Mark’s church in the parish of Dundela in East Belfast. It is not called a community church, I don’t imagine it’s many people’s idea of a community church, but that is what it is: an active, vibrant, and, above all, caring, community where it has been a privilege to worship and which I look forward to serving in my new role.

Robert MacBride