New Archdeacon of Clogher announced at Diocesan Synod


Bishop Ian Ellis welcoming Canon Paul Thompson as the new Archdeacon of Clogher.

The Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd Dr. Ian Ellis has chosen the Clogher Diocesan Synod to announce the name of his new Archdeacon.

The new Archdeacon of Clogher is Canon Paul Thompson, Rector of Derryvullen North and Castle Archdale, who succeeds Archdeacon Brian Harper, who moved to Connor Diocese to be Rector of Dunluce Parish.

Bishop Ellis described Canon Paul as having gifts of administration and pastoral care and was a much-respected Rector in his parishes of Derryvullen North and Castle Archdale.

“Within the diocese he is currently our Warden of Readers and Support officer for Lay Ministry. He is a member of Diocesan Council, a Diocesan Nominator and is our representative Canon in St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin. Canon Paul is a Clogher representative on the RCB and on the Church of Ireland Safeguarding Board. Canon Paul has many other gifts; he maintains a very creative Facebook presence for his parishes, and I know will bring to this role not only experience of parish ministry in Ireland but also many years as Prison Chaplain in the Church of England. The new Archdeacon and I trained together for ministry in Theological College and we have known each other a very long time! I look forward to working closely with Canon Paul in his new role and sharing in the ongoing work of this diocese,” the Bishop said.

The appointment received warm applause from members of Synod.

Bishop Ellis in his presidential address welcomed Synod members in what was his third diocesan Synod.

Bishop Ian Ellis giving his address to Clogher Diocesan Synod.

He referred to the recent tragic deaths of young people on the roads of Co. Monaghan, the review of diocesan organisation which is currently ongoing, current financial tightening in parishes and in the diocese, the work of the Bishops’ Appeal responding to world disasters and introduced a talk on the innovative Pioneer Ministry which has been introduced in the Church of Ireland.

The full text of Bishop Ellis’s address is as follows;

Clergy Changes
“Since our last Diocesan Synod three clergy have joined the diocese: Rev Stephen McWhirter as rector of Rossorry, Rev Canon Jennifer McWhirter as Rector of Cleenish and Mullaghdun and Rev Ian Cruickshank as Rector of Carrickmacross Union, Magheracloone and Ardragh. We welcome you all and hope that your ministry will be much blessed and that you find Clogher a warm and friendly diocese.

Reaching out
“Later this evening I have invited Rev Rob Jones, the National Director of a new initiative of the Church of Ireland called Pioneer Ministry to give us a short address. Essentially this new Church of Ireland programme is an encouragement to us to find new ways of reaching those with little or no connection with the church. I hope we will listen with interest with our ears tuned to what our Lord may be asking us to do in our parishes to proclaim the love of God to a group of people beyond our established and regular parishioners. We look forward to being inspired to be fruitful in new ways in helping many to find faith or to develop their faith in Christ and become active members of his church.

Change and development
“Autumn is a season of change, and this is a reminder that things do not remain static in church and community life. Society is changing all around us and is challenged by many factors.

“The weather has been the big talking point over the so-called summer. And globally there were so many adverse weather-related incidents. In August I recall seeing a news report from California where a senior police officer speaking to the press said he was beginning to dread seeing messages with more bad news on his mobile phone across California state at the same time, he was dealing with a tropical storm, flooding, wildfires and then he received reports of an earthquake!

“In recent weeks we have also heard news of a major earthquake in Morocco followed a few days later by news of a devastating flood in the port city of Derna in Libya. Certainly, that flood had both a natural element combined with a series of human failings in maintenance of two river dams. The aftermath of that disaster was unspeakable and possibly up to 20,000 lives have been lost. A UN spokesman has commented that in this event ‘climate and capacity have collided to cause this terrible tragedy’.

The Bishop of Clogher and other diocesan officers at the Synod.

“The Bishops’ Appeal Committee has issued an appeal across the Church of Ireland and will channel funds through Christian Aid who are working with trusted partners in Derna. Already £10,000 in Emergency Aid has been released by Bishops’ Appeal from its reserves, and all monies raised by this appeal across the Church of Ireland will be additional funds to help with the disaster relief. Parishes are asked to collect funds for this appeal for the next few weeks and send all donations directly to Bishops’ Appeal. We include the people of Libya and those working to bring aid and support to them in both our personal and corporate prayers.

“Certainly, it seems incontrovertible that there is a global imbalance. Climate change seems very likely to be related to human activity specifically the overdependence on fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide. All of us, individuals and governments will have to think more seriously about how we live in this world and tread gently on its surface and become better stewards of God’s creation. The need for rebalancing of fossil and non-fossil fuel consumption has been brought sharply and alarmingly into focus this summer.

“I would like to develop that theme of balance as I consider our work in the diocese. It appeals to me as I was a Physics teacher and would have spent a lot of time trying to teach the concept of equilibrium and balanced forces to pupils.

“The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes speaks of the balance of everything in life; ‘for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven’.

“As I look around our society and diocese, I think we are struggling to find a state of balance. We are like a small boat which has been blown about by severe storms, firstly the pandemic, then as we emerge from it there are new global factors including a war in the Ukraine, rising energy costs and a cost-of-living crisis. And at a deeper level living in a society which is becoming ever more secular in nature.

“At a community level in NI, our government is out of balance with no functioning executive and every week seems to bring some news of impact upon services be it the NHS, our schools, the state of the roads, or confronting poverty. I’m not a politician but I echo the yearning of all of us and plead for an early settlement of the political issues here in NI which hinder a return to locally accountable and hopefully balanced decision making. We earnestly ask our politicians to quickly resolve the dispute which prevents forming a government and allow local representatives to make key decisions for our future in this province.

“In recent weeks we have all been made aware of the number of young people killed on our roads particularly in the Republic of Ireland. Last Saturday I along with many others from the wider Monaghan Community attended the funeral of Jake Brennan, a young 17-year-old former pupil of Monaghan Collegiate, who died in a tragic road traffic collision. In August two other teenage girls were killed in a collision in Clones on the way to a debs ball for Largy College. These are unspeakable losses for their families and school friends to bear and are part of a litany of deaths on our roads in recent months. There is something wrong or out of balance about the way we drive on our roads and our duty of care for the safety of other road users. I know that Monaghan Collegiate School plans to address correct road use and safe driving with its pupils in coming weeks. But it is not just the young, the culture of road use in Ireland needs to be challenged and driving fundamentally understood as a means of getting from A to B in safety.

“At a diocesan level we too are trying to find a better balance, especially a financial balance of the books. You will hear later of some difficult decisions Diocesan Council has taken to keep the increase in parish assessments to a realistic level. This has been painful at diocesan level. These cuts along with a series of small but cumulatively significant spending reductions were required to help strive towards some semblance of financial balance.

“I know too parishes are trying to rebalance their books in this post pandemic phase. Speaking to clergy I sense that church attendances are slowly returning but are not quite at 2019 levels, also that fundraising has only recently been able to begin in earnest. In terms of outgoings, energy costs have risen along with increasing utility and insurance costs. The cost-of-living crisis is likely to impact giving and parishioners ability to contribute to the parish. However, I also know that where faithful ministry is exercised and discerned, it is responded to and a positive sense of stewardship for the welfare of the parish is maintained.

Reviewing diocesan organisation
Our diocesan organisation is also affected by challenges. As stewards of resources, we must reflect on whether the parish organisation we have is meeting the needs of today and the future. To address this, the Diocesan Council has initiated a Diocesan Review to be undertaken by a Task Group drawn from the membership of Synod. The group has only recently begun its work and it is hoped to bring a brief report later this year to Diocesan Council.

“This review will require a considerable piece of research and a consultation with clergy and parishioners across the diocese probably over the next few years. Hopefully we will finish with a strategy for going forward which will develop proposals for a healthy and sustainable diocesan and parish organisation for the future.

“There are patterns, and ways of doing things in our parishes and diocese that are excellent and serve us well that we should keep or maintain and pass on to the next generation. There are things which we are working well in our parishes, and we must build on them, yet there are some factors which are holding us back, and there are some things we do which may not serve us any longer and may need replacing. As this work of the Review Group progresses and they move out to consult with parishes and clergy I hope we will be open and honest in our deliberations and ask ourselves the question; how do we see this parish and diocese in the next 10 years? What must we keep and develop and what must be made new?
This is important work, and we must give the Group time to progress the task.

“My hope is that our review might lead us equally to finding positive solutions to the problems and challenges facing Clogher diocese.

“Such an exercise will I trust help us rediscover our sense of balance as we endure many external storms. But at our core we must have an internal balance, our spiritual lives should have a still centre, and a purpose. All of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ have our eyes fixed on him, the one who is the treasure or pearl of great price. Ultimately, we will find our balance and sustain our parish and diocesan life not because our finances are better, nor because we reshape our structures. The church will grow and develop because we have that spiritual treasure in our lives and because as people of the kingdom, we share that treasure of the God of love who meets us in Jesus, and we remain open to him changing us and showing us how to reach out to our parish communities.

“As I near my conclusion may I offer a sincere thanks to all those whose service supports our parishes. Firstly, to the clergy my thanks for your faithful ministry in testing times and for the seen and the unseen things you do for Christ in the fulfilment of your vocation. And secondly, manifold thanks to our faithful laity, members of Select Vestries and office bearers who week by week underpin our parishes with dedicated service. The responsibilities of Churchwardens, Glebewardens, Select Vestries, children’s and youth leaders, Safeguarding panel members, seem to annually increase with additional compliance requirements. We want you to know that such sacrificial service is not taken for granted and is deeply appreciated by your parishioners and by the diocese.

“I am ever grateful to the dedication and expertise of the Diocesan Staff. The Diocesan Office is small in scale but very efficient. I think we have one of the leanest administrative supports of all the dioceses in the Church of Ireland.

“And so, with those words of thanks I conclude my address and we turn now to the business of our Synod to matters practical and spiritual and apply our hearts to strive for that balance or equanimity of life which we are called by our Lord to cultivate in our hearts and live out in the world.”

Revd Rob Jones introducing Pioneer Ministry.

During the Diocesan Synod, Revd Rob Jones, Director of Pioneer Ministry, gave a presentation to members on the initiative which has as its mission; “reaching those with little or no connection to church” in fresh and innovative ways. He explained how Pioneer Ministry leadership teams and hubs would be established as well as training people in paid and voluntary roles.

The results of the triennial elections for positions on the various diocesan boards and committees and wider church representation were announced.