The Rector Writes – the meaning of words, the Census, change and planning

Since the opening of the Diocesan Synods on 15th October, a considerable amount of press time has been given to remarks made by Archbishop Michael Jackson in his presidential address. The fact that the controversy was sparked over such a tine portion of a long and wide-ranging presentation may be surprising to many. However, it demonstrates yet again the power of certain words and how they are understood in contemporary usage. The word that most stood out was “sectarianism” and it came as a shock to the majority of delegates and indeed to a wider constituency since Synods as it was levelled at members of the Church of Ireland in United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough. For most the contemporary understanding of the word sectarian conjures up images of violence, bloodshed, destruction and deep-seated hatred. And thankfully these are not experiences which are part of our everyday life. However, the wider definition of the word sectarian can be much more benign and refer to what many would describe as petty prejudices. And if we are honest, these prejudices are something which are in our everyday experience, whether we acknowledge them or not. I believe it was this that the Archbishop was referring and it was unfortunate that he used a word that held so much additional meaning to describe it. Matters were further compounded by the Archbishop with the publication of a follow-up article which coined the phrase “polyester Protestant”. This, he claimed, was a pejorative term used in an unspecified prestigious Dublin Church institution – but, it is a term that no-one has admitted to having heard before this. It is indeed right that our Archbishop should challenge us in any complacency, but it would appear that this challenge has regrettably and unwittingly resulted in insult and hurt for many people even beyond our denominational boundary.

 One of the other issues brought before Diocesan Synods was a nationwide Church attendant census which will take place during the month of November. This census will take place in Sundays 3rd, 17th and 24th November and will seek to establish the number of attendees, whether they are male or female and their age category. The census is to be completed anonymously and will cover all Services on each Sunday. It is hoped that the results of this survey will give an accurate picture of Church attendances throughout the country and help both central and local Church to undertake more accurate and constructive planning for the future.

 Running alongside the Church attendance census will be a survey on youth ministry in our parishes and more specifically what our perceived needs are for support from a central source. This survey has been prompted by a complete root and branch review of 3Rock, our diocesan youth project which was initiated by the resignation of Greg Fromholz and Susie Keegan, two of 3Rock’s key personnel. The survey will include the views of youth, youth leaders, parents, clergy and lay readers, It is hoped that in time this will lead to the maximum utilisation of available central resources in the most helpful and constructive way at parochial level. Let us hope and pray that both the census and survey may prove successful and help to advance Christ’s Church in these dioceses and here locally in Tullow.

 With every blessing,


 Rev. John Tanner, Ph: 2893154 or 086 3021376.

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