The Rector Writes – conference, storms and starters for Lent

The clergy of the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough met in conference in the historic city of Kilkenny between 3rd and 5th February. Our keynote speaker this year was Dom. Mark Patrick Hedderman, abbot of Glenstal Abbey.  He spoke about finding the Holy Spirit in today’s world and how to facilitate the Holy Spirit in ministry. Much of what he had to say was based on his personal experience. A number of years ago he sought permission from his then abbot to research this subject. The abbot replied “by all means” and continued, “But everything will have to be at your own expense.” The Holy Spirit obviously intervened in his situation as he was able to pursue his research over a number of years and travel as far as Alburquerque, new Mexico!

In addition to our keynote speaker, we had a follow-up to last year’s conference as we welcomed back Rev. Bruce Pierce and Canon Daniel Nuzum who presented the results of a survey carried out amongst diocesan clergy during the past year. This survey covered aspects of ministry which can affect clergy and their families both positively and negatively. The survey results were reinforced by workshops led by experts in their field who gave practical advice on how to best address some of the more negative issues raised.

We were fortunate that our conference finished on 5th February as a week later saw hurricane force winds and a swathe of destruction in the Kilkenny area (and indeed the entire South and South East of the country). Having had to return to the area on 19th for a funeral, I was horrified by the scale of destruction to mature trees – some entirely uprooted and others partially destroyed – together with widespread flooding. The series of wind and rain storms this winter has led to the heightening of debate about the effects of climate change. However, the sheer scale of misery experienced by so many that have had their homes flooded or damaged is staggering. Let us continue to keep them in our prayers as they try to restore normality to their lives.

As this Newsletter appears, we will be embarking on the Church season of Lent, with Ash Wednesday falling on 5th March. It is the traditional season in which we try to prepare ourselves spiritually for the events of the first Holy Week and Easter. If we are willing, it can be a time which affords us the opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves and to make amends for things which need changing in our lives. But all this is done in the positive light of promise – the promise of the risen Christ which we will be celebrating at Easter.

To assist in our Lenten preparations, a variety of Lenten Courses are available in the locality.

There are provisional plans for Thursday evening at 8:00pm in St. Matthias’ Church, Ballybrack – a themed Lenten Course prepared by the Bible Association of the Church of Ireland (BACI) will look at the relationship between church and culture. Each session will laat approximately 1 hour. Also on Thursday evenings (13th, 20th, 27th March and 3rd April) at 8:00pm in Stillorgan Park hotel – there will be a series of talks and discussions on “World Religions – at home in Ireland”. The topics include, “Living as a Jew in Ireland”, “Living as a Hindu in Ireland”, “Living as a Muslim in Ireland” and “Living as a Buddhist in Ireland”. These talks are organised ecumenically by Blackrock churches Together and again, each session will last just over 1 hour.

I would like to encourage everyone to make the most of this Lenten-tide – by joining one of the Lenten groups mentioned above or by private study. Let us never forget that without Easter, there would be no Church. After all, we are an Easter people and it is this promise that gives us the hope of the risen Christ!

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