The Church of Ireland Diocese of Derry and Raphoe has welcomed its first newly-ordained Deacon in three years.
Drumragh (Omagh) parishioner, Rev Claire Henderson was ordained Deacon at a Service in St Eunan’s Cathedral in Raphoe on Sunday.
Rev Henderson, who was a Diocesan Reader for a number of years, will serve her Deacon-internship in the Raphoe Group of Parishes.
Sunday’s service – which took place under stringent Covid-19 restrictions – was the first ordination conducted by Rt Rev Andrew Forster since his consecration as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe last December.
The reduced congregation had to wear face coverings and observe strict hand sanitisation procedures, and social distancing was adhered to rigidly in church.
Welcoming the congregation, Bishop Andrew said, “Usually, in an Ordination Service, the cathedral would be packed. There’d be lots of people here, there would be a real sense of occasion, a great crowd, and so on. But God isn’t impressed by crowds and the sense of occasion. God’s impressed by the heart and what goes on in the heart, and the Lord is here, and His spirit is with us.”
Among the select few present to witness what the Bishop called “a day filled with joy and filled with that sense of God’s presence” were Rev Henderson’s parents, George and Jean, the Curate at Drumragh, Rev Sean Hanily, and the former Rector of Drumragh with Mountfield, Rev Ian Linton. Bishop Andrew was assisted by the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett; the Archdeacon of Raphoe, Ven. David Huss; the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller; and the Diocesan Registrar, Rev Canon David Crooks.
In his sermon, Bishop Andrew said they were marking a very significant landmark in the story of Rev Henderson’s life and were thankful for so much that had led her to this moment. “We all know that there have been many difficult moments in that journey,” the Bishop said, “and through all of that, your faith has shone brightly as you responded to God’s call in your life.” The story of our lives helps us to mould the priorities and the pattern of our ministry – whether lay or ordained – the Bishop said.
Turning to the candidate, he said: “Those things that have changed us, broken us, moulded us, shaped us, help set the pattern for our own service to God. So you bring so much from your story into the story of the lives of those whom you will serve. And today we’re thankful for all that your story brings.”
Bishop Andrew told the new deacon that there would be times when she would feel inadequate and unworthy, but that grace would help her through these moments. “In our realisation of our unworthiness, grace comes; in our weakness, grace comes; in our inadequacy, grace comes; when we feel we’re at the end of our tether, grace comes. Why? Because it’s the nature of God. That’s what God does. That’s who he is.”
After the ordination, the Covid-19 restrictions meant a change to the usual routine following significant occasions at St Eunan’s Cathedral. The prohibition on the serving of refreshments meant there was no reception in the nearby church hall. Instead, members of the congregation posed for physically-distanced photographs with the new Deacon before heading their separate ways.