There was an air of excitement and delight in St Andrew’s Church in Malahide as parishioners gathered to welcome our new Rector on Friday evening (November 5). Revd. Canon David Gillespie was instituted Rector of the United Parishes of Malahide, Portmarnock and St Doulagh’s by Archbishop Michael Jackson.
David was joined by his wife Tanya, and members of his family travelled from Northern Ireland to be with him. Continuing restrictions on numbers allowed in church meant that some people could not attend the service in person. However, many people watched online including large numbers from his former parish of St Ann’s and St Stephen’s. Members of the choir, who had not sung together for over 18 months, provided the music for the service.
The sermon was preached by the Archbishop who focused on Romans 15: 14 and 15 which he said gave a framework of care, church and community.
Archbishop Jackson said it was very important that a Rector cared for his or her own spiritual life and personal discipleship. He said it was not possible for a Rector to serve in ordained life without thinking of it as a gift from God.
“Care of oneself, within the love and the service and the response to the gift from God, is essential to being a happy Rector. And a parish surely wants its Rector to be happy if it, in turn, is to be a happy parish. A Rector is not a Branch Manager or a local CEO of an NGO called The Church of Ireland. A Rector is a servant of God like any parishioner but also with specific responsibilities and opportunities within the parish as Rector,” the Archbishop said.
He added that it was important that the Rector and parishioners find happiness in a positive parish and in a worshipping church. On that front he paid tribute to the Rural Dean, Canon Lesley Robinson and her team, for sustaining a strong sense of worship in the parish “through the period of the most severe and sustained closure of churches and lockdown of church people in living memory”. Parish and Rector now had the opportunity to grow together in faith and in the image and likeness of God as the planned for the present and the future, he stated.
Archbishop Jackson said that community offered churches a particular challenge and opportunity. “The community is not a field ripe for harvesting by any church. The community is people with their own preoccupations, joys and sorrows, to whom the values and the generosities of the church are overwhelmingly unknown today and where we as Christian people are ambassadors of God’s goodness,” he said. He added that there were real opportunities for the parish to meet and enjoy community belonging and the new Rector had years of experience of doing this in St Ann’s and St Stephen’s.
Welcoming Canon Gillespie on behalf of the parishioners, Anne Winslow O’Dea said they were delighted that the day of the institution had arrived. She noted that many more parishioners, friends and supporters would have liked to come but that keeping people safe was a priority. She said that parishioners were very proud of their lay readers, churches, school, relationships with sister churches and the community.
Outlining the search of the parish nominators for their new Rector, she said that for once Covid was their friend as they were able to surf the internet and watch services online. She said they had connected with Canon Gillespie and he with them and looked forward to a new and fresh vision and to him “welcoming, witnessing and worshipping” with them. She highlighted the parish’s historic churches and said that the bicentenary of St Andrew’s would be celebrated next year. “Every day there is something to be grateful for and tonight is no exception,” she stated. “We thank the Archbishop for your support and we are grateful for the support of Norman and Susan for over 30 years and Lesley’s support for the past 10 months as well as the clergy and lay readers […] We will work to support you [David]. After the celebrations there is work to do and you can do it. We can do it.”
Representing the local Roman Catholic churches Fr Martin Noone said he was delighted to welcome David and Tanya on behalf of the community. He wished them every blessing and looked forward to working together in the service of the Lord.
Archbishop Jackson thanked David for all the work he had done at St Ann’s and St Stephen’s and in contributing to civic life in the heart of the city. He noted the warm welcome from parishioners in Malahide and said it was clear that people wanted to build a new future together.
Canon Gillespie thanked everyone for their warm welcome and kindness since he and Tanya moved into the rectory and said he was really looking forward to all that lay ahead. He thanked all who had worked on the rectory and those who had organised the service and the Archbishop for his sermon and support. He looked forward to meeting and getting to know his parishioners.