On the evening of 7th July, 2023 the Institution of the Rev Suzanne Cousins as Incumbent of the Aughaval Group of Parishes took place at Holy Trinity Church, Westport. The service was conducted by the Rt Revd Michael Burrows. ‘Just as in a single human body there are many limbs and organs, all with different functions, so we who are united with Christ, though many, form one body and belong to one another as its limbs and organs. We have gifts allotted to each of us by God’s grace’ Romans 12. 5,6.
With Readings from Isaiah 6.1-8 5 and Hebrews 13. 17-21; the Sermon was delivered by the Very Revd Henry Hull, Dean of Down who likened the role of Rector to the Good Shepherd. The organ was played by Mr John Dexter and the Hymns sung were ‘Thy hand, O God, has guided’, ‘O Breath of life, come sweeping through us’, ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’ and ‘God is working this purpose out’.
Dr Eamon Smith delivered these words of welcome on behalf of the parishes:-
“Bishop, Dean Hull, diocesan clergy and visiting clergy, Fr Charlie, parishioners and Rev Suzanne’s many friends who have travelled to be here with us as we celebrate and mark the beginning of Rev Suzanne’s ministry among us. You are most welcome.
As parish nominators we found it a privilege to participate in what is a solemn and sacred process as we come together in an attempt to discern the voice of the spirit as we think and pray about our task. In this case I am very happy to declare that the spirit spoke much more loudly than in a gentle whisper. We four parish nominators Steve, Charlie, Willem, perhaps at that place of the spirit where heaven and earth meet just ‘knew’ that we had found our person, a strange and wonderful experience, where there is no judgement or comparison. In actual fact it manifested itself in quite an ordinary display, no flashing lights or drum rolls it was more mundane than that, following lunch with Rev Suzanne, she left us for a moment, (take a call?) and out of her knowing we four looked at each other and without a word gave the thumbs up.
So here we are today, with Rev Suzanne our Rector but also with Suzanne the woman, the wife, mother and grandmother and for two men ‘the mother-in-law! friend, the woman of broad and varied interests who loves walking, reading, art, cinema and theatre, socializing with friends indeed it sounds as if this place is ideally suited to her. She is a woman of courage who has followed many exciting twists and turns during her life so far.
I’m sure that there are some anxieties as you embark on this journey as you move in with what are effectively strangers, often it is easier to stay put. It takes courage to make a change like this. We, as parishioners are also aware of the great sacrifices and challenges that a new rector faces and we recognise that it is firstly our duty but then becomes our pleasure within the context of Christian fellowship, to heartily welcome you among us and to provide all the assistance that you might require and request. I hope that you will never encounter anything which will make you question the wisdom of your decision and that in time you will neither regard us as strange nor strangers.
Of course, you are not embarking on this journey alone, you have the love and encouragement of Alan. We hope that as well as providing all the support that only an intimate companionship can bestow, that he will become part of our community and perhaps through his involvement with like-minded people experience a significant improvement in his golfing handicap.
To your daughter Rachel and her husband Jonathan who are here with us and son James and daughter Debbie and her husband Shaurus and of course grandchildren Sullivan and Madeline we hope that you will, in time, be able to regard Westport and Mayo as home.
In conclusion, we thank God for sending Rev Suzanne to be our new rector. We are also grateful for the past few months of searching, praying and coming together as a church family as we put our hearts and minds to questions about the kind of church we envisage into the future.
We also pray that Suzanne and Alan and their children will experience peace and comfort as they join us here in the West and that their interests and passions can be met. Of course, we also hope that the Lord’s work here in Rev Suzanne’s four parishes will excite her heart. Above all we pray that the Lord will give her the confidence of leadership, and the grace of encouragement.”
A report from Pip Murphy, Parishioner, Aughaval Group:-
Gasps of delight and surprise were heard from many of our visitors at their first sight of the golden splendour of Holy Trinity. With its echoes of the Cathedral of Siena it is far removed from most Church of Ireland architecture. The welcome inside though, is truly that of the West of Ireland.
There was much joy that our sisters and brothers of many Christian denominations and none had gathered together with us for this special occasion as we welcomed the Rev Suzanne to be our leader. This was made so evident during the Peace when there was a mighty mingling between the pews and some minutes before the service continued.
When the service was over and the Rev Suzanne well and truly installed to much rejoicing, the clergy and congregation repaired back across the road to the school and refreshments. Holy Trinity is noted for its bountiful offerings at such times, and hungry, thirsty guests and locals were treated to a groaning table and sizeable teapots. In this hospitable and informal atmosphere, old friendships were renewed, new friendships cultivated and the noise of chatter rose to gratifying high levels.
As the last guests left and the church was closed, we all made our way home knowing that we had been present at a truly remarkable evening.
With thanks to those who contributed photos – Caroline Bourke and Frances Fletcher. Images include Rev Suzanne’s first services with her new parishioners at Holy Trinity, Westport; Christ Church, Castlebar, Turlough Parish and St Thomas’ Dugort.