Bishop Rooke’s Presidential Address to TKA Synod 2020 In Full

Presidential Address from the Rt Rev Patrick Rooke, Bishop of Tuam, Killala
and Achonry to the Diocesan Synod on Saturday 19 th September 2020.
Members of Synod, it is my privilege to address you, on this the tenth occasion
as your Bishop and President. In so doing, I pay tribute to our small but
dedicated team of clergy, readers (both diocesan and parish) and all lay
members across Tuam, Killala and Achonry for their support – practical,
financial and spiritual that has enabled the wheels of diocesan and parochial
structures to turn effectively and efficiently. In this connection, I acknowledge
the particular contribution of our Senior Clergy Team, namely Dean Alistair
Grimason and Archdeacon Stephen McWhirter along with our Diocesan
Administrator and Secretary, Mrs Heather Pope for the assistance that each
has given to me personally and to the Diocese as a whole.

Little did any of us think as we entered 2020, that it was to be a year like no
other. The Coronavirus/Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has had
major implications for us all. Some two-and-a-half thousand people across the
Island of Ireland have lost their lives as a result of contracting the virus in the
past six months and as a Diocesan Synod, we extend our sympathy to their
loved ones. Many more have caught the virus and survived. Others,
particularly the elderly and vulnerable, spent many months shielding and some
remain fearful and uneasy about any form of social interaction.
I don’t need to remind you, that our churches were closed for worship over
fifteen Sundays – closed at a time when perhaps people needed the Church
and its support more than ever. Yet that support, by way of pastoral and
spiritual care, continued as clergy, and many lay members too, devised new
and imaginative ways of being Church in their parishes and communities. What
it is to be a good neighbour took on a whole new meaning. I want therefore, to
say thank you to all those who looked after and reached out to others who
were tied to their own homes, isolated, lonely and in practical need. Many of
our clergy worked harder than ever during the lockdown period. In the
process, new skills were learnt, not least in the virtual world and there can be
little doubt that how we go about our work in a scattered, rural diocese will be
changed for ever as a result of Covid 19.
As we look back on 2020 we will, of course, remember the pain and suffering
inflicted; lives cut short, others severely scarred, families and friends
devastated at not being able to give loved ones a decent farewell, the
economic after-shocks that are already being felt….and all of this compounded
by missed holidays and family occasions such as weddings and anniversaries
ruined. Covid 19 is still very much with us and what a relief and gratitude there
will be when a vaccine is found.
On a positive note, we will remember the heroic efforts and the
acknowledgement shown to all our essential workers and not least those
employed as health care workers. The killing of Detective Garda Colm Horkan
in Castleree on the evening of Wednesday 17th of June and his subsequent
funeral in his home town of Charlestown was not only shocking but served as a
further reminder of the debt we owe to so many who risk their own safety to
ensure ours.
The work of Canon Andrew Ison as Editor of Tidings and Dean Alistair
Grimason as Diocesan Website Co-ordinator during the lockdown and since
have gone a long way in keeping us all in touch and informed. The lockdown
issue of Tidings will become an historical record and the Dean’s ever-increasing
skills with our weekly Diocesan Service have not only made those productions
possible but added real quality to them.
My hope is that as we will look back on all the events of 2020, we will see it as
a time of learning. A time when we learnt to appreciate some of the more
important aspects of our lives that perhaps we had come to take for granted.
If, for example, during the lockdown you were isolated from your family,
separated in a way you haven’t known before, perhaps you realised just how
important that bond is. Perhaps too, we all learnt to appreciate more the
beauty of the natural world and the gift of silence. The early weeks of the
lockdown were particularly memorable for the good weather and the bursting
forth of spring and summer buds. Lockdown certainly had its frustrations but it
also highlighted the emptiness of so much in our modern world as we go
rushing around with little time or effort to appreciate and take notice of much
that is before our eyes, under our noses and within our hearing. Too often, in
the words of the Psalmist, we fail to ‘be still and know God’ in all the glory of
His creation. Furthermore, Covid 19 has made us all more aware of the fragility
of human life and how, in the twinkling of an eye, all can change.

This time last year we were celebrating a life changing event for three from our
Diocese. For the first time for many years, not one but three of our own were
ordained. This month it is happening again as three more of our OLM
ordinands, Clive Moore, Caroline Morrow and Paidi Delaney are being made
deacons – Clive and Caroline last Sunday in St Michael’s Ballina and tomorrow,
Paidi in Galway. We congratulate them and their families and I am confident
that each has much to offer both to our Diocesan Clergy Team and to the
individual parishes where they are to serve. Congratulations too to the
Reverends Karen Duignan, Maebh O’Herlihy and Carole Reynolds who will be
priested on Sunday week at another ordination service in St Nicholas’
Collegiate Church, Galway. Our congratulations also go to Arthur Sweeney of
Killala Parish who has been selected for training for full-time ministry in the
Church of Ireland – a first for very many years from Tuam, Killala and Achonry
and we wish Arthur every blessing as he begins his three years of training this
month. Two other members of our Diocesan family, Helena Lewis and Rachel
Kenny are currently undertaking the Foundation Course at the Church of
Ireland Theological Institute. The influence of our Diocesan Director of
Ordinands, Canon Jen McWhirter and of our Diocesan Tutors has been vital
and I thank them all.
We welcome Canon McWhirter’s appointment as Rector-elect of the Aughaval
Group. Killala’s loss is Westport’s gain! Her postponed Institution has been re-
arranged for Thursday 15 th October. Most recently, we have welcomed the Rev
Canon David Williams and the Reverend John Farr as supports to our Diocesan
Ministry Team – both in a short-term part-time capacity. With welcomes, there
are usually goodbyes. In May, we said farewell to the Reverend Elaine Dunne
as she headed for Ballybay as, at the end of September last year, Canon Val
Rogers took his leave to retirement in Newport. Westport parishioner, Dr
Richard Marsh who assisted during the Aughaval vacancy has also moved on.
Professor Steven Ellis stood down at the end of August as a Diocesan Reader
after 15years of service to the Diocese. We thank him for a ministry to which
he brought much learning and a deep interest in liturgy. With four of our
readers becoming OLMs, our team of Diocesan readers is now down to one –
Dr Eamon Smith. As a matter of some urgency then, we do need to identify
possible candidates for this important ministry and I should add that a new
annual ‘one-year’ readers’ course begins at CITI in January. For many years,
both Diocesan and Parish Reader selection and training have been overseen by
Dean Alistair. He recently indicated his intention to step down from this role
and I’m delighted Provost Lynda Peilow has agreed to replace him. As we wish
her well, our thanks go to the Dean for all he has contributed as Warden of

I recently read an article in the Church Times which struck a chord. It was
entitled The CofE needs to be leaner and fitter. The writer, Stephen Trott, a
rector in Peterborough Diocese, argued that ‘the Church of England with its
143 archdeacons and 117 bishops has become top heavy with clerical
dignitaries. There is too much emphasis on the 42 dioceses at the expense of
the parochial units.’ He goes on to say that ‘many of those 42 dioceses were
created in the 20 th century, each requiring its own cathedral and diocesan
administration, all of which have to be funded; the vast bulk of the money
coming from giving in the parishes.’ Mr Trott argues that ‘we need to recruit
tent-maker clergy who are in secular employment, part-time clergy and retired
clergy, who would occupy the vicarage in return for their ministry.’ He also
states that reform too is required ‘to make the diocese once again a primarily
spiritual rather than administrative function in the Church’. Does any of this
ring a bell? It certainly seems to me that much of what we have been doing
here in the West over the last 10 Diocesan Synods is summarised in these short
Since last we met, our Joint Working Group with representatives from Limerick
and Killaloe has sought to look for opportunities to bring clergy and laity from
the two united dioceses together. Fostering relationships is surely as good
preparation as any for our future amalgamated dioceses. Sadly Coronavirus
scuppered much of what had been planned but the clergy did again have their
joint Diocesan Conference in Adare in October; during Lent we had our joint
Quiet Day in Tuam for clergy and readers and we followed the same Lenten
Study course in our parishes. More recently the two magazine teams have
begun sharing articles and information. The postponed meeting of the two
diocesan councils will be re-arranged as soon as possible. You will notice too
that for the first time at a triennial Diocesan Synod, we are only required to
elect 4 clergy and 4 lay Episcopal Electors as Limerick and Killaloe will elect the
remaining 8 of each. So, step by step the partnership is beginning to happen.
As well as looking at our diocesan structures, we have been planning changes
to our parochial structures by way of a Diocesan Ministry Strategy. Four
resolutions relating to this are on the agenda for today’s meeting. Essentially
we are in the process of reducing eight cures to five which will result in
significant financial savings and ensure that most of our clergy are working in
teams alongside other ordained colleagues. In fact, we will have more diocesan
clergy than we’ve had for many a year across the Diocese as a whole. So it is, in
my view a win/win strategy. This has, of course, been made possible thanks to
our NSMs, our OLMs and other part-time clergy. The end result will place
greater responsibilities on our few remaining full-time stipendary clergy whose
administrative roles will be significantly increased and who will be overseers of
those working in a part-time capacity. I do hope you will support these
resolutions when they are put to us later.

Five years ago, as part of our Diocesan Outreach Strategy, we undertook with
Church Army, to fund for an initial five years, a Church Army Evangelist to work
in Ballina as part of the Ballina Churches Together Project. Two years later,
with the other Churches in the town we agreed for three years to share 50% of
the financial responsibilities for a second worker – Church Army agreeing to
match fund the other half. Emma Rodrigues and Marian Edwards have done
sterling work in these roles and given us all great encouragement in the
process. Many in Ballina have been given hope and support in ways that were
not previously there for them. Yes, perhaps this has only been a scratching of
the surface but nonetheless their efforts have made a difference. Part of the
responsibility of those you elect this afternoon to the Diocesan Council will be
to look at that project with Church Army and the other churches and decide
whether it should continue beyond its initial five-year term and if so, in what
form. Whatever that decision may be, I want to place on record our admiration
for the courageous pioneering spirit of Emma, Marian and all those who have
worked alongside them and supported them in all kinds of ways. I would plead
too, that this Diocese continues to tackle mission outreach opportunities such
as BCT, the Sacred Path, the Claremorris monthly service, Scola Cantorum and
the other parish outreach initiatives clergy and parishioners have embarked
upon. God forbid that we should become a Diocese that looks only to
maintaining what we’ve got with no heart and no imagination for fresh
expressions of ministry, ‘alternative pathways’, among those who are as yet
outside ‘the fold’.
One sadness for me over the past year has been the significant drop in our
funding of Bishops’ Appeal – our main outreach channel to the wider world. At
the end of 2018 we agreed to take a break from our commitment to Kajiado
Diocese. This has resulted in our giving going from 6,376euro in 2018 to
3,989euro in 2019 and I suspect the 2020 giving will be even less. Taken
alongside the figure of 660,000euro we will aim to raise for parochial and
diocesan costs this afternoon it is a paltry amount, and even alongside
contributions from other Church of Ireland dioceses, it makes embarrassing
reading for your Diocesan Bishop and Chair of the Bishops’ Appeal Committee.
Thus, I shall be encouraging our Mission Support Group to identify another
project, perhaps in Kajiado Diocese again, for us to support from January 2021.

Some of our five national schools also continue to cause me considerable
concern. One has seen a nose dive in numbers. Another has lost all of its
Church of Ireland pupils and is now largely a school for children of foreign
nationals. Another is seeking a new school build but this is proving extremely
difficult as the politics of community and diversity is held against us despite
our considerable efforts to present our ‘Church’ schools as ‘Community-
centred’ and ‘Church of Ireland light’. Nonetheless, a lot of very good work
goes on in our national schools and we can feel proud of the contributions they
make to their respective communities. I also pay tribute to those in the
Secondary sector, not least in Sligo Grammar, Wilsons Hospital and Villiers in
Limerick who, in these difficult times, are struggling to make ends meet.
I finish as I began by thanking those who enable us to function as a Diocese.
This is our triennial year which means that some of you, having been elected
by your own parish are here for the first time as one of its representatives. If
that is the case for you, I welcome you as a newly elected member and thank
you for your willingness to participate in this way. The presence of new
members is always a reminder that others have left us, so, I want to record my
gratitude to all those who for the past three years have served as members of
this Diocesan Synod, its Diocesan Council and Committees.
Finally, I wish you all and particularly those you elect today to the Diocesan
Council and the various Diocesan Committees every blessing for our work
together as we move into a new triennium.