Parishioners in Glenageary Celebrate 150th Anniversary of St Paul’s
Parishioners past and present filled St Paul’s Church, Glenageary, yesterday (Sunday July 8) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the building. The service, which took place 150 years to the hour after Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench conducted the consecration, was celebrated by the second longest serving Rector of the parish, Archdeacon Gordon Linney and the preacher was former parishioner, the Very Revd Gregory Dunston, Dean of Armagh.
A number of local public representatives and visitors from other local churches were in attendance and were welcomed by the Rector, the Revd Gary Dowd. The communion setting was specially written for the day by St Paul’s organist and choir director, Nathan Barrett. The choir also sang the anthems ‘The Heavens are Telling’ by Hayden and ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’ by Handel.
Following the service a tree was planted in the church grounds by Holly, a granddaughter of Deirdre Moppett who had been very heavily involved in the parish and with the early stages of the planning of the 150th anniversary commemorations until her death last year. Guests then enjoyed a garden party with food and entertainment for all ages.
In his sermon, Dean Dunston, looked back to the centenary of St Paul’s in 1968 which he described as a tumultuous year with the Prague Spring, protests in Paris, the Vietnam War was at its height and the civil rights movement was starting in Northern Ireland.
The parish produced a history for the centenary and he suggested that while it reproduced parish records and parish matters there was barely a mention of events in the wider world. There was little reference to World War I or the Emergency and not a hint of the changing Ireland of the time.
Twenty–five years later, at the 125th anniversary, the parish production looked wider. The old mind set was dying, he said, but today’s world could not be imagined with the internet for everyone, the secularisation of Irish society and its diversity and the emergence of ‘strong man’ politics.
“This is the world in which we are to be a ‘royal priesthood’,” he said, referring to the second reading [1 Peter 2: 1–5, 9–10]. He said the essence of priesthood was to do things on behalf of God, to mediate between God and his people.
“We are to mediate Christ in his Kingdom and to the people of St Paul’s, Glenageary, Dublin and the Ireland of today. And then our focus shifts from St Paul’s the building to the parish and the people of St Paul’s as part of God’s Church serving Christ in God’s world and serving God’s world for Christ’s sake,” he stated.
In the Gospel reading [St Matthew 21 starting at verse 12], Dean Dunston said that Jesus pronounced judgement on a religious system that was turning in on itself. The Temple had become self absorbed and self serving, as if a parish invested its money only in ever more attractive facilities, music and liturgy. But purged of corruption, the Temple became a place to meet God, he said.
He said that St Paul’s was called to be a place where the excluded of today could come to find healing. It was a place where the people of St Paul’s gathered to do together what they could not do alone – to celebrate, sing, listen and serve. “In a world where God’s presence is often obscured by our restlessness, this place is set apart for him. This place is a place of common Christian mindfulness. God is not shut up in buildings. He is available everywhere. So here God reveals his character to us in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup… And then we go out as priests in the world. Christ sends us forth to consecrate the world,” Dean Dunston concluded.
St Paul’s Church opened for worship on Thursday January 2 1868. The consecration had to be postponed until the building was completed. The structure was erected by Mr John Nolan of Dublin from the design of Mr A Jones, architect. The amount of the contract was ‘about’ £4,000, much of which was provided from a bequest by Miss Jane Shannon, a wealthy woman from Belfast who also left funds to build three other churches in the diocese.