New Rector Looks Forward to Building God’s Kingdom in Swords and Donabate
There was standing room only in St Columba’s Church in Swords last night (Wednesday May 1) as parishioners and friends flocked to meet their new Rector. The Revd Neal Phair was instituted incumbent of the parishes of Swords, Clonmethan and Kilsallaghan with Donabate and Lusk by Archbishop Michael Jackson.
Neal was joined in the congregation by his wife Lucy and their children Henry and Emily as well as many members of his family and friends and parishioners from the Ballybay Group of Parishes where Neal has just come from.
The preacher at the service was Canon Pat McHugh who observed that we have so much for which to be grateful including Neal and his ministry.
He pointed out that the church and the church community exists not to bring people to the church but rather to bring people to God. “We are to extend God’s invitation to all nations to become disciples of God and all people to know God. The primary Christian duty is to witness to the presence of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Witness to the Christian way of life is especially important in today’s world. The authentic word of God is revealed in the life of Jesus Christ… The glory of God is realised and made authentic in our living of the Gospel,” he explained.
Canon McHugh said that often we were like Thomas in the Gospel reading [John 14: 1–14], appearing confused and uncertain, not knowing where we are going. “Often it might seem that we do not know where we are going or that we do not know the way. We give thanks for those prophetic individuals who challenge us to move beyond our doubts to see the father and who invite us beyond our restrictive boundaries,” he said.
In the 17 years of Neal’s ministry, Canon McHugh said he had faithfully and respectfully engaged with all God’s people, valuing each individual and making no distinction on the grounds of race or religion. He paid tribute to his friendly affable nature and his capacity for active engagement with people of all faiths and none.
Turning to the plight of persecuted Christians, he said that Christians faced being imprisoned or persecuted for their faith in 133 countries and highlighted the attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. “In this part of the world many seem reluctant to ask the difficult questions… We are called in our time to write our own pages of the story and to add to and enhance the narrative,” he stated.
Speaking after the service, Archbishop Jackson said it had been a great pleasure to gather in the historic St Columba’s Church to welcome Neal and his family and join parishioners for a new beginning for the parishes. He thanked everyone who had sustained continuity of worship in the parishes following the retirement of Canon Robert Deane last year.
Fr Joe Connolly from Donabate and Pastor Clem Hegarty from Swords welcomed Neal and his family to the area and looked forward to building on the already strong local ecumenical relations.
Billy Goodwin extended a welcome onn behalf of the parish of Swords, Clonmethan and Kilsallaghan and thanked the Revd Ken Sherwood for his contribution during the vacancy. He said that while they were two parishes with two separate vestries, they were all one happy family and the looked forward to working together. Brian Scott, representing Donabate and Lusk, added their good wishes. He said that in the past few years Donabate had been involved in a project to build a new parish hall with great commitment and he hoped that Neal would put an emphasis on both the spiritual and the material needs of the parish.
Taking his turn at the stand, the new Rector thanked everyone from near and far for joining him for the occasion. He thanked his wife Lucy for her support and Henry and Emily for keeping his feet on the ground. He also paid tribute to the Archbishop for his encouragement and to Archdeacon David Pierpoint who had prepared the young people of the parish for confirmation at the weekend. He said it was lovely to be back in Dublin & Glendalough and looked forward to ministry in the beautiful part of North County Dublin and to building the Kingdom of God in the parishes.