Casting their nets in new waters – New Rector instituted in Howth
The Parish of St Mary’s Howth set out on a new adventure yesterday evening (Wednesday April 27) as parishioners and their new Rector began their journey together. The Revd Philip Heak was instituted by Archbishop Michael Jackson at a service which welcomed parishioners and people from the wider community of Howth, clerical colleagues and friends and family, including Philip’s wife, Cristabel.
The preacher was the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, retired Bishop of Tuam, who had known Philip since he went to be Rector of Ballymore Parish, Tandragee, in 1988 when Philip was a teenager. He had encouraged him to go forward for ordination and had followed his progress since.
Drawing on the Gospel reading [Luke 5: 1–11 ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch’], Bishop Rooke observed that this was an appropriate analogy for the seaside town of Howth. However, he said Simon had caught nothing after fishing all night long but the same could not be said for Philip, having served a curacy in Lisburn and a second curacy in St Nicholas’s, Galway, as Diocesan Youth Officer in Cashel, Ferns and Ossory for six years before moving to Naas as Rector for 16 years.
The Bishop added that Philip’s personable character had endeared him to many and he had no doubt that he would bring much to the life and witness of his new parish and to the community of Howth.
“After 16 years, Philip is casting his net in new water. This is an opportunity for personal growth and experience in an attractive and thriving part of Dublin. A new match is being made,” he commented. “The arrival of a new Rector always brings hopes and aspirations. For the new Rector it is a matter of casting the net in deep water and hoping for the best. One never really knows what to expect and it can be overwhelming at first.”
He continued: “For Philip and Cristabel, they set out on a new journey tonight. In answering this call as a couple, they are venturing out in faith and they deserve the support of parishioners.” He added that while a new Rector may do things differently, one of the benefits of a new incumbent is that they challenge parishioners to do new things.
He issued four challenges to the parish based on lessons for the church during the pandemic. Firstly, he urged the parish to consider how to build stronger links with the community and ask what networks of support the parish could offer to Howth. He challenged to parish to make good use of new technology. Clergy had learned new tricks during the pandemic and now churches and cathedrals were reaching around the world. He advised people to appreciate what they took for granted. What was lost during lockdowns and the war in Ukraine reminded people of this, he said. Finally, he reminded Philip not to lose sight of what really mattered and to identify his priorities and keep them close.
Speaking after the service, Archbishop Jackson thanked all who had helped to prepare for the institution. He said that it was encouraging, after the last two years, that everyone could be together for the service and he encouraged parishioners to take that forward. He thanked Bishop Rooke for highlighting the new Rector’s positive skills and said that the new ministry was a gift to the parish. He thanked the Rural Dean, Canon Lesley Robinson, for her tireless work.
Representing the great ecumenical friendship that exists in the Howth area, Fr Gerard Tanham commented that the different traditions in the area had learned from each other and learned what they had in common.
Welcoming Philip and Cristabel on behalf of the parish, Carolyn O’Laoire said that the parochial nominators had cast their net wide and were delighted to discover that Philip’s vision and priorities were aligned with the needs of the parish. She said the parish looked forward to seeing his vision for ministry in Howth.
Philip told the congregation that he and Cristabel had been overwhelmed leaving Naas and by the fantastic welcome they had received in Howth and beyond. He looked forward to meeting everyone over the coming weeks in an exciting time in the church year.