New era for city centre parish as new Vicar welcomed
The churches of St Ann and St Stephen mark the presence of Christ in the crucible of the city. So said their new Rector, Canon Paul Arbuthnot, who was instituted as Rector of the Parish of St Ann with St Mark and St Stephen by Archbishop Michael Jackson on Friday evening (September 16). The preacher was Dean of Ossary, the Very Revd Stephen Farrell, who assured parishioners that the worship and musical tradition of the parish was in safe hands and would thrive under the care of the new Rector.
Joining parishioners in St Ann’s, Dawson Street, at the start of this new chapter were members of Paul’s family as well as friends and clerical colleagues. Parishioners from his former parish of Cobh and Glanmire travelled to be present and the new Rector greeted friends from Westminster Abbey who were watching online.
In his sermon, Dean Farrell said the readings for the day [1 Corinthians 15: 12–20 and Luke 8: 1–3] were wonderfully apt for an institution. The Gospel witnesses to the beginning of community around Jesus that would go on to become the Church and he observed that there were a number of things which the parish could learn from the way in which Jesus shaped that community.
The Dean said that in Luke’s Gospel the faithful were called to be with Jesus. In the parish that meant reading his word, spending time in prayer and gathering with the community of the faithful in public worship. He stated that parishioners would be blessed as their new incumbent “knows his onions when it comes to worship” having received training in St Alban’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Glenageary.
Returning to the Gospel, Dean Farrell said that the disciples were gathered around Jesus, learning from him and he pointed out that the parish was a community of learning where people were taught the faith and how to live out that faith. He said we live in a time of unparalleled religious illiteracy where there was almost pride in ignorance of the scriptures. But he said that Paul knew that is job first and foremost was to guard the faith of the community.
The Gospel speaks of the women who supported Jesus and he said that it was the duty of church members to support the ministry of the parish. He urged parishioners to encourage their new Rector and work collaboratively with him. “He is here to serve, but also to lead. Embrace and welcome him and pray for him and pray that together you and he may bring forth much fruit for the kingdom and may this parish continue to be a rich blessing to all who encounter it,” he concluded.
Arthur Vincent welcomed Paul on behalf of the parish. St Ann’s is known as ‘the church in the heart of the city with the city at its heart’ but Arthur said it was hard to imagine St Ann’s when it was first built a little over 300 years ago when there was no Dawson Street, Stephen’s Green or Molesworth Street. The church was in Molesworth’s Fields. Some 40 years afterwards Leinster House was built. He said Paul was the 27th Vicar of St Ann’s and that parishioners were looking forward to Paul’s ministry.
Speaking on behalf of the parishioners of Cobh and Glanmire, David Bird, said Paul’s incumbency in Cork was one like no other as Covid interrupted their lives. He said that Paul and the Rector of St Anne’s Shandon combined forces to provide online ministry. He said that Paul had the ability to be present with parishioners and the wider community. He also alerted them to his love of football.
Archbishop Michael Jackson pointed to the bread shelf in St Ann’s Church which he said showed that generosity was at the heart of the life of St Ann’s which was a place of generosity of invitation, worship and opportunity to find God and be found by God daily. He said that the integration of the parish and the city was something that Paul could take for granted. He spoke of the relationship of St Ann’s with St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast through the holding of the Black Santa Sit Out in the run up to Christmas each year. Caretaker Fred Deane presented a pair of socks from the Dean of Belfast to be worn by the new Vicar during the Black Santa appeal. The Archbishop thanked all who sustained the life of the parish during the vacancy
Canon Paul Arbuthnot thanked everyone for coming to mark the new chapter in the life of the parish and everyone who worked to organise the institution. He looked forward to being alongside parishioners in their pilgrimage of faith. He said that the churches in the parish occupied a special place in the life of this city. “They mark the presence of Christ in the crucible of the commercial and civic life of Dublin. A presence that occupies this place in the most uncertain of times because it’s here that tired pilgrim limbs can find rest. It is here that people with nowhere to turn instinctively seek solace. It is here that people frightened of war and rumours of war come to taste the peace that passes all understanding. This is the challenge that history, urban geography and above all our Lord has issued this parish with… Almost daily we hear of soaring energy costs and threats by tin pot dictators to snuff out the lamps of our city centres. But there is one light which cannot be extinguished – the light of Christ,” he stated.