New Chaplain heralds new season at St John’s, Sandymount
A new season began for the Church of St John the Evangelist, Sandymount, yesterday evening (Monday February 20) when members and friends welcomed their new Chaplain. Canon Robert Jones was introduced at a special service by Archbishop Michael Jackson who said it was a great pleasure to welcome the new Chaplain to a church which had a special place in the life of the dioceses and the Church of Ireland.
Canon Jones succeeds Fr Paul Barlow who retired earlier this year. He had served in the Kiltegan Group of Parishes in the Dioceses of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory since 2018.
A native of Co Carlow, in 1975 he began training for the ministry by attending Chichester Theological College and completed his studies in Trinity College, Dublin. He was made deacon in 1979 and ordained priest in 1980. He served curacies in Seapatrick Parish Banbridge, and Bangor Abbey, before being appointed rector of Rathfriland and Ballyward in Co Down.
He then moved to the diocese of Connor where he served in the parish of Finaghy and the parish of Cairncastle with All Saints Craigy Hill. In 1998 he moved to Athlone which was followed four years later with his appointment as Dean of Clonmacnoise and rector of the Trim Cathedral group of parishes. He returned to Connor diocese in 2012 when he became rector of Malone parish, Belfast.
The sermon at his introduction was preached by the Very Revd Roderick Smyth, formerly Dean of Killaloe who noted that as a new season was soon to begin with signs of spring everywhere, a new season was beginning in St John’s. However, he added, the introduction of a new Chaplain was an affirmation of a continuing ministry in St John’s and Robert’s name was just one in a long list of people who had served there.
“None of you will need me to tell you what a unique parish St John’s is. It has always been and still is one of the few Anglican Catholic churches in Ireland. This parish has always valued the sacramental life of the church with a significant stress on liturgy and worship performed in order to maintain the beauty of holiness and makes worship an experience which is intended to appeal to one’s whole person… Those who attend services in this church cannot fail but be transformed by the experience,” he stated.
The Gospel reading [Matthew 17: 1–9] was the narrative of the Transfiguration and Dean Smyth said that Transfiguration was about transformation. For Peter, James and John it was one of those epiphany moments in which God was revealed in his glory and Jesus was affirmed as the Messiah, he said. Transfiguration invited us to encounter God afresh and be filled with new hope as we encounter the incarnate Christ, he added.
He commended Robert’s gifts to members of St John’s congregation. “In Robert you will find someone who has the perfect combination of gifts as you move forward to the next chapter in this place – a very fine and experienced liturgist who does liturgy well with decency and in order, a strong theologian, a provocative preacher, a fine administrator and above all else someone who is deeply pastoral and caring who has a sense of humour and is not averse to rolling his sleeves up and getting into a particular project,” Dean Smyth said.
He urged the people of St John’s to be kind to their new priest and trust him. He reminded Robert to catch the vision in a way in which others would be excited. He said: “The collective vison for the future of this parish should be one of a transforming church, transforming lives both inside this place and in the community beyond… Let St John’s be a church which sends all of us out transformed offering the transformational experience of the beauty of its liturgy inside the church to those on the outside who need that transformation also be it on the streets, in the nursing homes, in the newsagents or even in the pub”.