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Dean of Down stands down

The Very Rev John Dinnen Dean of Down Cathedral Bishop Harold Miller is pictured presenting a diocesan crest to the Very Rev John Dinnen at the Diocesan Council lunch.

The Very Rev John Dinnen
Dean of Down Cathedral

Bishop Harold Miller is pictured presenting a diocesan crest to the Very Rev John Dinnen at the Diocesan Council lunch.

The Very Rev John Dinnen, Rector of the Parish Church of Saint Malachy, Hillsborough, who was appointed Dean of Down Cathedral in 1995, will be standing down at the end of October 2006. Mr Dinnen will be continuing as Rector of Hillsborough Parish.

In a statement, Dean Dinnen said: ‘On the basis of medical advice, and the opportunity available to the Permanent Commission to review local ministry in Downpatrick, regrettably I plan to relinquish my position as Dean of Down at the end of October. It has been a privilege to share in the life and witness of this historic site on the Hill of Down and all that it means to Christian people across the world.’

John Dinnen – An appreciation of his years as Dean of Down
Given by Bishop Harold Miller at the Diocesan Council lunch held in his honour

It was with a deep sense of regret that I accepted John Dinnen’s decision to stand down as Dean on 31st October 2006. I know this decision was arrived at after much thought and prayer and, as John has said, with some medical advice that he needs to be doing a little less at this stage in his ministry. To be both Dean of Down and Rector of Hillsborough for an eleven year period is quite an achievement. We are all glad that John will be continuing his ministry in St. Malachi’s – it is that thought which tempted me to entitle this appreciation “I come to praise John, not to bury him”!

John’s term as dean has almost completely coincided with my own as bishop. He was appointed by Bishop Gordon McMullan in 1995 in what I believe was a well-judged decision. Titles and rank have never been something sought by John Dinnen, who is (I know over many years) a man of the utmost humility and integrity. However, he accepted the role with a sense that it was God’s will and purpose for a period of time.

During those years he has tried, as best anyone can, to hold together his demanding role as dean with the even more demanding role of rector in a large and thriving parish.

The last decade in Down Cathedral has seen the fruit of his work and ministry. Over that period, the pilgrimage from Saul to Downpatrick on St. Patrick’s Day has been re-established as a regular annual feature after the years of the troubles – and not only a feature, but a real experience of God’s grace and history in Down over so many centuries, for the hundreds who come. It will simply not be the same for me, as bishop, to arrive at the Cathedral with John not there to welcome the ‘procession’!

John has also worked to develop links with the local community in Down District with services in the Cathedral which bring community representatives together - not least for those in the medical profession. The highlight of these is the annual Carol Service on Christmas Eve, which seems to get bigger and bigger each year.

John is a man after Patrick’s heart. He is committed to the Gospel, courageous and earthed in sound doctrine. One of the times when he was most criticised (often in an un-nuanced and controversial way) was in relation to the visit of Buddhist monks to Down Cathedral. John immediately and wisely said that the monks would be most welcome, and that he in person would greet them at the Cathedral and show them around. However, he reminded us that the Cathedral was consecrated for worship only in the name of the Holy Trinity and therefore nothing which could be construed as Buddhist worship could take place within it. A balanced and perfectly reasonable judgement. It was sad that it became an unnecessary controversy. My hope is that John will not be remembered for the controversy, but for his reasoned, sound and generous Christian principles.

In the spirit and vision of Patrick’s missionary journey to Ireland, John initiated the Down Cathedral Travel Awards in 2005. With the help of the Friends of the Cathedral and the Chapter, and in spite of having debts from the restoration work, the fund turned attention to the Cathedral’s mission in the wider church. This year 3 young people received support to work in Mexico, Uganda and the Dominican Republic.

Another achievement of John Dinnen’s time as dean was to bring a Bill to the General Synod to reduce the size of the Cathedral Board, which in its old form was large and unwieldy. He also oversaw the structural work on the building over the last years, making it more welcoming to tourists, and providing much needed and up to date facilities. I know there is much more he would have liked to have achieved with the building – not lease its liturgical reordering in a way more suited to its architectural style, and that he will rejoice in seeing the next dean developing from the point where he has left off.

John, we thank you, not just for being dean but for sharing yourself with Down Cathedral over those years. You have been a good and faithful servant.

Bishop Harold Miller
28th September 2006