Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Consecration of new Bishop of Connor

Friday 29th June 2007

Connor's new Bishop is a team builder who shares ministry and allows those around him space to find their own giftings, guests at the consecration of Bishop Alan Abernethy were told.  The Rev Helen Houston, preacher at the service in St Anne's Cathedral on Friday June 29, said the people of Connor had a new friend and listener.  Chaplain of St Rocco's Hospice in Warrington, Cheshire, Rev Houston worked with the new Bishop in his former parish of Ballyholme from 2002 until 2004.  Commenting that the consecration was taking place on the 25th anniversary of Bishop Abernethy's ordination, the theme of Rev Houston's address was hands ' based on John 21 verses 15 ' 17, 'Hands minister and receive grace, helping us to participate in God's story.'  She said the Bishop was wearing an episcopal ring he was honoured to receive from the family of the late Bishop of Connor, Jimmy Moore.

'On this ring, Alan has had inscribed the question Jesus posed Simon Peter: 'Do you love me'' reminding himself that God's call today is firstly a call to relationship with God through Christ, and then, flowing from that, comes his calling to be a Bishop,' Rev Houston said.  'Those of us who know Alan, and who've worked and worshipped with him would want to testify to the importance of Alan's relationship with God.  Faith really is the bedrock and foundation on which his life and ministry are built,' she said.

Rev Houston said the new Bishop was also not afraid of saying 'I don't know'.  'Like Peter he is comfortable to be seen as a man making sense of the love of God in a contrary world.  He allows you to see the struggles, the weaknesses, the joins in the jar of clay where the light seeps through untidily,' Rev Houston said.  'As a leader you will find Alan to be a team builder who shares ministry and allows those around him to have the space to find their own giftings.  He will support and affirm you, clergy and lay leaders alike.  He is always prepared to hear the views of others and to work with difference and conflict.  He's fair-minded, he's fun, he's loyal, and treats all people with respect and without prejudice.

'For also dominant in Alan's ministry is the image of a God of lavish and unconditional love.  And it is this image which informs both his teaching and his practice as a Christian.'  Rev Houston added: 'To plagarise St.Augustine, Alan will be a 'Christian with you and a Bishop for you.''

Twelve bishops of the Church of Ireland assisted the Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev Alan Harper, at the service of consecration. They were joined by three bishops from Kenya, Sweden and Scotland.

Taking part in the service were Dom Mark Ephraim, OSB of Rostrevor, Most Rev Dr John Neill, Archbishop of Dublin, and Rt. Rev Jeremiah Taama, Bishop of Kajaido, Kenya, whose diocese has a partnership with Ballyholme Parish where Canon Abernethy was rector prior to his appointment as Bishop.

During the service the Dean of Connor, Very Rev John Bond received a mandate from the House of Bishops to install the new Bishop in Lisburn Cathedral at a later date, and the Dean of Belfast, Very Rev Dr Houston McKelvey installed the Bishop in St Anne's. Following the act of installation the Cathedral Choir sang the canticle 'Jubilate' to a new arrangement composed for the occasion by Philip Stopford, Director of Music. A music group from Ballyholme Parish also took part in the service.

At the close of the service Archbishop Harper presented Bishop Abernethy with a new episcopal crozier for Connor diocese, replacing the existing ornate crozier which will later be placed on display in St Anne's. During the service the new Bishop put on his Episcopal ring, a gift from the family of the late Bishop of Connor, Jimmy Moore.

Connor Diocese has links with Linkoping Diocese in Sweden and the Diocese of Edinburgh. Bishop Martin Lind of Linkoping took part in the service. Canon Fred Tomlinson represented Bishop Brian Smith who preached at the Connor ordination service in St Anne's a few weeks ago. Rt Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, was also present. Bishop Tony Farquhar of Down and Connor, Very Rev Dr Hugh Kennedy of St.Peter's Cathedral, and the President of the Methodist Church, Rev Roy Cooper, were the principal ecumenical guests.

More than 150 diocesan readers and clergy and 600 laity accepted invitations to be present at the service. Many later retired to the nearby University of Ulster building for a reception organised by the diocese.