Kenagh native, Dr Fergus O'Ferrall, Lay Leader, The Methodist Church in Ireland, pictured with his wife Iris.
Kenagh native, Dr Fergus O'Ferrall, who is Lay Leader, The Methodist Church in Ireland, today addressed the 12 noon Welcome Service for Rev Christiaan Snell, at Longford Methodist Church.
Under the Covenant agreement between the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland, Rev Christiaan Snell becomes Minister of Longford Methodist Church and the Church of Ireland Edgeworthstown Group of Parishes.
Dr O'Ferrall explained that this sharing of a full time minister is an historic step as Longford becomes a pioneer in interchangeability of clergy between the two Churches.
As a member of the Covenant Council appointed by both Churches to oversee the implementation of the agreement, Dr O'Ferrall remarked, "I am delighted that this is happening in my home county."
Dr O'Ferrall addressed the Welcome Service in Longford Methodist Church and there will also be an induction Service in Edgeworthstown Church (today, Sunday, July 9) at 4pm.
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Here is Dr O'Ferrall's address ;
The ageing John Wesley intertwined two beech saplings at Chrome Hill, Lambeg, Lisburn, saying as he did so, that this was how he hoped that the Church of Ireland and ‘the people called Methodist’ would develop together and grow side by side. On a wet Thursday afternoon on 26 September, 2002, the Archbishop of Armagh and the President of the Methodist Church and some 25 people met at Chrome Hill House at the foot of these two trees joined half way up the trunk and growing together as one to sign the landmark Covenant between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland.
The basis of the Covenant is the acknowledgement that each Church belongs to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, and participates fully in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God. The Covenant is the expression of our belief that “God is calling our two Churches to a fuller relationship in which we commit ourselves:
- To share a common life and mission
- To grow together so that unity may be visibly realised.”
By 2014 both Churches had approved interchangeability of ministries which has set a headline in relationships between the worldwide Anglican communion and the family of Methodist Churches throughout the world. John Wesley’s prayer and hope – symbolised in the trees at Chrome Hill- is being realised. Today is another exciting step taking place in County Longford.
In welcoming Rev Christiaan Snell to ministry in Longford Methodist Church on behalf of the Covenant Council of our two Churches of which I am a member and, indeed, as Lay Leader of the Methodist Church in Ireland, on behalf of our whole Connexion I join with you all present to celebrate a new partnership whereby Longford Methodist Church and the Edgeworthstown Group of parishes will share in mission and ministry led by Rev Christiaan Snell.
This new venture in mission together has been possible because of the leadership of Bishop Ferran Glenfield and Rev. Dr. Heather Morris, Home Mission Secretary and Co-Chair of the Covenant Council. It is only possible also because of the preparedness of Longford Methodists and Church of Ireland parishioners to support this exciting new expression of our Covenant relationship. Such exciting ventures of faith, as we now mark, depend upon prayerful support by each of you and a willingness to see God’s mission prosper in this town and county. Longford and Edgeworthstown, in partnership, from now on becomes an important local expression of ‘unity in mission’ as recognised in the Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity in Mission Report, Into All the World: Being and Becoming Apostolic Churches. (2014). This Report states that when churches find themselves serving a similar locality “it is good to root closer unity firmly in God’s mission for and to that place.”
I hope it is very encouraging for you, embarking on this new partnership, to know that under the Covenant there are examples where it is being successfully worked out in action: the Church on the Hill, Maghaberry, and the Church of the Good Shepherd are examples of single Covenant Churches. There are shared buildings at Movilla Abbey and Primacy working together in ministry and mission. The chaplaincy at Queen’s University carries a remarkable ministry and mission of our covenanted Churches in unity. There are new opportunities in the Boyle area where the Church of Ireland has been so hospitable to the local joint Presbyterian and Methodist Congregation and this is leading to possibilities of a worshiping agreement regarding the rotation of clergy in a federal arrangement. The work between the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and Edgehill Theological College has been very fruitful and may soon be further developed. The Covenant Council hopes that a Diocese will put together a template whereby Diocesan Lay Readers and Local Preachers may be mutually recognised and used in both Churches. Longford and Edgeworthstown are now joining these pioneers as signposts to further ‘unity in mission’ for each of our Churches and we thank you for that and praise God for it.
Paul’s Exhortation – sets the standard for ‘unity in mission’.
In St Paul’s wonderful letter to the Ephesians he unfolds in the first three chapters the eternal purpose of God being worked out in history. Through Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and was raised from death, God is creating something entirely new for individuals and for society. Paul sees an alienated humanity being reconciled, a fractured humanity being united, even a new humanity being created. It is a magnificent vision! It is for this reason Paul ends chapter 3 with his amazing prayer – Read 3:14-21.
In our reading from Chapter Four he moves on from this vision of God’s new society to exhort us to what we must do – “from mind-stretching theology to its down-to-earth, concrete implications of everyday living”. (Stott). He sets out the unity –the oneness- of the Church of Jesus Christ in verses 1-16.
Paul elaborates four truths about the kind of oneness which God intends for His new society to be reflected in His Church:
1. Unity depends upon the unselfish love we must reveal in our character and conduct (Verse 2)
2. Unity is based on the unity of our Trinitarian God (Verses 3-6)
3. Unity is enriched by the diversity of our gifts from Christ (Verses 7-12)
4. Unity demands the maturity of our continual growth in Christlikeness (Verses 13-16)
Here, then, are the standards for this new partnership of Longford Methodist and the Edgeworthstown Group of Parishes under the ministry of Rev Christiaan Snell: unselfish love, unity in the Holy Spirit, using the diversity of gifts on every disciple, and each one growing spiritually “until we all attain to the unity of the faith in the knowledge of Jesus … to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Verse 13).
Wow! What a calling we each have and how this vision and calling raises our sights to what Christ expects of each one of us. So do not expect your new minister to be and do everything – the bus driver while the congregation is but passengers. He is called to lead you in Word and Sacrament and to oversee the equipping of ‘the saints for the work of ministry’. That is why in the Methodist Church we rightly emphasise that all people are called to minister according to their God-given gifts and we are called, each one, to everyday discipleship where we share the Good News of Jesus with all those we encounter. Lay leadership, lay witness, lay preaching, lay class leaders, lay teachers, lay Circuit Stewards, lay Society Stewards, lay members of Church Council, lay Youth leaders and lay movements of men and women are hallmarks of local churches where each member is growing in the knowledge, love and service of Jesus Christ. We are to be learning churches and missional communities seeking to serve our town and county as we live our lives of unselfish love. We must become more fluent in the Gospel so that others may come to know Jesus. We look to our ordained ministers to help, encourage, inspire and equip all God’s people to be a servant people, ministering actively but humbly according to their gifts in a world often in pain and alienated from the love of God. The manifesto of Jesus – taken from Isaiah 61: 1-3 – is to preach the Good News to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to release people from darkness and set them free. Jesus sets us the example of service in washing the disciples feet. Here each one of us ‘hears the call of the Kingdom’ and are to do as Christ did.
Paul urges us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received: to be completely humble and gentle; to be patient, bearing with one another in love; we are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. As we meet each other from our different traditions and different ways of doing things we need to remember our traditions and practices may vary but we are ONE in Christ’s Church as St Paul sets out clearly
- First, the one Father creates one family
- Secondly, the one Lord Jesus creates one faith, hope and baptism
-Thirdly the one Holy Spirit creates one body – the Church of which Jesus is Head.
Let us be enriched by our shared spiritual heritage and by the gifts we may bring to each other on our journey of faith together- let us be very anxious to learn from each other.
The Covenant Council will offer you support at all times. (www.covenantcouncil.com) There are a number of valuable resources on the website. Please use them and also the help and guidance from Bishop Ferran and Rev Dr Heather Morris. You have Rev. Jeremy Nicholl as District Superintendent to guide and assist you. I suggest you use ways of growing together: for example, both our Churches celebrate John Wesley Day – the Sunday nearest to 24th May each year- in their Prayer and Worship Books. Joining together for Harvest and other celebrations is important. Doing Bible study together and joining in works of service to others will be very fruitful- mission unites like nothing else. We can come and help you form Fellowship Bands as Inspire is doing throughout the Connexion. We can come and hold a God’s Mission Our Mission Service as Conference has directed all churches to do. Please ask and express your needs – ask and you shall receive.
Our prayer for this new partnership of Longford Methodist Church and the Edgeworthstown Group of Parishes is that under the ministry of Rev Christiann Snell, is that the compelling picture Paul sets before us in Ephesians will be more and more realised-
- a picture of a deepening fellowship as we partner in God’s mission to the people outside of our churches,
- a picture of every disciple being eager to maintain unity in mission,
- a picture of each one growing into maturity in Christ in love for Him and for others, a living, networked body of believers in town and county making the Good News of Jesus Christ credible to an increasingly disbelieving world which hungers for meaning and purpose.
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