During his Presidential Address, the Bishop of Clogher asked the Clogher Diocesan Synod to “pray for wisdom, honesty and discernment on the part of our governments” regarding the “complex and far reaching events” which will unfold in the coming weeks.

Referring back to his address from the previous year, in which he had some “cautious and cautionary” words about Brexit, the Right Reverend John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher said: “Whatever uncertainty existed then has now been deepened by all sorts of developments since and, whatever happens, has brought the whole of the UK to what a leading University of London academic expert has called a ‘constitutional moment’. Who knows where we will be socially, economically and politically in just over a month’s time much less a year’s time.”

The annual meeting of the Clogher Diocesan Synod took place on Thursday, September 26 at St. Macartin’s Cathedral Hall following a service of Holy Communion in St. Macartin’s Cathedral. Attended by church officials from across the Clogher Diocese, the Synod also welcomed observers from sister churches and visitors including Reverend Lorna Dreaning representing the Methodist Church, the Right Reverend Monsignor Peter O’Reilly and Eileen Gallagher representing the Roman Catholic Church and Reverend Jane Nelson who represented the Presbyterian Church.

Giving his ninth Presidential Address which also marked the ninth anniversary of his consecration as Bishop of Clogher, Rev. McDowell commented that whilst standing before the Synod he felt equal feelings of “gratitude and bewilderment”.

“Gratitude at nine years of steady work and a deepening understanding of the Diocese and you its people. Not everything has gone according to plan and there have been many bumps in the road but we have travelled that road together in faith and hope,” said Rev. McDowell.

He continued: “Who can tell how successful it has been? We will all know the answer to that one day and probably what seemed to us to be the great realisation of our dreams or the successful working out of our plans will not feature at all in that reckoning which will expose the motives of our hearts much more than the grandness of our plans.”

Explaining his feeling of bewilderment, the Bishop of Clogher spoke of how the question “why” has occurred to him from time to time. He said: “Why has Providence placed us where we are; in the various roles that we play out on life’s stage? Looking in the mirror in the morning while shaving, that is a time when stray thoughts often come into my head and are to be respected, sometimes even ‘Why me?’.”

Noting that he was not certain that he could answer those questions satisfactorily, Rev. McDowell later in his address raised the question of “why the Church of Ireland?” in the context of the 150th anniversary of the church’s Disestablishment and Disendowment.

After sharing a historical summary on the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of Ireland along with its positive effects, Rev. McDowell added: “There have been downsides too. Here in Northern Ireland a certain cosiness with the State which in a non-establishment sense was still able to ‘look after our interests’. But a church and a mentality that is concerned chiefly with its own interests can hardly be called a church at all. It is simply a self-regarding self-preservation society at prayer. We have not been called to look after our own interests but to promote the interests of Jesus Christ as his disciples loving our neighbour as ourselves.”

Commenting on the social, economic and political uncertainty of the current clime, Rev. McDowell said: “Insofar as I have had anything to say about these matters, and the church and its leaders have a duty as an important element in civil society to say something sometimes, I hope I have done so from a Kingdom perspective where the love of one’s neighbour is the guiding standard. I hope you will remember in your private and public devotions the complex and far reaching events which will unfold, I suspect quite rapidly, in the weeks to come. Pray for wisdom, honesty and discernment on the part of our governments.”

“Pray that what beginnings of peace and integration which we have in this part of the world are sufficient to help us understand one another in a world where barriers are going up rather than coming down,” the Bishop of Clogher added.