PCI Moderator tours Dublin and Munster Presbytery
On Sunday, 5 February 2023, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick, began a weeklong tour of PCI’s largest regional presbytery, the Presbytery of Dublin and Munster. Preaching in local churches, pastoral visits and encouraging ministers, coupled with meetings in the Oireachtas, engagements involving the social care and education sectors, along with the turning of the first soil for a new church in County Kildare, are all on the agenda.
The Church’s 500-plus congregations across the island are divided into 19 regional presbyteries that oversee a number of congregations in a particular area. While the Church has just under 100 congregations in the Republic of Ireland, 26 of them make up the Presbytery of Dublin and Munster. Covering all of Munster and Connacht, it also takes in the nation’s capital and parts of north and south Leinster, constituting PCI’s largest geographical presbytery.
It will be a busy week of engagements for the Moderator and his wife Joan that will see Dr Kirkpatrick preach in a number of churches, starting with tomorrow’s morning service in Arklow Presbyterian and the evening service in Kilkenny Presbyterian. The Presbytery tour will conclude the following Sunday, 12 February 2023, when he preaches in PCI’s newest congregation in Donabate, County Dublin. During the week he will also visit Clontarf and Galway Presbyterian Churches.
Clerk of Dublin and Munster Presbytery, Stuart Ferguson who arranged the tour, is looking forward to welcoming Dr and Mrs Kirkpatrick, “Moderators undertake four presbytery tours a year on a rotational basis, so with nineteen in our denomination, it has been a while since we have been able to put out the red carpet for a Moderator. I think the last tour was in 2018 and the one before that was in 2011.
“While they are primarily pastoral visits to encourage ministers, their families and church members, it is also an opportunity to listen and see how congregations are working quietly in the name of Jesus in their local communities. The tours also have strong civic and community elements to them and we are very much looking forward to having the Moderator with us,” he said.
Dr Kirkpatrick, who is a third generation Presbyterian minister, his grandfather’s congregation was in Donegal Town, was last in the Presbytery in November, when accompanied by the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches, the Church of Ireland and Irish Council of Churches, he visited President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.
Next week he will visit the Oireachtas and have lunch with Dáil Éireann Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD and meet with Heather Humphreys TD, the Minister for Social Protection and Minister for Rural and Community Development, the state’s senior elected Presbyterian. When he visits Rev Helen Freeburn in Galway Presbyterian, the Moderator will also meet the city’s mayor, Councillor Clodagh Higgins.
In Dublin during the week, Dr Kirkpatrick will also pay a visit Howth Road National School, which is adjacent to Clontarf Presbyterian and is under the patronage of the church. Dr Kirkpatrick will also visit St Andrew’s College in Blackrock, which also has a close association with the denomination. Founded in 1894 by members of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, he will meet the college acting principal, senior leadership team and Student Council.
Social care will also feature on his tour, as the Moderator will spend time with staff and residents of Tritonville, a complex of sheltered accommodation for older people in Sandymount, Dublin, run in partnership with PCI’s Council for Social Witness. During the week Dr Kirkpatrick will travel to see the work of the Peacehaven Trust, a group of three homes for adults with intellectual disabilities nestled in the seaside town of Greystones in County Wicklow. For a number of years PCI has been deepening a relationship with the Trust.
Speaking about the forthcoming tour, Dr Kirkpatrick said, “While I am a northern minister, we are one all-Ireland church serving Christ together and I’m really looking forward to the visit. Spending time with my colleagues, listening to them, praying with them and discovering the work that is being undertaken so faithfully as they, and the members of their congregations, serve the Lord to help others is so important. Or, as a predecessor of mine once so succinctly put it, seeing for myself, ‘the quiet witness of God’s people’. At the same time, as I have done in my previous two presbytery tours, I want to encourage our leaders and reaffirm their calling to serve God and their community.”
“Last year I spent a short period of time in western Ukraine seeing first-hand how funds raised by our congregations across Ireland were supporting the relief effort there and in Hungary. As we approach the first anniversary start of the war this month, refugees are still finding a welcome and a home on our island and I am looking forward to seeing the practical, as well as spiritual support, which members of our churches have been able to give. I will be seeing one aspect of that compassionate work through the English classes that Arklow Presbyterian have been providing since March of last year,” he said.
During the week Dr Kirkpatrick will also travel to PCI’s two newest congregations – Maynooth, which opened its doors officially in 2007 and Donabate Presbyterian which followed three years later. On Sunday, at the conclusion of the tour, the Moderator will be in Donabate, County Dublin, where he will preach at the Sunday morning service. In the County Kildare town Dr Kirkpatrick will officially turn the first sod for its new church building, his very last engagement.
The visit also comes at the time of the annual election for PCI’s Moderator, which by convention takes place on the first Tuesday in February. All 19 presbyteries will meet at different locations across Ireland to elect a successor to Dr Kirkpatrick, who will then take office in June at the Church’s General Assembly. Dr Kirkpatrick will lead the opening prayers and devotions at the Dublin and Munster Presbytery meeting, which will take place at the Lucan Centre.
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