Rev Melanie Sloan ordained at All Saints Clooney, Diocese of Derry and Raphoe

Rev Melanie Sloan has been ordained as a priest by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, at a Service in All Saints Clooney where she will serve her curacy under the guidance of the Rector, Rev Canon David McBeth. Her fiancé, Mark Niblock (whom she’ll be getting married to in just over a week’s time and who read the Old Testament reading), and her two sons, Josh and Finn, were in All Saints to see the ‘laying on of hands’ by Bishop Andrew and other members of the clergy.

The new Curate Assistant, who was ordained to the diaconate last September, had been serving since then in St Patrick’s Parish in Broughshane, many of whose congregation made the 45-mile trip to Clooney for the ordination Service.

Their journey can’t have been as eventful, though, as Bishop Andrew’s earlier in the day when – after preaching at an anniversary service in Holy Trinity Church in Dunfanaghy – a Garda motorcycle escort facilitated his passage through heavy international rally traffic to help him get to the church in Londonderry on time. The Bishop said that as he drove past the Mount Errigal Hotel, flanked by Garda outriders, he thought that some in the crowd of spectators mistook him for the winner of the rally.

In his sermon, the Bishop told Rev Sloan that it was a special night when they celebrated her and celebrated the God who called her to ministry. “At first you were reticent,” he said, “but you’ve seen how God has equipped, and I’m sure all these people in the front row – and many of you [in the congregation] – will say that God is able, that whenever we face new challenges, new things – difficult things – God is always able. And Melanie, he is able for this next step and he will bless you in it.
“I’m so glad that tonight we celebrate both a milestone in your personal discipleship and also a signpost of the ministry that lies ahead for you.”

Bishop Andrew assured the new curate that All Saints Clooney was a great parish in which to learn and be nurtured. The best advice he could give her, he said, was to pray and to keep praying. “And whenever you feel exhausted in prayer, pray again. And keep praying. Pray for yourself. Pray for your family. Pray for the people you serve. Keep praying. And whenever you feel you want to give up on prayer, keep praying. A prayerful pastor is a pastor with the love of God in their heart for their people and that has to be the ambition of any pastor, to be a prayerful pastor; and, in fact, more than that, it has to be the ambition of any disciple and follower of Jesus Christ to be a prayerful disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. Paul tell us [in Philippians 4:6], ‘in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.'”

Reflecting on the Gospel reading, from John 20 v 19-23 [in which the resurrected Jesus appeared to the frightened disciples, breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit], Bishop Andrew said the disciples were overjoyed when they the Lord showed them his hands and his side.
“It’s a bit gruesome, isn’t it? He doesn’t come in in resurrection splendour or in a sort of transfigured glory, or in the first hints of the ascension. He comes in as flesh and blood and says, ‘Look at my hands and look at my side’.”

Rev Melanie Sloan ordained at All Saints Clooney, Diocese of Derry and Raphoe
Rev Melanie Sloan with her fiancé, Mark Niblock

Bishop Andrew told Rev Melanie that the world needed to hear the message of the cross again and again and again. “Jesus’ wounds are his credentials to a suffering world. Jesus’ wounds are his credentials of his love for you. Jesus’ wounds are the credentials that Melanie will preach of and will speak into your hearts and your lives. Jesus’ wounds are what we carry with us to the bedside and to the graveside, to the hearth, to the home, because he understands our pain, our sorrow, because he has experienced it. And you, Melanie, as you minister to God’s people, Jesus comes to you, he gives you peace, he shows you his scars, and he is able to equip you to serve him in all those circumstances.”

Bishop Andrew was assisted in Sunday evening’s service by the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller, and by Canon McBeth. The readings were delivered by Rev Melanie’s fiancé, Mark Niblock; the Rector of St Patrick’s, Broughshane, Rev Dr Andrew Campbell; and All Saints’ Parish Reader George Keys. The litany was led by All Saints’ Parish Reader Jack Harrison. Music was provided by the parish’s choir and by its praise band.
Afterwards, the congregation enjoyed refreshments and speeches at the nearby All Saints’ Centre. There, Bishop Andrew drew attention to another person present, former Deputy Mayor Mary Hamilton, who was recently awarded an MBE in the King’s recent birthday honours. “Mary is a former councillor here and a great servant of the whole community,” the Bishop said. “I – and all the parishioners here – were delighted to hear of your MBE, Mary.”

Bishop Andrew thanked the team at All Saints for providing “a great supper” and Canon McBeth for organising the service so well and “for making sure tonight was such a joyful and wonderful occasion, especially for Melanie.” He also thanked those who had travelled from Ballymena and Broughshane. “It means a lot to Melanie,” he said, “but it also means a lot to us.”

The new priest described the evening as a bitter-sweet experience. “Tonight was a monumental night for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was just fantastic. It’s a real privilege to be here; it’s a privilege to be joining you all, to serve in this parish, and the service was joy-filled from the get-go, so I feel really honoured.
“It’s bitter-sweet, tonight, because I have a lot of my friends from Broughshane and Ballymena who’ve come to wish me well but to say goodbye, yet I have the excitement of coming alongside you guys, now, in All Saints Clooney and getting to know you and to walk alongside you like I did getting to know the guys in Broughshane and my friends in Ballymena, too.
“I’m really excited to be here. I know I’m kind of ‘here but not’ because I’m getting married and going on honeymoon, so you’ll have to wait a wee while. But I promise when I come back I’ll be so well-rested and I just cannot wait to get started.”

This article was written by Paul McFadden, Press Officer for the Anglican Diocese of Derry and Raphoe.