Parishioners in the Parish of Urney met their new curate, Rev Jonathan McFarland, for the first time formally on Wednesday evening when the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, presided over a Service of Introduction in the Church of the Good Shepherd in Sion Mills.
The clergy who took part included the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven Robert Miller; the Rural Dean, Canon Robert Clarke; the Diocesan Registrar, Canon David Crooks; and Canon George Irwin, who had served in the parish throughout its recent vacancy.
Rev McFarland was one of five new priests ordained in Glendermott Parish Church last weekend and among those in church for his Service of Introduction were the new curate’s wife, Jacqui, and their three children. Parishioners and clergy from the parishes where he had served his Deacon Internship also attended.
Among those prayed for by the congregation were those who bring hurt to others. “We pray that You will bring them out of darkness,” the new curate said, “and into glorious light”. Prayers were also said for the congregation at Christ Church, Londonderry, who had suffered a break-in and desecration of their church in the days previously.
The Rector of Christ Church, Ven. Robert Miller, was the preacher at the Service of Introduction. Archdeacon Miller had been one of those who had helped persuade Rev McFarland to take up the new curacy in Urney.
In his sermon, Archdeacon Miller urged parishioners to support their new curate. He said Rev McFarland was coming to them as a stranger. It was up to the parishioners to welcome him.
“This year in the Diocese, we’re thinking about giving,” Archdeacon Miller said. “What is our giving through our time, our talents and our treasure in response to what God has given us? It will involve money but it will also involve your time and your commitment. And as Jonathan begins here – and Jacqui and the family join him – one of the things it’s important to remember is this: are you prepared to give time, to be committed in praying for someone?”
The preacher told the congregation that their new curate hadn’t come to do ministry for them. He hadn’t come to carry out mission so that they wouldn’t have to bother. He was there to do the service that the Lord had prepared.
Archdeacon Miller reminded parishioners of the words of the evangelical Christian, Jim Elliott: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ “He was willing to sacrifice his life,” the preacher said, “what are we willing to give in terms of a response to our faith?”
“What is the food that will sustain you on the journey?” Archdeacon Miller asked. “What is the food that will sustain you on into the long term? It’s a journey together with Jonathan towards a purpose that the Lord has for you.” He told them to pray for Jonathan and for one another. He told them to love one another, to care for one another and to seek to serve one another.
“Jonathan will challenge you,” the preacher said. “He will call you to task at times. He will encourage you. He will comfort you. And we will seek to equip one another for the works of service that the Lord calls us to do.”
After the service, parishioners crossed to the nearby Sion Mills Primary Schools for refreshments and for speeches, including from parishioners from Rev McFarland’s former parish and from Urney.