Parishioners across the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe converged on Letterkenny on Friday evening for a special event to celebrate the Diocese’s ‘Year of Opportunity 2016’.
Joined by leaders of other Christian churches in the north west, among the highlights was a video message from the Bishop of Butere, Kenya, whose first Christian church was established by a missionary from Derry and Raphoe one hundred years ago this year.
In his video message Bishop of Butere, Tim Wambunye, thanked Derry and Raphoe for its generosity towards his diocese. His film showed the financial difficulties experienced by his clergy as they minister to a growing diocese of around 30,000 members.
Bishop Good told the audience that a Confirmation Group in Macosquin had undertaken to raise £1,000 by May 15, which will provide a cow for one of the parishes in Kenya.
The prayers and hymns were augmented by the contribution from local piper Billy Doherty.
This year, 2016, has been designated a ‘Year of Opportunity’ in Derry and Raphoe, with a special focus on mission, children and generosity. Bishop Ken Good told those gathered in Letterkenny Institute of Technology that they were embarking on this year “not out of a sense of duty or as a burden or an inconvenience, but with a sense of gratitude, of love and of thanksgiving in joyful response to what God has first done for us.”
Quoting statistics from the 2013 Church of Ireland Census, Bishop Good said 80 per cent of Church of Ireland people chose not to be in church on Sunday mornings and it represented a real spiritual and missional challenge.
“This Year of Opportunity is about taking the 80 per cent census statistic seriously,” he said.
“It’s about believing that God has a future and a hope for his church and we want to get involved in seeing things change. Before God we are acknowledging that mission really matters.”
The Bishop also outlined creative plans the parish teams had come up with to reach out and make connections with people during the year, including a parable pageant, wedding dress festivals, a Mission Week, Walks of Witness, a flute band event, village nativity event and a Bible Reading Marathon.
“Change and growth happens one life at a time, one person at a time, one step at a time, one spiritual encounter at a time,” the Bishop said.
Friday night’s celebration event saw the first copies of a new booklet, produced by the Diocese, being distributed. ‘One More Step’ recounts the faith journeys of nine members of the Derry and Raphoe Diocese and is intended to be used as a prayer resource in parishes. A free copy was given to those present and distributed to parish teams.
The theme of the event was ‘light’ and as the evening ended people were invited to switch on electronic tea-lights to symbolise their commitment to the Year of Opportunity.
Bishop Good said the Year of Opportunity 2016 was about members of parishes all over the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe “being the light of the world, making a positive difference in Transforming Community and Radiating Christ, as we let our little light shine.”