In his December letter to the Diocese in the Diocesan Magazine, as Christmas 2020 approaches, the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, has thanked the clergy and people for their generosity.
Referring to the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland on 1st January 1871, 150 years ago, he noted that, from then, the ‘Church of Ireland would depend on the voluntary generosity and subscriptions of the people of the Church.’
Bishop Colton’s Letter:
In December 1870, 150 years ago this month, the people of this Diocese, and indeed of the whole Church of Ireland, were counting down the days to the unknown. The thought of what lay ahead on 1st January 1871 had preoccupied Church members for nearly ten years. What was about to happen had been the subject of public discourse and political argument. In July 1869 Queen Victoria gave the Royal Assent to the Bill that had been passed in Parliament: the Irish Church Act 1869. From 1st January 1871 the Church of Ireland would be disestablished: no longer the State Church. That was arguably the single greatest moment that has shaped much of our life since. Alongside disestablishment came disendowment and from then on the entire work of the Church of Ireland would depend on the voluntary generosity and subscriptions of the people of the Church.
All our ministry, all our work in God’s name, everything that we have, are and do, is down to the generosity of the ordinary members of the Church of Ireland in the years since then; as it is today. And so, I want to thank you all for your generosity. Year after year the people of this Diocese generously and selflessly support the work that God calls us to do for him in this place.
That does not mean that it is always easy: far from it. A huge change came about in the period one hundred years ago when the population in the Diocese fell by 13,000 people between 1911 and 1926. That 13,000 includes the military; if the military are excluded, the population drop was 9,000 – still a massive number. Like us in our time, our forebears have had to keep pace with these realities and to cut our cloth according to what we can afford. That’s why we keep praying about and discussing our priorities in programmes such as Charting a Future with Confidence and skiing ourselves what sort of Church does God want us to be now?
There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a demanding year; that’s an understatement. Some have been affected more than others. We live in times of contagion, illness, grief, great uncertainty and anguish. Brexit lies ahead and that is the unknown too. But with God’s help we will face it as we have faced challenges before now.
In spite of all that and in its midst, you have all been hugely generous in your support for the work of the Church in Cork, Cloyne and Ross. As your Bishop I thank you sincerely and, while Christmas will be very different this year too, I wish you and yours, wherever they may be, God’s blessing, for this is the season when we recall that God came to share our human experience.
Jesus, as St John puts it, is the light: ‘the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it’.
✞ Paul Cork: