Bishop Colton Reflects on the Women in the Easter Story in his Easter Sermon 2018

Easter Day, 2018

Sermon preached by the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton,

Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross

In St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork

on Sunday, 1st April 2018

Some stories are timeless, and their message endures.  They cross boundaries of time and place, of culture and social construct.   Such is the case with Good Friday and Easter, which, together, reveal supremely to us the love of God.    ‘Sacrifice and love often go together. People who sacrifice their lives most often do so because of a greater love’, says Marcus Borg.  To drive home his point, from the 20th Century, he mentions Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, and Oscar Romero. Years ago too, in Auschwitz, Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan, volunteered to take the place of someone who was a total stranger to him – Franciszek Gajowniczek – who had been sentenced to die by starvation.  This week we might think of the selfless sacrifice of the French Gendarme, Arnaud Beltrame. He swapped places with a terrorist gunman in a supermarket siege near Carcassonne. Sacrifice.

These days – Good Friday and Easter – crucifixion and resurrection – are days which speak to us supremely of love and sacrifice, and of transformation, transformation which is both personal and communal.  As St Paul said: ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.’ (Galatians 2.19-20) This is why Jesus invites us to take up our cross and to follow him (Matthew 16.24)  These days herald the triumph that came out of apparent defeat, evil conquered for good, and large stones – barriers to truth, vision, insight and new beginnings – rolled away and dismantled, and horizons broadened unexpectedly.

The timelessness of these events speak every day, and every Easter, into our own time, situation, human opportunity and predicament. The story is timeless, but do we always see its import in our own time and place?  So it came about that, this year, I found my eye and my mind drawn to the woman in the text of today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene, and through her, to the women around Jesus. Why? You might ask.

Well today is the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, founded as an entity independent from the British army and the Royal Navy.  No country had founded a separate air force before then. I watched a television programme earlier this week tracing this history, and I hadn’t realised that on the very same day 100 years ago, 1st April 1918, the Women’s Royal Air Force was founded. In time, the RAF, became the first branch of the armed forces in which women received equal pay.

This set me thinking about our own four year visual war memorial project here – putting faces on the names – and on how disproportionately few of the images feature women: yes there are some nurses, some family groups, wives, and children.  100 years ago as they gathered here for Easter 1918, March 31st – a day earlier that year – they did not know, what we now know, that there was seven and half months of that hell on earth still to go. I think of how the women suffered too and lived too with the aftermath, for a lifetime, not only of memories, but with the consequences of that war.  

Home Rule had not been the only political issue before the war. ‘A grateful British government surprised by what women could do when asked [in the War], rewarded them with the vote in 1918’ (Vivien Kelly, 1996).  Meeting here that Easter the people knew that The Representation of People Act 1918 had been passed allowing some women, only some, to vote in general elections. It still wasn’t full equality. The requirement that voters own property was removed for men and the age for men was 21.  Women 30 and over could vote but either they themselves had to won property worth £5 or be married to a husband who had property worth £5. Not full equality, but nonetheless, this year is an important centenary for us all, and for women, in particular.  

One hundred years on, women and women’s rights are very much still an issue.  In a news report only yesterday evening there was a call for the women of the Easter Rising of 1916 to be properly recognised.  Since we were here last Easter, in October last year, 2017, the #metoo movement spread virally as a hashtag on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.  More recently, our former President, Mary McAleese, speaking at the Voices of Faith Conference in Rome to mark International Women’s Day, turned the spotlight on the place of women in her own Church; but we would do well not to be complacent in our own church, and to be vigilant about the inclusion of women.  As I listened to her I felt challenged to ask if there are enduring inequalities in our own church. Perhaps we need to look afresh at aspects of our own inclusion of women in the life and decision-making of the Church.  

What of all this, on Easter Day?  The Easter message is for now. It is for all people. Like the news of the birth of the saviour, it is ‘news of great joy for all people…’ (Luke 2.10), not just some of them.  

And why, here and now, is the Church so slow at times to show the transforming love of the risen Christ? If the resurrection of Jesus Christ, if Easter is indeed, about transformation, since it is about a living faith in a living Jesus, we bring it to bear on real contemporary concerns, such as gender equality in society and in the churches, as well as many other issues as well.   

For example, why did it, in fact, take people so long to give votes to women?  Eleven years after women were given a vote in general elections, in 1929, the Standing Committee of the Church of Ireland announced that it was so divided about whether or not women should be allowed to be members of diocesan synods or General Synod that it could not make a decision.  That didn’t happen until 1952. And it took until 1990 to ordain women as priests. Why were Christians not to the fore in changing things sooner?’ I ask myself. And the same could be said of many issues in their day? Why did it take so long to abolish slavery? And so on. The answer lies in part, in the fact that religious books, including the Bible, without interpretation, are a blunt instrument.  And we sometimes fail to read it all, as surely we must, through the prism, of Jesus, his life and his teaching, for it is he who is ‘the Word’ of God. ‘The word became flesh and lived for awhile among us.’ (John 1.14)

So, reading the timeless Easter story again in this centenary year of votes for women, I found myself drawn, this time especially, to the name of Mary Magdalene and her experience of Jesus. The Communion Motet by Giovanni Bassano, which the choir will sing later, picks up this curiosity (not by arrangement with the Director of Music, but by coincidence): Dic nobis Maria quid vidista in via? ‘Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?’

As is so often the case with the biblical witness on great issues, as I say, without scrutiny, and interpretation, there appear to be mixed messages.  Jesus himself, as a Jewish boy and man, was brought up, as many of us were too, to see that God created woman as ‘a helper’ for the man. And, at that, she was the one who gave him the forbidden fruit and led him astray.  It was a patriarchal world. Women were the property of men. They belonged to their fathers until they were married, at which point they belonged to their husbands. Even in the ten commandments, women were included in a list of property: You shall not covet your neighbour’s, house, you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife; or male or female slave; or ox; or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’  This is the world in which Jesus grew up. Flavius Josephus, the Romano-Jewish historian summed it all up when he said ‘According to the Torah, the woman is inferior to the man in everything.’ (Contra Apion II) And much of this, in a patriarchal Christendom was passed down through the ages. Thomas Aquinas, for example, in the 13th Century said ‘As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten,…’  It is the worldview of far too many still.

But what of Jesus, the living Word, who lived for awhile among us, what about him and women?  In today’s Gospel we read: ‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.’ (John 20.1) John has her going alone.  The other Gospel writers have other women with her. But it was the women – the women – who are there.

Seeing the empty tomb Mary Magdalene does not understand it, and her instinct is to go to the men and to tell them.  Peter came and looked. We are not told what his reaction was. It was the other disciple who ‘saw and believed.’ But it was Mary who was first to encounter the risen Christ.

During Holy Week I’ve been reading the very popular book, now available in many languages, by the Spanish theologian, José Pagola, called ‘Jesus: an historical approximation.’  He points out that during the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, ‘the women around Jesus generally belonged to the lowest sector of society, and Jesus healed many of them, including Mary of Magdala.’ Most of those women around Jesus had ‘no male protector: defenceless widows, repudiated wives and other single women without resources, without respect and of ill repute… Jesus accepted them all.’ (Pagola, 212)  ‘The presence of women at the table with Jesus was part of the scandal’.

We cannot go in to all the examples here this morning, but suffice to say, as Pagola does, that women see in Jesus a different attitude.  In simple natural ways Jesus defines the significance of women (Pagola, 214). He exposes the double standards of society’s attitudes towards women..  ‘Jesus sees women in a different way, and they can tell.’ (Pagola, 216). Women are presented as models of faith; ‘women followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, and did not abandon him at the moment of his execution.’ (Pagola, 224)  They stayed. It’s no wonder, before Mary Magdalene had met Jesus she had been a ‘ … a broken woman, … finding Jesus meant starting to live.’ (Pagola, 228)

And this strong bond, this very natural and transformative revolution in attitudes and approach is the background to the intimate encounter in the garden that first Easter morning.  She was crying in the garden: ‘’They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ (John 20.13) She turns and sees a man there. It must be the gardener. No! It is not.  He calls her ‘Mary!’ ‘Teacher’ she responds. And so it was that ‘Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.’

This, and every Easter, every day even, as we take up our cross and follow the risen Christ in response to his invitation, we ask ourselves ‘what does this timeless story mean for us, here and now, in our time?’  That question gives us more than enough to think about, and to work through, as we try to be faithful to Jesus, the Word of God, in our day; lots of food for thought and challenge before we meet here again next Easter to hear this timeless story again.


Posted in Bishop, Church Services, Easter, Sermons

Bishop Paul Colton Makes Very Personal Good Friday Visit

The little village of Ballinacurra, on the outskirts of Midleton, County Cork, was Bishop Paul Colton’s first port of call on Good Friday, 30th March.  Ballinacurra was, indeed, once a port.  Until 1962 it was the port for the town of Midleton, a loading and unloading point for centuries for coal. flax, iron, slate and timber.  Timber was, in fact, the reason for Bishop Colton’s visit to the Old Post Office in Ballinacurra, the home of John Ahern,  good friend of Bishop Colton’s late father, George Colton, who died in 2012.

John Ahern is President of the Cork Chapter of the Irish Woodturners’ Guild to which George Colton also belonged and where he forged many friendships. Such was the connection that after George’s death in 2012, his wife Kay (the Bishop’s mother) was elected to honorary membership of the Cork Chapter of the Irish Woodturners’ Guild.

In his day, George Colton, spent hours and hours making things for other people.  His work is to be found in homes throughout Ireland, most often given as gifts, and in churches too: altar crosses, candles holders, paschal candle stands, notice boards, shelves and stands for flowers, ewers and prayer books, as well as croziers for a few bishops.  He restored the handles on the bellows of organs and, in the case of, St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork he turned the many wooden stands that ‘rope off’ parts of the cathedral as required.

The late George Colton in his own workshop

The Good Friday visit had a present day mission; to collect a new cross made by John Ahern, as a gift, in memory of George Colton, for the newly refurbished Chapel at Saint Luke’s Home, Cork.  John sourced wood from a disused vat at Irish Distillers (with its Midleton and Cork connections); a solid oak vat which dates to the same time as the founding of Saint Luke’s Home.

From this (note the staining on the inside of the timber from the vat)

To this.

Bishop Colton said that he found it very moving to be back in a woodturner’s workshop again.  ‘John Ahern’s workshop is full of history, and, of course, it reminded me of my own father’s workshop’, he said.  ‘The irony in all of this is, of course, that I myself was hopeless at woodwork.  To my father’s despair, the one exam I failed in my life, was woodwork.  I gave it up after one term in first year.’

Bishop Colton added:

Good Friday seemed like a good day to collect a cross for the new Chapel at St Luke’s Home.  When, in late 2011, my father was given between 12 and 20 weeks to live, he was cared for wonderfully at Saint Luke’s Home.  He would be thrilled to think that his friend John Ahern had made this cross, and I am so grateful to John.

Each evening of those last 18 weeks of my father’s life there was a little night cap – a drop of Jameson – his favourite tipple.  Because the timber John used is from the very old Irish Distiller’s vat, there is still a slight grain, in the wood, of the whiskey which was being stilled.  My father would have loved that unique quirk in this piece.  It speaks to me about the ordinariness of our humanity, incarnation and redemption caught up together.

President of the Cork Chapter of the Woodturners’ Guild – John Ahern – with the cross made in memory of his friend and fellow master craftsman, George Colton.


Posted in Bishop, Chaplaincies, Cork, Good Friday, People from Cork, People from the Diocese, Saint Luke's Charity, Saint Luke's Home

Blarney Church of Ireland Hosts ‘Community Table’

On Monday 26th March The Church of The Resurrection in Blarney, Co Cork opened its doors to the community with an invitation to come around for the very first ‘Community Table’ event in the church.  The event was suggested at a recent Missional Community meeting made up of congregation members and friends who helped in the preparations for the evening.

At the ‘Community Table’ in the Church of the Resurrection, Blarney, Co. Cork. (Photo by kind permission of Muskerry News)

The aim of the event was simply to ‘meet the neighbours’.  All were invited to along, bring friends and family. The concept was simple, anyone who was coming signed up online for catering purposes, people who came were invited to bring a dessert to share and the church provided the main course.

At the ‘Community Table’ in the Church of the Resurrection, Blarney, Co. Cork. (Photo by kind permission of Muskerry News)

Food was served from 6pm and the event was cleared up by 7.30 – there was a definite feeling from locals that this needs to happen again.

At the ‘Community Table’ in the Church of the Resurrection, Blarney, Co. Cork. (Photo by kind permission of Muskerry News)

The Reverend Robert Ferris said:

Community Table is a very simple concept of bringing people together in the Church building – some of whom have never set foot over our door way before – with the simple actions of eating, chatting and both giving and receiving of hospitality.

At the ‘Community Table’ in the Church of the Resurrection, Blarney, Co. Cork. (Photo by kind permission of Muskerry News)

Posted in Church in Society, Community Involvement, Five Marks of Mission, Fresh Expressions, Making Connections, Parish News, People from Cork, People from the Diocese

Clinical Pastoral Education ~ Graduation in Northridge House Education and Research Centre, Cork

Northridge House Education and Research Centre hosted a graduation ceremony when Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Certificates were presented on Wednesday 21st March at the conclusion of its annual CPE programme.  Northridge House Education and Research Centre is run by Saint Luke’s Charity, Cork.

Six students completed the programme.  They came from Dublin, Waterford, Kerry and Cork. The CEO of the Charity Mr. David O’Brien together with the CEO of Cork University Hospital Mr. Tony McNamara presented the certificates. Those in attendance included family members of the students, mentors from placement sites, lecturers and staff from St. Luke’s Home, Cork.

From Right to left (back row): David O’Brien (CEO), Hilda Plant (Chaplain St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin), Rev Daniel Nuzum (CPE Supervisor CUH), Rev. Bruce Pierce (CPE Supervisor Northridge House), Rev Terry Lilburn, Fr. Dick Dowling, Mr. Tony McNamara (CEO Cork University Hospital), Fr. Pierce Cormack (Chaplain CUH) Dr Catherine Buckley (Northridge House Lead Tutor)
Front Row (l-r) Julianne Crowley (Chaplain CUH), Rev Cathy Hallissey, Rev. Christine O’Dowd Smyth, Emer O’Leary, Liz Counihan , Fiona Dwyer (HR Manager St Luke’s Home)

Gratitude was expressed by the Supervisor the Rev’d Bruce Pierce for the on-going support of Saint Luke’s Charity, Cork, to Clinical Pastoral Education which is part of the Charity’s Outreach Programme. Mr. O’Brien celebrated the on-going relationship with Cork University Hospital as exemplified by the presence of the CEO Mr. McNamara, chaplains and CPE Supervisor Canon. Dr. Daniel Nuzum. Mr. Namara closed the ceremony with an inspiring message of the centrality of hope within healthcare settings.

Back (l-r) the Rev. Bruce Pierce (Supervisor), Rev Terry Lilburn (Dublin), Fr. Dick Dowling (Cork). Front: the Rev. Cathy Hallissey (Dublin), the Rev. Dr. Christine O’Dowd Smyth (Waterford) , Emer O’Leary (Cork), Liz Counihan (Cork).

Posted in Chaplaincies, Clinical Pastoral Education, Community Involvement, Education, Healthcare Ministry, Northridge House Education and Research Centre, Pastoral, Saint Luke's Charity

An Invitation to a ‘Godly Play’ Workshop in Cork, Cloyne and Ross

The Children’s Ministry Group in the United Dioceses of Cork , Cloyne and Ross is hosting a ‘Godly Play’ workshop for children’s workers in the Diocese on Saturday, 14th April from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Northridge House Education and Research Centre, Mahon, Cork.

‘Godly Play’ is a creative approach to spiritual education.

The trainer on the day will be Cora O’Farrell who is a Godly Play trainer with Godly Play Ireland. She uses Godly Play in her work with student teachers at the Institute of Education, DCU.

Have you ever wondered how to tell Bible stories to children? Have you ever longed to really make the stories meaningful and memorable? Those of us in children’s ministry in churches and schools may be the only people telling this treasure trove of stories to children.

Do you want fresh inspiration, some new ideas and a creative way of telling stories? Not alone, you will also get  fresh insights into some of the great stories for yourself.

Godly Play provides a unique way of working with children and adults. It is rooted in Montessori principles and is practised in various contexts and in several countries throughout the world. This workshop will offer participants an experience of Godly Play thorough presentations from its four genres of sacred story, parable, liturgy and silence. There will also be input on the underpinnings of Godly Play and how to get started in the method.

Date : Saturday 14th April 2018

Time : 10am till 1pm
(come early for coffee/tea to allow for a prompt start to the Workshop)

Venue : Northridge House Edcucation and Research Centre, Mahon, Cork

Cost ​ : €7 per person (over 18s only)

To book a place, please contact the Rev’d Elaine Murray at or 087-2363100


Posted in Announcements, Children's Ministry, Children's Work, Education, Fresh Expressions, Godly Play, Lay Ministry, Northridge House Education and Research Centre

Appointment of New CEO of St Luke’s Charity, Cork is Announced

The appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer of St Luke’s Charity, Cork has been announced.  The new CEO is Tony O’Brien who is currently Head of Finance at Marymount University Hospital and Hospice in Cork.  He will take up his new position at Saint Luke’s on 1st May.

Tony O’Brien

Announcing the appointment, the chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Charity, Dr Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, said:

Ours is one of Cork’s best known charities.  It is one of the very significant contributions that the Church of Ireland and the Protestant Churches make to the life of Cork, and the Cork region.  It is also one of the main instruments of our partnership with  the people Cork, and the institutions of Cork, particularly in the healthcare sector. Caring for older people, especially those living with dementia, is a concern for us all.  We know that the trends make the work of this charity here more vital than ever in the years to come.

Therefore, the appointment of our new CEO is of vital importance to us and to our partners.  Our current CEO, David O’Brien, who will retire later this year has done a magnificent job, and now I am delighted to announce the appointment of his name’s sake, but no relation, Tony O’Brien, to fill his big shoes.  Tony O’Brien, not least with all his years of work at Marymount, will bring all that we need to lead our work forward.

Tony O’ Brien is a senior manager with significant and proven experience in dealing with people, resources and key stakeholders in the health sector.  He is a fellow of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland. He has held a number of senior finance roles at executive level over the last 20 years incorporating a wide general management remit with a focus on Information Technology and a keen interest in Data Management. Tony has been with Marymount University Hospital and Hospice as Head of Finance for 14 years and played a key role as part of a strong team in the development of their new facility at Curraheen in Cork. Prior to 2004, Tony worked in an Industry setting for 13 years and after that spent 4 years working in a Business and Advisory practice in Cork, both as Financial Controller but again, with wider general senior management responsibilities. Tony’s strengths include organisational control and general leadership based on sound judgement, real empathy and inclusiveness with and towards all.

Speaking about his appointment Tony O’Brien says:

I am looking forward to commencing my new role as Chief Executive Officer designate with St Luke’s Charity and Home in May 2018. While our focus will be to forge a path for the future, it is clear that the history of St Luke’s, its ethos and values, its staff and ultimately its residents will play a significant role in shaping that future. I am honoured and privileged to have been asked to play my part.

Saint Luke’s Charity, Cork was founded in 1872.  The charity’s principal activity is the running of a residential care and specialised dementia care home  – St Luke’s Home – at Mahon in Cork.   The charity also operates a day care facility, an outreach programme, as well as the notable Northridge House Education and Research Centre.

Posted in Announcements, Appointments, Care of the Older Person, Charities in the Diocese, Charity Work, Church in Society, Church of Ireland, Community Involvement, Contemporary Issues, Cork, Dementia Care

Former Primus (Presiding Bishop) of the Scottish Episcopal Church Returns to Cork Roots

The Right Reverend David Chillingworth, who was Bishop of Saint Andrew’s, Dunkeld and Dunblane in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and who was Primus (Presiding Bishop) of that Church from 2009 until 2016 will spend Holy Week 2018 in Cork, Cloyne and Ross visiting his Cork roots.  He will preach at the Holy Week Services in the parishes of Douglas Union with Frankfield.

Bishop Chillingworth’s links with Cork and with Douglas go back through his father’s family.  His grandfather was Rector of Carrigtwohill and of Corkbeg and Inch.  The family graves of previous generations are in the churchyard in Douglas.

Bishop David Chillingworth, former Bishop of Saint Andrew’s, Dunkeld and Dunblane, and former Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Within the Anglican Communion of Churches, the Scottish Episcopal Church is the sister Church in Scotland of the Church of Ireland. Of course, the links between Irish and Scottish Christianity long predate modern connections and are rooted in the life of the early days of Christianity in these islands: Saint Columba, Saint Colmán of Lindisfarne, Saint Conval, Saint Ernan,  Saint Finan, Saint Fillan, and Saint Ninian.  Saint Machan was educated in Ireland.  Saint Molaise of Leighlin was raised in Scotland.  Even the name of Saint Fin Barr of Cork was carried to parts of Scotland, by that saints students, and is reflected in some place names there.

The Rector of Douglas Union with Frankfield, Archdeacon Wilkinson says:

I was delighted when Bishop Chillingworth accepted my invitation to be our Holy Week preacher in Douglas Union with Frankfield this year. I was aware of his family roots in Cork and when I heard he was retiring, I thought it an ideal opportunity to have him revisit the parish and diocese. He is someone who has served the Church with great distinction, vision and courage both in Northern Ireland and in Scotland. We look forward to a stimulating and thoughtful Holy Week in Douglas, as each evening in St Luke’s Church, he leads us through the events and drama of the Passion.

The full schedule of Services in Douglas Union of Parishes with Frankfield may be found HERE.  All are welcome.

Bishop Chillingworth will also be the preacher at the annual Diocesan Chrism Eucharist in the Cathedral Church of Saint Fachtna, Rosscarbery on Maundy Thursday at 12 noon.  All are welcome.



Posted in Anglicanism, Announcements, Church Services, Holy Week, Liturgy, Maundy Thursday, Parish News, Special Events