Harvest Thanksgiving in the Church of Ireland – A Visual Arts Project by Debbie Godsell

Debbie Godsell is an artist and educator based in Macroom Co Cork, who has been documenting the harvest tradition in the Church of Ireland. This project is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland Visual Arts bursary and the Cork Arts visual Bursary award. Mentorship by Deirdre Nutall and support by the National Folklore Archive at UCD.

Richard Wood and Mick O’Shea making sheaves.

The Very Rev. Cliff Jeffers has been in touch with Debbie and asked her to tell us more about her project. Debbie writes:

In 2022 I received funding from the Arts Council of Ireland and the Cork County Arts Office to undertake a project which would include documenting Harvest Thanksgivings across a number of County Cork Parishes. I hoped to provide a visual archive of this custom that is unique to the Church of Ireland and that has been celebrated throughout Ireland since 1899. 

As a child I attended St Mary’s in Marmullane, Passage West where the Harvest Thanksgiving was a highlight. The church was lavishly decorated with vegetables, fruits, flowers and sheaves of wheat. It was always a well attended occasion. As a budding artist the visual beauty of the decorated church clearly had its mark on me.

Over the last number of years my professional art practice has incorporated aspects of folk tradition and custom. I was naturally very interested in the broader roots of the Harvest Thanksgiving custom and its connection with much older Celtic traditions. The Harvest Thanksgiving as a church rite first began in 1843 in Morwenstow in Cornwall by the somewhat eccentric Rev’d Robert Hawker. It was more than likely adapted from the traditional Celtic festival ‘Lammas’ which means loaf bread. Lots of rituals around the cutting of the last sheaf and preserving the spirit of the harvest were celebrated throughout Ireland and Britain. These were huge social event with music, dancing and singing. The Irish equivalent festival was called Lughnasadh. 

I was hugely inspired by writer Deirdre Nuttall who published Different and the same, A Folk History of the Protestants of Independent Ireland in 2020. I first heard Deirdre speaking on the National Folklore Collection podcast on the subject of traditions and customs unique to the Church of Ireland. Previous to Deirdre’s research, the collecting of Church of IreIand folk history had tended to be overlooked in the early days of the nascent NFC.  I visited the expanding archive in Dublin where I read hundreds of interviews and questionnaires completed by members of the Church of Ireland community. A common thread throughout the transcripts were fond memories of the Harvest Thanksgiving, not only the church service itself, which was a highlight but also the social events and farming activities surrounding it. Older interviewees spoke a lot about threshing, the sharing of farming equipment with neighbours and of course the celebrations that marked the successful gathering in of the harvest. It was a time when southern protestants could show how they cherished the land in a space that was separate from politics and history. I was delighted when Deirdre agreed to be a mentor for my project.

As with all art projects this soon developed into a much broader and richer project than anticipated. I documented Richard Wood on his Farm in Dripsey as he moved through the seasons from ploughing, to sowing, growing and harvesting oats and barley. Last August I documented Richard making sheaves in preparation for the Harvest Thanksgiving in St Senans, Inniscarra. Richard has been making sheaves for the Church for the last 25 years. Over a six week timeframe I photographed fourteen decorated churches throughout West Cork. All these works will be deposited in the archive of the National Folklore Collection. When you type ‘Harvest Thanksgiving’ into the search engine in years to come there will at last be a visual record of this unique tradition.

Richard Wood preparing for harvest.

The third aspect of my work was to develop a personal project taking a more cerebral approach. I created some sculptural, filmic and photographic works where I explore the aspects of identity within the Church Of Ireland as both a social and cultural group. This work has been very rewarding and has initiated some very interesting conversations. I am very grateful to all the churches who opened their doors to me. In particular I would like to thank Cliff Jeffers, Richard Wood and Sam Jennings who were so helpful and supportive throughout the project.

The harvest archives are part of project exhibition entitled ‘Flail’ will be developed into two solo exhibitions for 2024. Flail is showing in Cork Printmakers studio Gallery until April. I will be participating in an ‘In conversation’ with arts writer Sarah Kelleher and author and ethnologist Deirdre Nuttall on March 25th at Cork Printmakers Studio Gallery, and all are invited.

Visual Artist Debbie Godsell.


Posted in Academic Work, Church Art, Church History, Church of Ireland, Churches in Cork, Exhibitions, Harvest Thanksgiving, Heritage, People from Cork, People from the Diocese | Comments Off on Harvest Thanksgiving in the Church of Ireland – A Visual Arts Project by Debbie Godsell

New Archdeacon Andrew Orr Licensed and Installed

At Choral Evensong on Sunday, 4th March 2023 the Venerable Andrew Orr was licensed as Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne and Ross and installed in his seat in the Chapter of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork. A large congregation gathered from all over the United Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, and were joined by members of the Chapter of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral as well as other clergy, Diocesan Lay Readers and the new Archdeacon’s family.

The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Right Rev. Dr Paul Colton and the newly installed Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Ven. Andrew Orr after Choral Evensong on Sunday, 4th March 2023.
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Confirmation Morning with the Bishop in Cork, Cloyne and Ross

The 2023 ‘Confirmation Morning with the Bishop’ was held in the Canon Packham Hall and at Saint Luke’s National School, Douglas in Cork on Saturday morning 4th March.

Confirmation Group of 2023

At last, after a gap of three years, this annual ‘Confirmation Morning with the Bishop’ is back on the annual agenda in Cork, Cloyne and Ross. Every year, Bishop Paul Colton invites all the young people who hope to be confirmed in the year ahead to meet him near the start of the year. This happens at a morning of fun, games, activities, singing and refreshments. The last occasion this was held was in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic loomed and shortly afterwards all the planned Confirmation Services for that year were postponed. ‘It is good to be back’ said Bishop Colton. He said:

The idea of the morning is simple. Those being confirmed in a year get to meet me in person and I get to meet them. I give each of them a gift. And with the energetic support of a big team of leaders – clergy and youth leaders – they have a fun morning when, whether they are from a large parish or a small one, they see that they are part of a bigger picture in the Church.

This year’s programme was particularly busy. Following the ice breaker and a game organised by Niall Sweetnam, one of the young leaders in the Cork Diocesan Youth Council (CDYC), the confirmands took part in five different groups and activities. A group of six CDYC leaders were involved this year together with Diocesan Youth Office, Hilda Connolly.

Peter Stobart, Director of Music at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, who heads up the Diocesan Church Music Scheme, teaches everyone the hymn the Bishop has chosen to be sung at each of the Confirmation Services in the Diocese in a given year.

Discovering the Scriptures was the focus of a session hosted by the Reverend Abigail Sines. Using ‘Out of the Box’ storytelling resources, each group shared in reflection and exploration around Jesus’ statement ‘I am the true vine’, and a story called ’Something so precious’, which is based on the parable of pearl of great price. Space for silence and for sharing was created around the sense of connection to their faith and to consider what are the valuable or precious things in their lives. 

Intentional Discipleship is very much on the Anglican agenda since the meeting of the ACC in Lusaka in 2016. In Cork, Cloyne and Ross this is being integrated in the Diocesan programme Charting a Future with Confidence. At the Confirmation morning, the Very Reverend Cliff Jeffers, Dean of Ross, with the help of two ladders, explored with the young people what it means to be a disciple.

The new Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Venerable Andrew Orr, who is chairperson of Eco-Congregation Ireland introduced the young people to another idea which was launched in the Anglican Communion of churches last Summer: The Communion ForestThe Communion Forest is not only about planting trees’ explained the Archdeacon, ‘it’s about energising local initiatives, not only in tree-planting, but also undertaking activities to restore eco-sytems of many kinds in order to safeguard creation.’ Each young person was given a gift of a BeeBomb to plant at home or in their parish. The Diocese has also entered into partnershiup with Reforest Nation to plant a forest of 300 trees in Ireland between 2023 and 2024 on behalf of this year’s group of people being confirmed.

For many years, Bishop Colton, has spoken to each group of confirmands about prayer. Through his work in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden he discovered, several decades ago, the Wreath of Christ’. Each year he has given a gift of one of these to each young person in the Diocese who has been confirmed to provide one way to help them with their praying.

It was an action-packed, varied, thought-provoking and non-stop morning that ended with the whole group singing this year’s hymn, followed by healthy refreshments before heading home to enjoy the rest of Saturday.

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Dean’s Vicar retired after nearly 45 years of service to the Church of Ireland

After nearly 45 years of service in the Church of Ireland, the Rev. Ted Ardis took his last Sunday service yesterday, 26th February, at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, following the recent announcement of his forthcoming retirement.

Canon Daniel Nuzum and the Rev. Ted Ardis after Ted’s last Sunday Eucharist at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

His final week as Dean’s Vicar included the Ash Wednesday Eucharist, Choral Evensong on Friday and Choral Eucharist as well as Choral Evensong on the First Sunday of Lent. As an enthusiastic singer himself, the Rev. Ted sung the entire Litany by Henry Loosemore at the beginning of yesterday’s Choral Eucharist. At the end of the service, Canon Daniel Nuzum, who took Ted’s last service together with him, said a special prayer for Ted and wished him well for his forthcoming retirement.

During his nearly 10 years at the Cathedral, the Rev. Ted became known among the choir as the most reliable, animated, and musical Cantor for Choral Evensong. To thank him for his enthusiastic musicality, his open ear, and of course his great sense of humour, the adults of the choir invited Ted and his wife Hilary to lunch at the River Lee Hotel At Evensong Ted was presented with a gift from the choir.

During the Sunday Eucharist the previous week, 19th February, the Dean, Select Vestry and parishioners took the opportunity to thank Ted for his nine years’ service.

Speaking on behalf of all at the Cathedral, the Dean of Cork, the Very Revd Nigel Dunne mentioned  Revd Ardis’ pastoral gifts, his engagement with newcomers and visitors to the Cathedral and his particular gift for hospital chaplaincy.  

The Dean went on to highlight Revd Ardis’ special relationship with Lapps Court and his particular passion for welcoming those who have fled violence and injustice, showing remarkable care to an extended Syrian family and for some who had been wrongly threatened with deportation from other countries in recent years. Revd Ardis’ love of liturgy and more especially of liturgical music and his devotion to the Third Order of St Francis were also highlighted, as was the support of his wife Hilary over so many years.

Concluding his address, the Dean said:

On 28th February the Cathedral loses a faithful pastor, dedicated priest and a good friend and support to many.  I lose a trusted, loyal and wise colleague.  We wish you improved health, the time and space to do the things you and Hilary can now do unfettered by the demands of full time ministry and most especially God’s continued blessing and peace as you head into retirement.

 L-R Very Revd Nigel Dunne (Dean of Cork), Revd Ted Ardis (Dean’s Vicar), Mrs Hilary Ardis, Mrs Margaret Newenham (parishioner and Vestry member) and Dr Alicia St Leger (Dean’s Cathedral Warden).

The Dean’s Cathedral Warden, Dr Alicia St Leger presented Revd Ardis with gifts from the parishioners and Select Vestry of the Cathedral and Mrs Margaret Newenham presented Hilary Ardis with a bouquet of flowers.  Refreshments were served in the Cathedral Ambulatory after the service when Revd Ardis, Hilary Ardis and one of his sons, Revd John Ardis (also a former Dean’s Vicar and now Rector of Abbestrewery Union) were invited to cut a specially designed cake to mark the occasion.

Revd Ted and Mrs Hilary Ardis cut the ‘retirement cake’ with Revd John Ardis looking on at the refreshments served following the presentation.

Ted began his ordained ministry as curate-assistant of Drumcondra and North Strand and a second curacy in St Bartholomew’s with Lesson Park, both in the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. He then moved to his first incumbency as Rector of Ardamine in the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory. From there he moved to the west of Ireland to be Dean of Killala and later returned to Donnybrook and Irishtown & Chaplain to the St Vincent’s hospitals in south Dublin.  During that time Revd Ardis was a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin where he was often cantor at Choral Evensong alongside his duties as a Chapter Canon.

Revd Ardis moved to Cork in 2013 and took up the post of Dean’s Vicar on All Saints’ Day that year. 

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New Diocesan Director of Ordinands for Cork, Cloyne and Ross

The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton, is delighted to announce that he has appointed the incumbent of Abbeystrewry Union of Parishes, the Reverend John Ardis, to be the new Diocesan Director of Ordinands. John Ardis will take over from the Reverend Peter Rutherford, who has fulfilled this role, but who will retire from stipendiary ministry in April.

Bishop Colton said:

I am immensely grateful to lay people and clergy who take on additional roles voluntarily in the Diocese. One such crucially important role is that of Diocesan Director of Ordinands, nurturing vocations, accompanying people on their journey of testing a vocation to ordained ministry and their training.

I am delighted that the Reverend John Ardis has agreed to take on this task. During my years as chairperson of the Bishops’ Selection Conference John has accompanied me as chaplain to some of those conferences. I also warmly thank the Reverend Peter Rutherford for all he has done during his term as Diocesan Director of Ordinands.

The Reverend John Ardis
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