Significant Events for the Start of 2023
The first weeks of 2023 will see Belfast Cathedral hosting three services of particular significance.
On Sunday afternoon 22nd January, at 3.30pm within the 2023 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the cathedral will be the venue for a Service which combines the Centenary of the Founding of the Irish Council of Churches in 1923 with the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Irish Inter Church Meeting in 1973, held annually at Ballymascanlon.
Both events of huge ecumenical significance were born out of times of historic conflict in Ireland. The Irish Council of Churches was created after the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland the previous year, and as civil war raged south of the border. The Irish Inter Church Meeting was the beginning of open dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches at the height of the Troubles in 1973.
At the service in St Anne's Cathedral, there will be two addresses. The first will be given by the Reverend Harold Good, and the second given by Archbishop Eamon Martin.
The service has been organised by Dr Damian Jackson, Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches, with the staff of Belfast Cathedral. Leaders and representative from all the sixteen member churches of the Irish Council of Churches will be joined by the co-chairs and members of the Irish Inter Church Meeting to participate in a creative and impressive service. Music will be led by the Benedictine Monks of Rostrevor, and by the choir of Holywood Parish, led by Mr Edwin Gray, with guest organist Mr Stephen Hamill.
Civic leaders from North and South will join a congregation drawn from across the spectrum of traditional and new churches in Ireland.
The service, starting at 3.30pm is open to all.
Then on Sunday afternoon 29th January, there will be a service to remember the 70th Anniversary of the loss of the MV Princess Victoria on 31st January 1953. The Princess Victoria, which sailed the crossing from Stranraer to Larne, was lost off the Copeland Islands at the mouth of Belfast Lough where 137 souls perished. Many of those lost to the sea that day were residents of Belfast, along with the many crew members whose homes were in port towns of Larne and Stranraer in Scotland.
The service at Belfast Cathedral is being organised by the new Belfast and Northern Ireland Chaplain to the Mission to Seafarers, the Reverend Mark Reid, with involvement from the Flying Angel Centre, the port authorities, the Harbour Commissioners, and today's ferry and shipping companies.
The choir the King's Choral will lead the singing and the Dean, who was Rector of Larne for 18 years, will be preacher. Once again all are invited to this 3.30pm service, which will be one of a number held to commemorate the worst post war loss of life in British coastal waters.
Finally at 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon 5th February, the annual Good Samaritans Service will be held at the cathedral to distribute the almost £130,000 which has been raised through the 2022 Belfast Black Santa Sit Out. This year the Sit Out was held over the eight days up to Christmas Eve, and the Dean with his helpers received donations large and small, both in person and on-line.
Some 130 local charities will receive grants at the service from the Sit Out Fund, which this year has focused on charities on the front line of the "Cost of Living Crisis", and charities who have been helping refugee communities across the province.
Those attending the Good Samaritan Service will be uplifted by the music of the choir Cantemus from the North West of the Province. We also hope to welcome some of the high profile political and community leaders who lent the Dean a hand at this year's Sit Out, along with some well known regular supporters of the Black Santa Appeal.
The Dean and his team are currently involved in contacting all the charities that will be invited to receive their award.