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uk Saturday, March22, 2014 NEWSLETTER
Christ ChurchStrabane
Along with an interesting
history it has had many previ-
ous clergy and church members
who worked faithfully to main-
tain a living Church of Ireland
parish in Strabane.
Building on the foundations
of the past the parishioners,
with its new Priest-in-Charge
Rev Mark Lennox (Priest-in-
Charge) and a very supportive
congregation are working hard
to live out the words of Abraham
Lincoln, who said: “The best way
to predict the future is to create
So, where is this beautiful-
ly named parish? It is based in
the west Co Tyrone town of Stra-
bane and is a part of the diocese
of Derry and Raphoe.
With a population of 17,000,
Strabane is the second-largest
town in Tyrone, afer Omagh. It
lies on the east bank of the Riv-
er Foyle and is roughly equidis-
tant from Omagh, Londonderry
and Leterkenny. It is also on the
main road between Londonder-
ry and Dublin.
For those not familiar with
the local geography, the River
Foyle marks the border be-
tween Northern Ireland and
the Republic. On the other side
of the river from Strabane lies
the smaller town of Lifford in
Co Donegal. The River Mourne
winds it way through the centre
of the town, and meets the River
Finn to form the Foyle.
Christ Church, the parish
church, is situated convenient-
ly near to the town centre. Its
address could have been writ-
ten for a tourist brochure as it is
‘Bowling Green, Strabane’.
One of the previous incum-
bent’s wife was the famous
hymn writer Cecil Frances Al-
Mrs Alexander wrote hymns
such as ‘There is a green hill far
away’ and ‘All things bright and
beautiful’, while her husband,
William Alexander, later was
consecrated Bishop of Derry
and Raphoe, and then elevated
to Archbishop of Armagh and
Primate of All Ireland.
The parish has been going
through an interesting period
in its development in recent
years. The backdrop to this is
the economic challenges faced
by towns such as Strabane, a
demographically diminishing
Church of Ireland population as
well as the wounds of The Trou-
bles on the town.
Shaped by the Word
This week we visit Christ Church – Strabane Parish Church of Ireland
Rev Mark Lennox, were com-
mited to the future.
They are also commited to
one of the values of the diocese
of Derry and Raphoe – a belief in
growth. This will mean growth
spiritually, numerically and fi-
The diocese of Derry and
Raphoe employs a parish devel-
opment officer, Rev Paul Hoey.
One of his tasks is to help par-
ishes to reflect on their current
situation and to imagine what
their future could look like.
Afer that it is about the par-
ish taking action to move to-
wards that future.
Paul led members of the
parish through a development
process a number of years ago.
Out of this process the pa-
rishioners identified one of
their priorities as active engage-
ment with the local community
in Strabane.
Intriguingly the vision as
new music”. Up to 120 people at-
tend the weekly Family Service,
with normal worship services
atracting up to 100.
lMessy Church four times
per year. The phenomenon of
Messy Church has been grow-
ing in churches of all types in re-
cent years. Essentially it is using
crafs, music and foods a way of
being church for families involv-
ing fun. It is grounded on the val-
ues of being Christ-centred, for
all ages, based on creativity, hos-
pitality and celebration.
l As Mark Lennox says:
“When adults see their children
having fun and being engaged it
encourages them.”
Originally from Castledaw-
son, Mark completed a Business
Management and Computing
degree at the University of Ul-
He then went on to work in
a school Computing Depart-
ment before managing a train-
described by Rev Lennox, is “to
make such a contribution to the
community that if the church
closed then their contribution
would be keenly missed”.
One of the challenges for a
new clergyperson in any par-
ish is deciding what to do first.
When Mark Lennox began his
ministry in Strabane in Sep-
tember 2012 his first priority
was simple – to listen and talk
to people as much as possible. It
was about finding out what was
important to his people.
One of the things that be-
came clear very quickly was
that people wanted something
for their children. That led to a
number of important develop-
lThe use of some new wor-
ship songs as part of normal
Services. As Mark Lennox says:
“Our Services have everything
that make us Anglican, but
with the sensitive use of some
ing company in Belfast.
When in his early 20s he
describes a growing call to or-
dained ministry. Shortly afer
his ordination he began work in
Maghera and Killelagh, also in
Derry and Raphoe diocese.
During his time there he
was significantly involved with
a thriving ministry that worked
to meet needs in the local com-
munity. From there he moved
to Strabane in September 2012.
He combines his part time
ministry as Priest-in-Charge in
Strabane with being Warden for
the Ministry of Healing in the di-
ocese of Derry and Raphoe.
He has just taken up this
role, which involves promoting
healing ministry in the diocese.
He practises what he preaches
in that the parish runs regular
Healing Services.
It also offers prayer for heal-
ing at all of its Holy Communion
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Keys to growth in
Strabane parish
So what are some of the keys to
life in this ancient parish of Ca-
lThe parish exists today be-
cause of the faithfulness of pre-
vious generations and ministry
of preceding clergy;
lA parish that prefers the
words of Abraham Lincoln “The
best way to predict the future is
to create it” to any of the alter-
native ways of looking towards
the future. It is one thing to say
we believe this. It is another to
be willing to sometimes move
out of our comfort zone to act on
this belief;
lA parish that wants to look
outward and to engage with the
community it lives amongst;
lA parish that is willing to
live fruitfully in the world it
finds itself in;
lAn ability to see an op-
portunity and the willingness
to do something about it. This
was very well illustrated by
an event shortly to be held In
Christ Church featuring world-
renown Christian song writer
Graham Kendick;
Kendrick as played all over
the world and featured in pro-
grammes such as BBC Songs of
Praise. The parish, along with
the parish of Maghera and Kil-
lelagh heard that he was con-
sidering a visit to Northern
Ireland. Both parishes joined
together and organised a
three-event tour for him.
As well as playing in Ban-
bridge and Magherafelt High
School he will be performing
in Christ Church (Church of
Ireland) in Strabane at 7.30
p.m tonight. Tickets have
been going so well that they
are almost sold out.
Perhaps the greatest as-
set Camus-Juxta-Mourne
has in the town is a willing-
ness to keep the main thing
the main thing. The par-
ish has a motto – to preach
the Word and to be shaped
by the Word. Mark Lennox
describes it like this. “It is
letting Jesus shape us into
the church community He
wants us to be and to live out
authentic Christian faith in
the world we find ourselves
An informal space for all
Christ Church quite literally
now has a window on the high
street, with the development of
The Lighthouse Centre. Unfor-
tunately Strabane shops have
faced the same ravages as many
others across Northern Ireland.
Recently the parish became
aware of a vacant shop in Aber-
corn Square. Thinking about
their commitment to engage
with their local community
they began to think of how they
might use a shop in an imagina-
tive way. So began their latest in-
itiative The Lighthouse Centre.
The Lighthouse Centre
is now situated in the vacant
shop, providing direct access
for members of the local com-
munity. Now redecorated and
furnished it is, or will be used
in many creative ways such as:
lAs a venue for café church
– essentially an informal space
for people to meet.
lAs a venue for a now bi-
weekly senior citizens drop-in
lAs a youth drop-in centre.
Rev Lennox describes how
it is going to be used during this
year’s Holy Week.
He says, “During that week
it will be turned into a Prayer
Room, with different spaces
created to help people reflect
on the last week of Christ’s life
before His crucifixion”.
Membersof theparishoutsidetheLighthouseCentre