Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Ecumenical carol service on Rathlin

An ecumenical carol service on Rathlin Island is scheduled to take place tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting.

The Church of Ireland rector of Ballintoy and Dunseverick, the Rev Neal Phair, plans to travel across by speedboat with a parishioner in time to take the 1.30pm service in St Thomas' Church, which was built in 1725 and refurbished two years ago.

Mr Phair told the Belfast Telegraph: "A lot depends on the weather, which can change very quickly, but I hope we will be able to get across in time."

He added: "Of course, the people could still hold the carol service even if I don't get there but there is a tradition on the island that, if clergy cannot make it, the service does not go ahead."

Mr Phair used to work as a teacher in Dublin and was later a curate in Ballymena. He has been priest-in-charge of Rathlin since last year.

He has a parish of a dozen households on the island.

"Relations between the two communities are very good but I thought it would be nice to have an ecumenical carol service at Christmas," he said.

"People are really looking forward to it and they are already decorating the church. Certainly the vibes are good for a successful event."

There will be a Christmas tree in the church, and garlands of holly on the walls. The church does not have an organ but the minister intends to use a CD player.

Instead of the traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols, the islanders will have to make do with seven of each.

Mr Phair said: "I have to leave early in order to get back to Ballintoy. We are holding a dedication service in the early evening and this will be attended by the Bishop of Clogher, Dr Michael Jackson.

"So I hope that I won't be stranded on Rathlin by the weather - and that kind of thing can happen."

Mr Phair added: "We don't know how many people will attend but, if we have more than 50, that would be a good turnout."

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