Bishop to lead war memorials at flag burning churches
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore will take Remembrance Day services in Newry following the resignation of the rector who burned Royal British Legion (RBL) flags.
There was no sign of Rev Kingsley Sutton at either St Mary's or St Patrick's churches, nor at the parish rectory, yesterday morning.
Instead, Rev Karl Teggarty stepped in to take morning services at the two churches.
He read out the lengthy apology which the Rev Sutton issued publicly last week, in which the Co Wicklow-born minister spoke of his deep regret at what he termed the "damage" he caused by "this inappropriate and unacceptable action".
In the statement, Rev Sutton also apologised to the Select Vestry and parishioners of St Patrick's and St Mary's for "abusing my role as their leader and for causing them deep embarrassment and tremendous stress".
Rev Teggarty then read out an open letter from Bishop Harold Miller to the congregation expressing his sorrow at recent events.
In this letter, the Bishop committed to spending Remembrance Sunday in Newry, taking the services at both St Mary's and St Patrick's, as well as attending the Cenotaph in the city.
He also spoke of his sorrow at recent events and offered his support. Last week the Bishop said he planned to meet the RBL, Select Vestries and the Apprentice Boys of Derry to seek a way forward.
Members of St Patrick's congregation contacted the Belfast Telegraph last month to voice concern at the removal of RBL standards from both churches.
However, they did not know Rev Sutton had burned the flags until last week. This newspaper understands that the flags, which commemorate soldiers who died in the two World Wars, were incinerated. The RBL called the destruction "unfortunate".
Rev Sutton had replaced the flag in both churches with a white flag bearing a single red heart from a prayer day at the Stormont Estate several years ago. He explained this to his congregation at the time as an attempt to "make a break with the past".
But it emerged he had removed the flags against an order from Bishop Miller.
The white flag was missing from St Patrick's yesterday morning.
Prayers were offered during the service for Rev Sutton and his family.
Many parishioners yesterday morning did not wish to comment. However, one woman, who did not wish to be named, said Rev Sutton was a good man who had made a mistake.
"Kingsley is a good man," she said. "Everyone can stray. In this church we have learned about forgiveness.
"It is all in the hands of the Bishop now."
Rev Teggarty is a non-stipendiary minister who fills in at churches when needed.
"It is a sad and difficult time for the churches in Newry," he said.
"I would ask your readers to pray for both congregations."
There was no response at the Newry rectory on Windsor Avenue yesterday when the Belfast Telegraph called to speak to Rev Sutton.