Belfast's new Dean set for challenge of 'building bridges'
The Very Reverend Stephen Forde was installed yesterday as the new Dean of Belfast in the presence of a large cross-community congregation in St Anne's Cathedral.
The service was attended by several Church of Ireland bishops, past and present, and senior Catholic clergy, as well as the Lord-Lieutenant for Belfast Mrs Fionnuala Jay O'Boyle and the Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Sonia Copeland, who read one of the lessons.
It was a long, and at times legalistic, service lasting more than 90 minutes, but it was characterised by outstanding music provided by the Cathedral Choir, organist Ed Jones and the brass section of the Ulster Orchestra.
Speaking before the ceremony, Dean Forde, whose primary degree is in architecture, said: "With the redevelopment of the Cathedral Quarter, and the arrival of 10,000 students from the Ulster University, this is a time for new beginnings and new horizons.
"I hope that the cathedral will be a place where people who are rushed and hassled by life's demands will find rest and refreshment, and a place of peace in a world of many pressures.
"I also hope that the cathedral will be a place of ecumenical encounter, a place where bridges are built and barriers dismantled.
"Above all, I pray this will be a place where people discover how they matter, because they will discover how much they mean to God.
"While I am excited at these new opportunities, I am also conscious that being Dean of Belfast is a massive challenge and a daunting task. I approach the new role, knowing that I will need the prayers and support of so many others.
"They include the staff at the cathedral, the cathedral community who call this place their spiritual home, and also support from the wider community in Belfast, as well as the people and clergy from the two dioceses that this cathedral services.
"Yet I know that the God who calls is also the God who equips. All I can ask is that people will pray for me, and work with me, to achieve God's ambitions for this great cathedral, and to embrace all the opportunities of God's future."
The new dean's former parish was Larne and Inver with Glynn and Ralcoo, and the Larne Concert Choir with the St Cedma's Singers from the Larne Parish also took part.
There was a distinctly ecumenical element in the service, and clergy from the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Methodist, Non-Subscribing and Catholic Churches in the Larne area said prayers, while monks from the Benedictine monastery in Rostrevor sang the responses.
The administrator of St Peter's Catholic Cathedral in west Belfast, the Very Reverend Martin Graham, welcomed the new dean on behalf of all the church leaders. The Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor also attended the ceremony.
Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller, whose diocese is covered by the cathedral, also took part.
The Church of Ireland Bishop Alan Abernethy welcomed Stephen Forde and said: "You are a person of deep faith, and also a man for detail who makes things happen. This is what the cathedral needs at this time."
The bishop said that Dean Forde's skills will be important to ensure that the cathedral is self-supporting with the development of income potential, as well as strengthening the musical and liturgical tradition, and helping St Anne's to engage with the needs of the city.
He added: "This is a holy space and place, and today we celebrate a new chapter and pray for all as we journey together to ensure that all who come and go from here will find that amazing, vulnerable, strong and vibrant love that God has made known to us in the Word made flesh."