Bishop hailed as a ‘man of vision’ retires
Community leaders out in force for his final service
Leading figures from the main churches, politics and sport were among those that attended a packed cross-community retirement service in Down Cathedral to mark the farewell of Bishop Harold Miller.
Bishop Miller, of the Diocese of Down and Dromore, leaves office next Monday, September 30.
Those attending Thursday night's event included the former Church of Ireland Primate Lord Eames, who consecrated Harold Miller as bishop 22 years ago.
Other main church figures present were the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor the Rt Reverend Noel Treanor, the former Presbyterian Moderator the Very Reverend Dr Charles McMullen, the Reverend Dr Heather Morris, secretary of the Methodist Church, and the Rt Reverend Dom-Mark Ehprem, OSB of the Holy Cross Abbey in Rostrevor.
Politicians on the guest list included the former SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie and the former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, as well as MLA's Dermot Nesbitt from South Down (UUP), Jonathan Buckley from Upper Bann (DUP), DUP MP Gavin Robinson and Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazard. The world of sport was represented by Mickey Harte, manager of the Tyrone GAA team, and Shane Logan, the former chief executive of Ulster Rugby.
The guests also included David Lindsay, the Lord Lieutenant of Down, and Sir Nigel Hamilton, the former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
Bishop Miller planned all the details of the retirement service, which he conducted himself.
He told the large congregation: "I am delighted that so many people from the different worlds of the church, sport, media and the wider community are present. We have spent so much time and energy in learning to respect each other and to rejoice in our differing Christian traditions."
Bishop Miller said that the presence of his family was especially important to him, and the lessons were read by his wife Liz and his daughter Ciara. He said that as there were so many people present, he had not intended to mention individuals. "However, I would like to pay special tribute to Margaret Ritchie, who has been so supportive of the cathedral, and one of the things that has given me great joy is her acceptance of a peerage," he said.
Bishop Miller added, to applause: "I don't know what she will choose as a title, but might I suggest 'Baroness Margaret of St Patrick!'"
One of Bishop Miller's last acts in Down Cathedral was the dedication of a new brass cross, which is suspended above the communion table.
Bishop Miller, originally from the Shore Road in Belfast, came to faith as a boy in Greencastle Methodist Church and later joined the Church of Ireland. He served in a theological college in England, as a chaplain at Queen's and the rector of a Cork Parish. He became Bishop in 1997.
He added: "It has been a joy and a privilege to serve in this diocese. It is now beginning to dawn on me, however, that retirement means a whole new phase in my life."
Lord Eames said: "Harold Miller is a man of vision who has served the ancient Diocese of Down and Dromore with great faithfulness and courage."
Margaret Ritchie said: "I have known Bishop Miller for the whole length of his ministry here and I have always found him to be a man of sound Christian principles."
Mickey Harte said: "I am a regular church attender and I am aware of the presence of God in a church, and that was very much the case tonight."
Bishop Miller will lay down his staff at morning service in Dromore Cathedral tomorrow.