New Dean of Belfast wants St Anne's Cathedral 'open to all'
Banbridge-born the Venerable Stephen Forde has been appointed to serve as the next Dean of Belfast.
The Archdeacon of Dalriada will take over the high profile role at St Anne's Cathedral from the Very Reverend John Mann who retired earlier this year to move to the Diocese of Salisbury.
The announcement was made by the cathedral's Board of Nomination at noon yesterday.
Archdeacon Forde, who is 55, is rector of Larne and Inver with Glynn and Raloo.
He described the start of his tenure as a time of "significant change" for the well-loved cathedral at the very heart of Belfast's city centre, adding his vision is to establish it as a "spiritual centre" for our capital city.
"My appointment is a huge challenge and I am incredibly excited about taking it on," he said.
"I am conscious that this is a time of significant change for the cathedral. For many years it was on the edge of city life, and now it is at the very centre of the thriving Cathedral Quarter.
"My vision is to see the cathedral as a spiritual centre at the heart of the city, a cathedral with doors to pass through, not to pass by.
"It is a cathedral open to all, for those who are seeking God and faith in the 21st century. Building on the legacy of those who have gone before, the cathedral will continue to offer prayer, praise and service."
The Dean-elect emphasised that St Anne's needed to be a place of ecumenical endeavour, reaching out to all, and becoming a meeting point "in a city that has become increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-faith".
Archdeacon Forde also emphasized that he would love to see the cathedral as a place of social justice and social outreach in the tradition of the Black Santa "where the generosity of the people is used to support charities in Northern Ireland and overseas".
"It is exciting to see how that can be taken forward in relation to the needs of the city," he said.
Archdeacon Forde said that he did not expect to take up his new post before Christmas but that he would be "a Black Santa in training", adding: "I hope to be present at the launch of the 41st sit-out in December along with my clerical colleagues."
His appointment has been welcomed by the Bishop of Connor, Alan Abernethy, who described him as a "hard-working rector".
"Stephen has been a very able Archdeacon, a faithful, hard-working rector, a trusted colleague and an encouraging friend. He brings to his new post a breadth of experience, a humble spirit and a joyful faith," he said.
Archdeacon Forde was born in Banbridge and grew up in Rathfriland. He was educated at Campbell College and the Church of Ireland Theological College. He was ordained a deacon in 1986 and a priest in 1987.
He has served in a number of posts within the Church of Ireland, including curate-assistant at St Mary's Crumlin Road, Church of Ireland Chaplain at Queen's University, and with churches in the Dublin diocese.
He is married to Fiona, a staff nurse, and they have two daughters and a son.