The Rt Revd David McClay has become the new Bishop of Down and Dromore following his ordination in St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast, on Saturday 25 January. He succeeds the Rt Revd Harold Miller who retired in September 2019.
Bishop McClay was ordained by the Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, before a cathedral filled to capacity. Family, representatives from the parishes of the diocese, friends and colleagues had made the journey from all over Ireland, England and the United States. The new Bishop was welcomed to loud applause.
The Dean of Connor, The Very Revd Sam Wright, gave the address. He and Bishop McClay began theological college together 35 years ago and quickly became friends. Dean Wright paid tribute to Bishop McClay’s parents, Roly and Kathleen, whom he has known for many years and who had “modelled the Christian life and upheld their son in prayer every step of the way.”
“Family, said the Dean, “is the precious hidden gem in the church, they love, encourage, worry and pray for us as vulnerable leaders. As I pay tribute to the support and love the McClay Family have been to David, I also pay tribute to the families who have the backs of all church leaders.”
Turning to the question of what the new Bishop was to do, Dean Wright took 2 Corinthians 4:1–10 as his text and the inspiration of a brave, bright and beautiful gospel.
He said: “It is clear from past experience that David will do many things, but I want to encourage him to keep to the main thing – to share the Good News of Jesus. And as the chief shepherd for the people of Down and Dromore Diocese to encourage, enable and equip the church, to bring this Good News to the world. In this era of scepticism and rejection by many of the Christian Gospel, he will need to be Brave, and to offer a Bright and Beautiful Gospel to all.”
He continued: “In his life and in his sharing of Christ, David has courageously sought to change lives through his teaching and explanation of the word of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit. He has been a champion for the poor. He has spoken out against violence when it would have been easier to stay silent. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:4 are as true today as ever – “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see light of the gospel.” It takes courage to shine out the gospel into the darkness of the world. David, in your new role, be brave.”
The Dean reminded the congregation that the ordination was taking place on the Feast Day of The Conversion of St Paul. Addressing the Bishop–elect he said: “As you find yourself dealing with the people and issues of a large diocese, recall your own conversion experience and how God’s bright light broke into the darkness of your life. Flooding people’s lives with the hope found in the good news of the gospel, bringing out the God–colours into the world. That is to be your primary aim as a Bishop.”
As he drew to a close, the Dean recalled some words of Bishop McClay’s late father–in–law, the Revd Teddy Saunders, who said that, above all, the church should be known for its love. He concluded: “By keeping to the main thing, sharing the good news of forgiveness and abundant new life in Christ, I pray your ministry as Bishop, and the ministry of those you lead, will bear great fruit for His kingdom.”
The sermon was followed by the Rite of Ordination and for the ordination prayer and laying on of hands, Archbishop Clarke was joined by the other bishops, the Methodist President and former Presidents. The new Bishop was then vested in his robes and given a Bible before being presented to the congregation who greeted him with loud and rapturous applause. The Dean of Belfast, The Very Revd Stephen Forde, then installed Bishop McClay in his cathedral stall.
Sung worship was led by Belfast Cathedral Choir conducted by the Director of Music, Mr Matthew Owens, and Willowfield Church Worship Team. Mr Jack Wilson played the organ and during the vesting, Mrs Jenny Hart sang a solo. Bishop McClay’s daughter, Cherith Cummins and son–in–law, Matthew Webb, gave the readings and the Ven Roderic West, Archdeacon of Dromore, read the Gospel. Revd Karen Salmon, Curate Assistant in Willowfield Church, was the Bishop’s Chaplain.
At the reception which followed in Ulster University’s Birley Building, Bishop McClay expressed his thanks to all those who had taken part in the service; to his parents and family and to the many people who had travelled a distance to be there. Bishop McClay made special mention of his training rector, the late Roland Hutchinson. He said:
“I had a rector in Roland who loved to preach God’s word and who wanted the whole church to be effective in evangelism – he was an evangelist himself. Roland didn’t fear people, he feared God and loved people, and that’s the key. I want to honour his memory today.”
He continued, “I’m looking forward very very much to building on the work of Bishop Harold and Bishop Gordon – the two Bishops of Down and Dromore that I’ve been privileged to serve under and I’m very grateful for all that they have put in place by way of a heritage to build upon. But I’m grateful above all to God and to the work of his grace.”
Among the dignitaries and Church leaders who attended the service were Her Majesty’s Lord–Lieutenant of Belfast, Fionnuala Jay–O’Boyle; the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Revd Sam McGuffin; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Eamon Martin; the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Rt Revd Dr William Henry; the Bishop of Down and Connor, the Most Revd Noel Treanor; the former Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of the Arctic, the Right Revd Darren McCartney; the Bishop of Albany, the Right Revd William Love and representatives from the Benedictine Community of the Holy Cross Monastery in Rostrevor.
Following the service our former Bishop, Harold Miller, said, ”What a blessing it was to be present at the consecration of David McClay today. He is a remarkable man of integrity with a real passion for the Gospel and a loving pastoral heart. I know that the diocese will go from strength to strength under his leadership, and assure him and Hilary of my support and daily prayer.”