Historic ordinations at Nendrum Monastic Site

On Sunday 16 August 2020, and for the first time in at least 800 years, Nendrum Ancient Monastic site was the setting for a service of ordination.

The Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Revd David McClay, ordained two presbyters for ordained local ministry – Revd Rory Blake-Knox for Moneyreagh Community Church and Revd Stephen Doherty for Glen Community Church. Both are congregations planted by the diocese in the last seven years.

It was Bishop David’s first ordination service following his consecration in January this year and, we believe, the first ordination of Ordained Local Ministry (OLM) presbyters in the Church of Ireland.

The preacher was Revd Paul Cowley MBE. Paul is on the leadership team at Holy Trinity Brompton and founded the charity Caring for Ex-Offenders. He is the Bishops’ Advisor to Prisons in London.

Even though the service was open-air, numbers were limited because of the coronavirus pandemic. The whole event was, however, shared live on the Down and Dromore Facebook page.

Historic links

Nendrum dates back to the 5th century when St. Mahee, or Mochaio in Irish, planted a church there. He was a disciple of St Patrick. A Celtic church thrived there for over 600 years before the Norman invasion of Ireland. In 12th century, the Benedictines arrived and ministered there for approximately 80 years, almost certainly conducting ordinations.

However, in 1306 Nendrum was recorded as a parish church, and during the 15th century it was abandoned for a new site at the village of Tullynakill. The location of Nendrum was then lost until it was rediscovered in 1844 by Church of Ireland historian, Reverend William Reeves, who visited the island searching for the church recorded in 1306 and recognized the remains of a round tower. Since then there have been various excavations at the site.

Today it is part of the United Parish of Killinchy, Kilmood and Tullynakill and the rector, Revd Stanley Gamble, took part in the service.

On the Sunday after the summer solstice each year, the parish has an open-air service within the walls of the old church to mark the feast day of St Mahee, which is 23 June.

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