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Church of Ireland Notes from 'The Irish Times'

Saturday 1 December 2007

Hinck’s Letter Published
One of the current weaknesses of the Church of Ireland is its inability or unwillingness to make provision for those of the clergy who are of a scholarly disposition and who might be used to intellectually resource the church. The seemingly endless amalgamation of parishes which has all but wiped out the concept of the ‘light duty’ parish, the failure to develop residentiary canonries in the cathedrals, and doubts about what college and university chaplains are for, have combined with the new uncertainty about the nature of theological  training, to leave little space in which serious intellectual activity by the clergy can be resourced. The Church of Ireland has signally failed to recover from the loss of its intellectual powerbase which was, in particular, the old Divinity School in Trinity College, Dublin, and in general the College whose clerical fellows were powerful voices in the academic life of Ireland and beyond.

One such was Edward Hincks who, after a brilliant undergraduate career in Trinity, was elected to a junior fellowship in 1813 which he resigned six years later to become Rector of  Ardtrea in Co. Tyrone and then, from 1825 until his death in 1866, Rector of Killylea in Co. Down. From these rural fastnesses Hincks developed a reputation of the first order as an orientalist specializing in the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and Babylonian cuneiform. Letters from leading scholars in Ireland, Britain and Europe, politicians, churchmen and officers of learned societies all found their way to Hinck’s rectories in rural Ireland - seemly unlikely, but nonetheless real, centres of learning of the highest order. In an age when travel was difficult letters were the principal means of academic discourse and they provided opportunities to discuss new ideas some of which eventually received wider dissemination in learned articles and books.

These letters have been edited by Kevin Cathcart, Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Languages in UCD and published by UCD Press. The first volume, which has just appeared, covers the year 1818 to 1849 and provides a fascinating insight into a world which now barely exists.

Today (Saturday) in the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas, Galway, there will be a candlelight procession for the eve of Advent, at 5pm. Tomorrow (Sunday) is Advent Sunday and there will candlelight processions in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. In St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, Bro David Jardine, of the Society of St Francis, will be installed as a canon of the cathedral at the beginning of the Advent Carol Service while in St Maelruain’s parish church, Tallaght, there will be a Diocesan Discovery Advent Service at 3 pm.

The Dublin Council of Churches has organized an Advent Walk of Light which will begin at University Church, St Stephen’s Green, at 5 pm and proceed to Centenary Methodist Church via St Finian’s Lutheran Church on Adelaide Road. Representatives of the congregations of the local Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic and Romanian Orthodox churches will take part.

On Monday evening in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, Dr Cecil Stewart, the Irish businessman and evangelist, will be the speaker at the Divine Healing Ministries service organized by the cathedral’s new canon, Bro David Jardine, while on Tuesday evening in St Mary’s Cathedral, Tuam, there will be a recital by Sylvia O’Brien (soprano), Roland Wood (baritone) and David Barnard (piano).

The final talk in the autumn session at the Centre for Christian Studies in St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork, which has been dealing with ‘New Ireland – Old Church’, will be held on Wednesday evening when the Bishop of Meath & Kildare, Dr Richard Clarke, will speak about ‘New Vision’. Also on Wednesday in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, the Culwick Choral Society will perform Handel’s Messiah at 8pm, while on Friday, the Cathedral Choir will be in concert in Julianstown parish Church, at 8pm.