A past beyond recognition

Feb 23rd, 2012 | By | Category: Church of Ireland Comment

The parish of Seirkieran is an exclave of the diocese of Ossory, a little bit of Co Offaly countryside under the jurisdiction of bishops in Kilkenny surrounded by parishes of Killaloe diocese. The parish encompasses the little village of Clareen, and has a total population of no more than 400-500.  The Church of Ireland Parish is tiny – just 28 members, but even a hundred yeras ago it had only 86.

The church council of the Church of Ireland parish (the Select Vestry) was merged at the annual general meeting last year with that of Borris-in-Ossory, the nearest parish within the diocese. Elections at that meeting were held on the basis of separate electoral registers; tonight we met to form a single register for the parish and duly set aside the registers of the separate parishes.

The now obsolete Seirkieran register prompted some serious thoughts. It dates from 1870, when the Church of Ireland was disestablished (ceased to be the state church), and contains polemical comment as well as the names of those registered.  Pasted on the third page is a printed statement from the parish’s first Select Vestry. The parish lies between the Slieve Bloom mountains to the east and the town of Birr to the west; it is a rural Irish farming community.  How likely is it that the sturdy farmers who comprised the first select vestry even understood the resolutions passed at the meeting in 1870 that corresponded with ours this evening?


At an adjourned meeting held in this parish on Monday, May the 23rd, for the purpose of examin­ing, and finally settling, the list of registered vestryman, the Rev. J. H. Scott in the chair. The special business being concluded.
The following resolutions were unanimously passed:-

1st. That as conscientiously attached members of the hitherto United Church of England and Ireland, and regarding the Thirty-Nine Articles as a scriptural and sound declaration of our Churcb’s faith-we believe in conformity with the 19th Article that the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in living, and manner of ceremonies, but alao in matters of faith.

2nd. That having carefully and impartially ex­amined a certain manual entitled “Short Prayers for those who have little time to pray, &c,” we declare our conviction that it is calculated (if not mtended) to prepare our Church memhers for receiving the ceremonial and doctrinal errors of the Church of Rome. To pollute the mind by fixing passing impure thoughts on the memory, and invest the ministers of our Church with a power not authorized by the Word of God.

3rd. That as we consider the instruction conveyed in this manual of “Short Prayers for those who have little time to pray” eminently calculated to injure the soul’s health of those by whom it is re­ceived: so we also, in our humble judgment consider that the ordained minister of our as yet United Church who disseminates, passively or actively, the teaching contained in this book acts in direct opposition to the obligation solemnly undertaken by him at his ordination, viz. In answer to the enquiry of the Bishop: ‘ Will you be ready with all faithful diligence to drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word?” The candidate for priests orders answers, “I will, the Lord being my helper:” Likewise in answer to a similar enquiry of the Archbishop, the Bishop ejects answers, “I am ready, the Lord being my helper.” [See Ordering of Priests and Consecration of Bishops in book of Common Prayer.]

4th. That while heartily approving the liberal and comprehensive constitution of our Church, and earnestly desirous of co operating in christian fellowship with those denominations of Christians, who, holding the great fundamental truths of the Gospel, and taking the Word of God as their guide in matters of faith – yet differ from our Church in some points of form and ceremony: We cannot comprehend how any view of such comprehensive character of our Church could induce the slightest toleration or sanction of the dogmas insisted on by the monopolizing and exclusive Church of Rome, And therefore hereby express our unqualified dissent from all such unscriptural concessions, and firm determination, with the Lord’s help, to resist every attempt to introduce that so called ritualism into the services of our church, which has already manifested its pernicious, soul-destroying influence in the sister kingdom, and burdened many an unwary soul, with a yoke from which Christ came to let His people free.

5th. That with all earnestness, respect, and brotherly love we entreat those few who at this eventful crisis in our church history, have sowed the seeds of discord by promulgating ritualistic doc­trines, in sanctioning those who bave been instrumental in doing this evil work, to retrace their steps, and realising the importance of the present opportunity, unite with the greater number of their brethren in their effort to commence tbe great work of reconstruction,which, under Providence, they have been called to undertake, in unity of spirit the bond of peaoe, and righteousness of life.

6th. That our arrangements with reference to aiding the sustentation fund be postponed until our meeting for the appointment of synodsmen. We hope that we may then possess more information and be enabled to understand how we can best promote the object in view.

7th That we strongly commend a thorough revision of the Book of Common Prayer soon as such an undertaking can be attempted in that calm, thoughtful, an inpartial spirit, which may, under divine blessing, accomplish the task in a manner satisfactory to the protestant evangelical members of our church.

Had the Irish people not been under the authority of ecclesiastical polemicists, the history of the 20th Century might have unfolded in a very different way.

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