There has only been one topic of conversation around the Parish of Ballymacash lately.
That’s the retirement of Canon George Irwin, who is set to bring to an end his 27-year association with St Mark’s Church.
The big day is Sunday, April 10, which will will be quite an emotional one for the parishioners and the Rector himself as it will be his final Sunday and Liturgical Farewell.
Canon Irwin was appointed back in December 1988 and had known a little about the Parish when he was a curate in the neighbouring St Paul’s.
He quickly settled in to the Parish which since March 1970 has only had two rectors.
Reverend Irwin had been Rector in Movilla Parish in Newtownards for three years before arriving in St Mark’s as Rector and was formerly a curate in Seagoe Parish. His wife Deirdre was a nurse in the intensive care unit in Dundonald Hospital and they had a two-year old son Richard.
In an open letter for the Parish News, the Rector tells parishioners: “It goes without saying that the writing of this letter is one of the most difficult tasks of my entire ministry, stretching over 36 years.
“As Deirdre and I prepare to take our leave of St Mark’s and of Lisburn, we know the parting is going to be a huge wrench. This has been our home for over 27 years and the place where our children, Richard and Rosalind Jane were reared.
“Naturally, this is a time of reflection for us as we look back over a generation and more of living in a place where we have made so many dear friends and where we have had the blessing and privilege of sharing the work of a vibrant Parish with a long and distinguished history of service to the community.
“Our reflections prompt a mixture of emotions but at this vital juncture in our lives we feel, above all, a great sense of gratitude for the many benefits bestowed upon us by the experience of being part of such a caring, warmhearted and spiritually committed community.
“We thank you most sincerely for all your love, kindness and encouragement over the years and we wish you God’s richest blessing in the future.”
During his 27-year Incumbency at St. Mark’s, Canon Irwin has witnessed or been part of many exciting events, has presided at many important ceremonies and has had the privilege of working with a huge variety of talented people in the life of the Parish.
He has presided at three radio broadcasts and two television broadcasts involving St Mark’s parishioners and led parishioners in seven Christian Stewardship Renewal Programmes. He has appointed 24 Churchwardens, five Glebewardens, five Mother’s Union Enrolling Members and five Sunday School Superintendents. He has trained five Curates and seen five parishioners go forward to ordination with another three commissioned as Readers.