August 30, 2009 - final Sunday morning service in St James?
Discontent in the Church of Ireland Parish of Ramoan.
The place of worship for parishioners of Ramoan Parish has been in the vicinity of the present Parish Church of St James for at least four hundred years. The graves in the old churchyard are witness to the fact that generations of Ballycastle people have worshipped there.
Over the last seven years there have been reports of growing discontent within the parish which has led to many parishioners reluctantly leaving their spiritual home, including some who had given dedicated service for many years.
Objections to the Select Vestry’s* decision to sell off Glebe lands was one notable cause of dissent, another has been the drive to ‘modernise’ the church, demonstrated through expenditure which some parishioners thought was an unnecessary waste of hard earned parish funds.
Recently published plans to develop Holy Trinity Church as the new parish centre have exposed a continuing split between some parishioners and the Vestry committee. Many who have been disdainfully referred to as ‘the old guard’ are upset by proposals to abandon St James. Some who voiced objections were told it was nothing to do with them as they don’t go there any more. Yet they still pay their tithes to Ramoan Parish.
“He who pays the piper....?”
Sales of property and recent very generous bequests have produced a substantial fund which many parishioners feel should be spent at St James. Some parishioners allege promises to maintain and retain St James as the parish church are being broken, especially when they hear such statements as “we can’t maintain two churches” and “St James can be pulled down to extend the burying ground”.
Discontent among the remaining congregation has reached the stage where there was a recent vociferous exchange of views after Sunday morning service. This was followed by a hastily called parish meeting which turned out to be a very unsuccessful attempt to quell the discontent among parishioners who do NOT want to see their parish church of St James at Ramoan abandoned. Clearly there is a reluctance to realise the strength of feeling against such a move.
Many parishioners at the meeting also reportedly expressed annoyance at getting parish news from the media instead of from their own representatives on the Select Vestry Committee.
No strangers to the sacrifices made in the defence of democracy, the congregation’s wish to stay at Ramoan should not be ignored by their current representatives on the Select Vestry.
Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt from their neighbours at the Corrymeela Centre of Reconciliation and Matthew 18:12-13, Luke 15:4-6.
* a select number of persons chosen to represent and manage the concerns of the parish for one year.