After seven years as Rector of Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan, the Reverend Geoff Wilson is preparing to move to pastures new to take up his new role of Incumbent at the Cathedral Parish of Dromore.
As his time in Lurgan draws to a close, Reverend Wilson reflected on his time in the Parish, sharing some of his thoughts and memories.
“I have far too many special memories of my time in Shankill, mostly centred on being part of people’s lives in both times of great joy and celebration and also loss and tragedy.
“Journeying with people and sharing in their lives is a huge, huge privilege and something which few people will ever experience in the way that church leaders do regularly, this is the part of ministry which both blesses and challenges me.
“My first experience of worship in Shankill Parish as Rector will always remain with me.
“During the service, I closed my eyes and thought that I was in heaven, such was the experience of God’s presence. I would frequently say, when returning from holidays, how good it was to be back and celebrate how good it was to be part of such a wonderful church with a fantastic organist and choir.
“Working together with other church leaders in the town, in a visible sign of unity and Christian love, has been so significant for me as a leader and is something which I hope I will carry with me to Dromore.
“As leader of the ‘Town Church’ or the ‘Big Church’ it has been a genuine pleasure to offer our building as a place where that unity could be built upon and celebrated through shared worship and joint outreach.
“Who could forget Mission Hope when the Big Church was packed to capacity and the population of heaven increased through churches working together and serving together; what a blessing!
“And on a very personal note, some of the steps that have been taken towards reconciliation in a very divided town, have been hugely significant in my own life.
“The 3rd August, 2014, marked the Sunday closest to the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War.
“To mark the occasion, The Royal British Legion organised an event at which Monsignor Aidan Hamill and myself were able to participate as a visible sign that we stood together as we remembered together the men, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, from Lurgan who left the town, never to return, in service of their King and country.
“Lastly, Shankill Parish is a diverse community of faith with five services on two worship sites, the Big Church and the Jethro Centre.
“It has been a genuine privilege to lead, and value, each of these expressions of worship and through them to enable folk of all ages to encounter the living God in a way that has been such a blessing to them.
“I could not have done this without the goodwill and support of the people of Shankill and, for this, I will be eternally thankful.
“As I prepare to say farewell, I will miss the people above all other things. You cannot be part of people’s lives in such an intimate manner and walk away without there being pain and a sense of loss for both parties.
“Paul called the Ephesian elders to love the flock and to treasure them as those purchased with the precious blood of Jesus in Acts 20: 28; these words of truth have always shaped my ministry and relationships within the church.”
With the demands of a large Parish to deal with, the Rev. Wilson could not have done it without the support of his family.
“My family have been central to our calling throughout our Christian journey.
“Without the support of my wife Naomi and our children, Bethany aged 26 years who lives in Sydney; Jack, aged 25, years also living in Sydney and Sam, aged 22 years, and living at home in Lurgan, we could not do what we have done throughout our 12 years in Ordained Ministry.
“My wife worked four part time jobs to sustain the family throughout my three years of full time training in Dublin.
“Our son Jack sharing as a young boy that the thing that most excited him about his dad training for ordained ministry was that it would prepare his dad better to tell people how much God loved them.
“Our daughter used her gift in music to play the Clavinova for a congregation of 30 people on alternate weeks as an alternative to recorded hymns on CD.
“Family have always been most supportive and have had to make sacrifices regularly when the demands of ministry in Shankill Parish, the largest Anglican Church in Ireland, took precedence.
“In fact, Bethany and Jack will be travelling back from Sydney to support us on the evening of my institution in Dromore Cathedral, returning to Syndey a few day later.”
Reverend Wilson and his family will now look forward to embarking on a new chapter in their lives in Dromore.
“I am excited as this new chapter begins to unfold.
“I thank God for his faithfulness throughout my Christian life, but particularly for the blessing of my time in Shankill Parish, where we have made many friends and learnt so, so much.
“As we embrace God’s will for our lives in this next season of ministry, I look forward to forging new friendships, exercising a deeper more consistent pastoral ministry, being a faithful teacher and preacher and seeing God’s kingdom come in ways that only He can enable by His grace.
“Please do pray for us as begin to let go in Shankill Parish and prepare for the service of institution in Dromore Cathedral at 8pm on Friday 18th November 2016.”