Kilgarriffe Church of Ireland is 200 years old this year and members of the congregation are engaging in a series of events, on a theme of ‘200 Years and 200 Blessings’, to mark this milestone anniversary
Although the original building dates back over 400 years, the current Kilgarriffe Church building was built in 1818. It is designed in the First Fruits style (The Board of First Fruits, established in 1711, was a Church of Ireland body authorised to use the accumulated First Fruits (the first year’s revenue, or annates, of each benefice) to buy back appropriate tithes (those paid to laymen who had come into possession of church properties and lands after the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII) and, within certain restraints, to use this revenue to build and repair churches and glebe houses). The church is limestone-built and its Gothic revival-style spires and bell tower are iconic in Clonakilty.
The central stained-glass window (1851-1853) has been recently refurbished and is a depiction of Holman Hunt’s painting ‘The Light of the World’. It is a magnificent window and illustrates the vision and mission of Kilgarriffe Church. Rev. Kingsley Sutton explains ‘It reminds us that Jesus, “The Light of the World”, is at the heart of everything that we do. And on either side of this window, the story of The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan allude to the ministry of the church in the past, the present and future. We are to love our neighbours as Jesus has shown us, and to give everyone a warm welcome, regardless of background, circumstance or belief.’
This year the church has decided to use the bicentenary as an opportunity to affirm what their mission is – to recall their blessings, to recognise how they in turn bless the community and consider how they can do this into the future. Over the years the church feels blessed to be centred in the wonderful town of Clonakilty. It has been blessed by those who have faithfully shared God’s love in this place and blessed by the way all the churches and the community seek to support and help one another. This year it seeks to celebrate the myriad ways the church serves and blesses its community on a weekly basis through a variety of activities: Little Treasures Baby and Toddler Playgroup, Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, youth group, Mothers’ Union, Kilgarriffe National School, whist drives, men’s breakfasts, church services, charitable giving, volunteerism, summer holiday clubs, Alpha courses, prayers for town and community, hospital visits and bible studies.
Recently, as part of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the church launched its celebrations by including a float. ‘It was definitely a first,’ commented one bemused parishioner, ‘but it was a great fun and was a super way to get everyone involved.’ Festooned with balloons and tinsel, the float featured a silhouette of Kilgarriffe Church decorated with self-portraits by the children of Kilgarriffe National School, symbolising that the church is less about the building and more about the people. As Rev Daniel Owen, a previous incumbent, said during Clonakilty 400 back in 2013, following a historical walk from the ancient site of Cill Garbh to the current site of the church, ‘Regardless of what building we worship in, remember that as living stones we are part of that one church founded on Christ, whose great privilege it is to pass on the faith to those who would come after us so that the history of the church in this part of the world might go on being written.’
Students of Kilgarriffe School, as well as providing some of the artwork, also joined in the 200-year celebrations by ‘blinging’ their brolleys for St Patrick’s Day. Parade organisers on the viewing platform commented on the large and colourful group representing Kilgarriffe NS, which recently became a three-teacher school. A nurturing small school located on the old Timoleague Road, with plenty of space for the extensive curricular and extra-curricular activities on offer, it has been described as a hidden gem.
This year the church hopes to organise various events to mark its 200 years. Last Sunday for Palm Sunday, all were invited to walk behind a donkey from the parochial hall to Kilgarriffe Church. On June 3rd, at a Confirmation service, Bishop Paul Colton will be rededicating the stained-glass window along with all the other improvements and renewal of the Kilgarriffe church building.
The celebrations will culminate with a flower festival at Harvest Thanksgiving on October 5th. However, all throughout the year there is always a welcome to anyone who comes to see the church and to worship each week at the regular service time of 11.30am on Sunday mornings.
Check out the Kilgarriffe Union of Parishes Facebook page for further details and updates.