Sun shines on Bishop's visit to Rathlin Island

SUNSHINE and smooth seas paved the way for the Bishop of Connor's Easter Day visit to St Thomas's Parish Church, Rathlin Island.

The Bishop, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, was accompanied by his wife Liz, children Peter and Ruth, Archdeacon Jack Patterson, a former rector of Ballintoy, Dunseverick and Rathlin, and his wife Frances.

Rathlin is Connor’s most northerly and most isolated parish. The island is just eight square miles and has a permanent population of around 80. Until 1956 St Thomas’s had its own rector, who lived on the island, but since then Rathlin has been looked after by the rectors of Dunseverick and Ballintoy. The current incumbent is the Rev Patrick Barton.

They have to brave all sorts of weather to make it to the island for Sunday service, which takes place monthly during the winter, and sometimes if the conditions prove too harsh for sailing, the service has to go ahead without the rector.

There were no such concerns on Easter Sunday as Bishop Alan boarded the ferry from Ballycastle. At St Thomas’s he was assisted by Archdeacon Patterson at the service of Holy Communion.

Afterwards, and in keeping with tradition, the congregation enjoyed a parish picnic and Bishop Alan also had the chance to try his hand at model boat racing on one of the island’s lakes, when two of the children of the parish presented him with a cake in honour of his birthday which fell that day.

The Bishop said: “For us it was a lovely family day. It was a joy to celebrate Easter in such beautiful surroundings and we received a wonderful welcome.”