All posts by carpentersusan

Michael Commane’s Independent News Media article on his visit to us:

On Sunday, September 20 the Church of Ireland community in Baltinglass in Co. Wicklow celebrated its annual harvest festival. It’s an important date in the Anglican calendar. Some Catholic communities mark the occasion but it’s not widespread.

There is no special date for it except to say that it takes place this time of the year. As it suggests, it takes place to mark the gathering of the harvest.

And according to all the experts this has been a great grain harvest with farmers experiencing higher yields than in many years.

Does that mean that our bread and porridge will be cheaper this winter? I doubt it.

Máirt Hanley is the Church of Ireland rector in Baltinglass and he invited me to talk in church on the Sunday they were celebrating the harvest festival.

I know Máirt since my days working and living in Kerry when he was ministering in Tralee and then later in Camp in West Kerry.

It was my second time to talk in a Protestant church so naturally I was somewhat more nervous than usual when getting up to speak.

It all worked out fine. The church seemed full and Ireland being the small place that it is, a number of people present knew people I know. That’s Ireland.

The theme of my talk was based on my recent trip with Concern Worldwide to Lebanon, which was relevant to the first reading from the prophet Joel, who lived approximately 400 BC/BCE.

Máirt, his wife Una and their three children Sadhbh, Oscar and Cathal live in the manse, which is on the grounds of the church.

I arrived early so there was plenty of time for a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Even if there was an element of panic when I arrived, I immediately felt at home. Within seconds toast and coffee was served. Just what I needed. The reason for the panic was that Una and Máirt were in the throes of putting the finishing touches to the preparations for the food, fun and games that were being served up after the church service.

At one stage little nine-year-old Sadhbh began to explain to me what she missed from living in Kerry but quickly added that she was enjoying life in Wicklow and was happy in her new school. She even went on to tell me what secondary school she expects to attend.

I know little or nothing about Máirt’s family but sitting down in Máirt and Una’s kitchen on that Sunday morning I was conscious of the warmth and ‘normality’ of family life. A man and a woman with their three young children doing what nature, love and life suggests.

I felt at home in the short hour I spent in their kitchen.

On the few occasions I have been in the house/home of a Catholic priest I have to say I have found myself wondering what to say and how to behave. There is always something pained about it, there is something odd about it all. There’s something missing. I’d go as far as saying, in most cases, there seems to be something not right about it.

Driving back from Baltinglass I was wondering is Máirt Hanley any less a priest than his Catholic counterpart? I doubt it. I wonder what God thinks about it all?

Has it all to do with holiness and theology or more to do with history, turf wars and power?

Of course there is place for different types of priesthood within the Catholic Church: religious congregations and diocesan priesthood. Why not married priests? Why not women priests?

Just asking.

October Musings

As I write it has been Rosh Hashanah which is the Jewish New Year so a belated “Shanah Tovah” to you all. Some of you may know that that makes Tuesday  (22nd Sept)Yom Kippur which is, of course, the Jewish day of atonement. A day for quiet prayer, of privateconfession and forgiveness that rounds off the ‘high holy days’ of the Jewish year. I like to think of it as our Hebrew brothers and sisters getting going and Godded up ready for the year to come. There are elements of admitting what the last year was really like and then clearing the decks for the year to come. This, however, is not the only new year that starts at this time. As mentioned in the last edition, there is the new school year and may be some of those heading into it would like the opportunity to confess and start afresh with out the tags of the previous year, metaphorically floating above their heads. In terms of the Church of Ireland it may not liturgically, astronomically or organisationally be a new year but mentally it is. Cricket and the G.A.A county championships come to an end and theRugby and that awful foreign sport that we seem to be no good at but want to discuss endlessly, take over. More importantly than this though, for a denomination built around niceness and cake, it is as mentioned last time, Harvest Festival season, which, for us, is a big deal and really kicks off the clergy persons year. Once harvest and the associated bun fight and or BBQ are done you are really into the guts of the year and on your trajectory through Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and onto General synod in May and out the other side to Summer and hopefully a few quiet Sundays.

There are various other new years, the Zoroastrian ( that’s Freddy Mercury’s crowd) new year is in August, the official church year starts in Advent, the new year for the tourist industry is St. Paddy’s day and then there is the Chinese New Year. We also have a tradition of the new year starting on St. Brigid’s day, there was a time in Britain and Ireland when the new year started in March which was changed to fit in with the rest of the western world some time in the 1700’s and of course there is our now traditional New Year in January. It is important to have a new year. It help you organize yourself and sort out where you are but I suppose it doesn’t matter when your new year is, so long as it makes sense to you and is consistent.

I suppose for me it’s a matter of triangulation. If you want to know where you are you need to have two known fixed points to be able to make a triangle with your unknown point. If you remember back to all those lovely theorems from the inter cert, you can figure out the 3rd point of the triangle if you have the other two. However be careful, if you really want to know where you are make sure that one of those points is a fixed constant out side of your power to choose, a north star to all the other points, other wise you might find yourself drifting. For me that is what God is.

September musings

As I sit here, the golden sun is streaming through the window and there is a warm breeze floating across the green and gold fields. Nil scamall sa spéir and all is right with the world. There is however a low rumbling in the distance, of combines and heavy machinery working in the grain store across the river. This is the result of the winter barley coming in, which tells us one thing, that Autumn is surely coming. Which in turn means one thing to your local clergy….Harvest Festival. It is in fairness probably one of the defining liturgical events of the Church of Ireland’s year. It is a point in the year around which other things are navigated, ‘sure we will have the vestry meeting after harvest’, or ‘lets get the painting done before harvest’. This makes the date of harvest quite important and since there is no set date, there is always room for ones own interpretation, which in itself is beautifully Anglican. It can also be an oppertunity for what my father calls ‘A full and frank exchange of opinion’. In some parishes there are fairly set dates, in others more of a floating idea. When I recently told the parishioners in my own patch about the harvest plans, I got a range of reaction. Just like with the three bears, some thought it a bit late, some thought it too early and one or two kind souls told me that they thought that it was just right. For those who thought it was early, they may have been thinking that it is still summer, stop hurrying the year along, there are after all some who take their Summer holidays at the end of the season and may not want to hear about such things till after they come back. Others clearly want to make hey while the sun shines, get it over and done with, have something else off the ‘to do’ list. They may have felt I was leaving it late. May be it depends on what sort of farming you do, what you grow may influence when you think harvest should be. However if you grow stuff you know one important thing, plants can’t read calenders. If you want to know when to pick sometimes you just have to look. Sometimes it may seem early, some times late but as my mum used to say, ‘it’ll be ready when its ready’. It seems to me to be very Anglican to have a church feast that is not so pinned down, one that can be set not in stone but enjoyed when ripe. So maybe we shouldn’t worry about it too much, comedians and drummers need a good sense of timing, maybe we should have more of a sense of eternity, so we don’t feel the need to slow things down or speed them up but can take them as they come. When I ‘consider the lilies of the field’ that is what they say to me, that and perhaps to have a sense of eternity enough to enjoy the ‘now’.

newsletter 2

Baltinglass Group of Parishes
Serving Baltinglass, Ballynure, Stratford and Rathvilly
Email :,Website:
Rector Rev. Máirt Hanley 087 6194733
Greetings all!

I wish ye all the best in this harvest seasons. I hope that all your harvesting is going well. As for celebrating all that God has given us in creation, here is the schedule
Harvest Services
Sunday 20th September 11am Baltinglass, No other services that day.
Sunday 27th September 11am Ballynure, No other services that day
Saturday 3rd October 7:30pm Stratford,
Saturday 10th October 7:30pm Rathvilly

Family Funday:This is happening imediately after the Baltinglass Harvest service, there will be bbq, games, teas, music and fun for all. So spread the word, or even better why not invite someone to church that day and bring them to the festivities after!
We will need some more help than we have lined up at the moment, so if you have hidden talents let me know. Things that we definately need are tray bakes for the Teas and donations for prizes for the games, so if you have something you would like to give you can bring it to church over the next two Sundays or give to Rev. Máirt, Helen Jones or Heather Jones. We would particularly welcome the following: Trays of Fizzy Can, Large Bottles of Fizzy Drinks, Shower Gels, Bubble Bath,
Bags of Crisps, Tins of Pringles, Tins of Fruit, Packets of Jellys, Chocolate or Any Household Cleaning Materials, Cheers

Cricket:Thanks to all who turned out for cricket over the summer months, it was a lovely social thing to have going over the ‘parochial off season’.

Choir: Thursdays at 7:15 to 8:15 in Baltinglass for anyone who is interested!

Confirmation:A few things to say here, firstly classes start on Saturday 5th after Evening Prayer in Stratford running in conjunction with the evening services every Saturday until November. I am also planning a retreat day on October 10th.

Sunday the First of November at 3pm in Baltinglass is Confirmation Day. I am treating it as a 5th Sunday, so there will be an Evening Service on the Saturday and a 9am in Ballynure but no other service that day.

Youth Club:We would hope to meet on the 19th of September in Bough from about 8:30 pm and see what group we have and what people want to do. We do have an artistic idea but would welcome all others.


B.B & GFS: Will start back soon, text will go out……

Mid week services:
Tuesdays 10am service: Will rotate between the churches, 1st Ballynure, 2nd Rathvilly 3rd Stratford 4th Baltinglass, 5th where it happens, in Baltinglass. However midweek services keep term time so if the school is off the service probably is too. The 3rd Tuesday in October and December will be in Baltinglass to facilitate a school service where the 4th is a holiday.

Wednesday evenings 8pm in Baltinglass

Friday 11:45 am Holy Communion in Baltinglass Hospital

Clothes Collection:Dorothy Neill will be doing the clothes collection fundraiser in October again so please start putting aside those unwanted items, no douvets or pillows, dates will be put out on the text system when available.

Bizzar:Because of other events going on we are looking at Saturday 7th November as the best date, if anyone has any strong opinions on this please let me know.

Rathvilly Coffee Evening:October the 16th for this, that is a Friday evening.
Parents Association: The 1st committee meeting of the new academic year is on Monday 7th if anyone has any suggestions for events or issues they wish to raise through the PA please forward them to Una Cosgrave Hanley Hon Sec 087
Athletic Club: Some parents are interested in forming an Athletic Club in Blatinglass if you are interested in participating in any way please contact Edel Jackson, Una Cosgrave-Hanley or Rev Mairt.

Thats it for now, remember, other info goes out by text so if you don’t get them at the moment, text me with your name and the message text, to the number above,
God Bless .

Rev. Máirt’s Summer Musings

Well “there’s a smell of fresh cut grass and it’s fillin’ up my senses”. This line, of course, will tell you a number of things; firstly that I must be getting on a bit to be quoting that song, secondly that silage season is in full swing as I write!

Having taken part in a tractor run the other week and successfully driving a tractor for the first time in 27 years, which come to think of it was when that song was doing the rounds, I might even get a gig drawing round bales. Some people think of rural scenes and they bring to mind tranquility, some might assosiate that cut grass smell with lazy summer evenings. I know many people who think of the summer as a relaxed time. Maybe as they drive through the countryside it might look peacefull and sedate, but as I am finding out, in a more heavily agricultural  parish than I have been in before, there is always some busy’ness going on. If it isn’t the ‘dry stock’ bunch, it’s the ‘dairyer’s’ and if it’s not them it’s the sheep farmers. By the time that all those ‘animaly’ folk have done their bit the ‘grain lot’ get going and then there will always be someone with a late second cut of silage or some such.

As it has it in Ecclesiastes, a time for every purpose under heavan, or should that be a purpose for every time?!

Some one remarked to me the other day how calm I looked on the surface, but they said It must be like being a duck on a pond, calm on top but paddling like crazy underneath. I suppose that is true for a lot of things, it might seem calm on the surface but there is a lot that goes into making it look calm. I am very wary of people thinking that someone elses role is easy, everything, even silage cutting looks peaceful from afar. I think that most things in life are a bit like playing a musical instrument, the better someone is, the easier they make it look. So when I see someone do something and they make it look simple, I thank God for and revel in the idea of all the hard work that went into it. I love the idea that there is so much energy and life lying behind even the stillest moment. All that hard work and as the man says, “I love hard work I could sit and watch it all day!”

Rev. Máirt’s Musings

One thing that struck me when I went up to Dublin to train for ministry some fifteen years ago, was how average and normal everyone felt their home parish was. Let me explain. When you arrived in the college in those days, it was quite likely that you would be coming face to face with fifteen people that you had never met before, or at most you might know one or two. When I went up I was the only person from Cashel, Ferns and Ossary, there was a mix of folk from the rest of the country. So, for the first small while at every hands turn you had to introduce yourself, name, where you were from and then what sort of church your home parish was. So it was a case of, ‘My name is Jo Bloggs, I’m from county so-and-so and I’m from a typical Church of Ireland parish’. After we got to know each other a bit better, we discovered how different our home parishes were. Some used only the old Black Book and had at most 12 Holy Communions a year, others used only the blue book and Irish Church Praise. Some had praise bands and some had record players. Some were evidently quiet catholic and some were fiercely Protestant. The things that parishes did, what they were involved with what ideas they had, were all very different. Some had no notion that others in the church were doing such things or were surprised to find out just what things others did not do. It was clear that many of us had created in our minds a ideal vision of the church in the image of our home parishes.

This is one of the reasons I love General Synod. It shows off the church of Ireland in all its quirkiness, variety, pomp and love of committees. The illusion that we are all the same is quickly dispelled. The best definition of a family is not that we all look the same but that we are all related, as much as that may surprises, embarrass or even shock us. Going to Synod is a bit like going to a family reunion and finding out what an odd but wonderful and varied bunch we are. As The Arch bishop of Armagh reminded us, our faith is supposed to be relational and which of us in our heart of hearts doesn’t think that our relations are a pretty odd bunch. That however is the strength of a family, that there is this group of people who whilst all different, have a common bond, who express a grab bag of familial traits in a myriad of different ways. We may have to sit through financial reports of committees in which we have little interest, whose stories we are sure we have heard before, but it is a small price to pay for wonderful vision of the rainbow that is the Church of Ireland. For me it is the sight of that rainbow that is a sign and reminder of our covenant with God, that, whatever the weather, what ever side of the argument we are on, where ever we have been or what ever has happened, there is still a place at the table for us. I think that, that is the best way of describing a family, those who, what ever else, we will admit that the share a bond and that we will sit round a table together.