Last Sunday our Parish took part in the Clonakilty 400 celebrations. We walked from the site of the ancient church to the ‘new’ church that was built in 1818. Here is a gallery of photos from the day…
Here are the words I spoke in the church service:
21st July 2013, Kilgarriffe Parish Church, Clonakilty.
I would like to thank Tomás Tuipéar for his excellent talk up at the old church site and for giving me all the fascinating bits of history that I am about to share with you and for all his help in preparation for today. There are many others to thank also, including Councillor John Loughnan, the Mayor Phil O’Regan and members of the town council, Cork County Council (who did a huge job in preparing the walkway for us today), members of Clonakilty Duchas and of course the Clonakilty 400 committee, without which the walk would not have been possible. Thank you to our bus drivers John and John, and a special thanks to our churchwardens, Joyce and Elma, organist Roy, Ernie, Jean, Tommy and to the many others who have more than played their part in making this event happen…
This church building where we are now takes its name from the ancient church at the old Kilgarriffe, from which many of us have walked. The name Kilgarriffe comes from the Gaelic ‘Cill’ (kill) meaning church and ‘Garbh’ (gorrive) meaning rough or rough ground. Kilgarriffe is of course also a townland and gives its name to the Civil Parish of Kilgarriffe as well.
When Clonakilty was set up in the early sixteen hundreds, church life moved from the ancient Kilgarriffe to this place. Historians believe this was the site of the Clogh ny Kylte castle recorded in 1367; it would have been usual to have a church or chapel of ease attached to such a castle.
The castle of Clogh ny Kylte didn’t survive the many battles of the time but it is possible that the chapel attached to it did. In 1605 settlers are recorded here and called the ‘Portreve and Corporation of Cloughnakilty’. Their place of worship is not known but when the charter of 1613 was granted, the limits of the borough were measured from this place and referred to as ‘the old chapel’.
Richard Boyle, who was made lord of the town, is credited with building a church for worship on this site in 1613, then In 1615, James Worth is recorded as Vicar.
The next reference is in 1663 when the inhabitants of the parishes of Island, Kilkerranmore, Desert and Ardfield were united by commission to repair the church of Cloghnikilty – 139 years later in 1802, the building was re-roofed and a gallery added. Then in 1818 it was taken down and the present church erected on the site at a cost of £1,300. The church contains a chalice (which you can see on the Communion Table) with the following inscription ‘This cup was made in the year 1636. Humphrey Jobson Esq. and John Baker, gentleman, being church wardens.
In the Bible we have a wonderful description of the church as being made up of ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:4-6). We often think of a church as a building made up of blocks of cut stone, but isn’t it a powerful image to picture the church instead as being made up of living stones, of all the people who worship together with their common foundation in Christ? As we listened to Tómas earlier, his infectious enthusiasm helped to bring the history of that ancient place to life and my mind was transported back, imagining what the people were like and what kind of lives they lived and how for the vast majority life must have been very hard. Their belonging to the church of ‘living stones’ must have been at least as important to them as it is for us today. As their spiritual descendants, may each of us, 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 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. Wouldn’t it be great if at the celebration of the ‘Clonakilty 800’, a mere 400 years from now that our descendants could celebrate even more than we can today all that God has done in His church and that any religious divisions of the past would be nothing more than an historical footnote? May God bless us and bring us together more and more as Living Stones for the glory of His name, Amen.