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Rev McConnell made a Canon of Lisburn Cathedral

Jane Witherspoon

Reporter:

Jane Witherspoon

The Rev Mark McConnell, rector of Ballymena (Kilconriola) and Ballyclug, has been appointed a Canon of Lisburn Cathedral.

Rev McConnell has been the rector of Ballymena since June 2016, but now has received the great honour of serving in Lisburn, especially as this is where he is from.

Rev. McConnell said he was ‘really shocked’ when the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, contacted him.

“I am honoured that the Bishop thought of me.

“It is recognition that I have been in ministry for more than 30 years, and is also a great encouragement for me.

“This is doubly special because Lisburn Cathedral is the parish church in which I was born and raised for the first 25 years of my life.

“That is quite something. Lisburn Cathedral is where the seeds of faith were sown and where I felt the first call to ordination.”

After A Levels, Mark joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service where he worked for more than seven years, ending up in IDB House where his job was to encourage exports from Northern Ireland overseas.

In his mid-20s, Mark felt a strong calling to commit more to his faith.

He said: “I didn’t see ordination as the way forward but wanted to know more about faith and Christian service.

This led him to Oakhill College in north London.

He continued: “The structure allowed people to find their direction within the studies.

“This could have been anything from youth ministry to army chaplaincy or evangelism.”

It was during his three years at Oakhill Mark decided ordination was for him.

Halfway through the course, he began contacting bishops.

“St Alban’s Diocese took me under their wing. They accepted me for ordination training in the Church of England.

“God opened doors for me.”.

After graduation from Oakhill, Mark had the opportunity to do a familiarisation year on his way to ordination, and he did this at St James’ Parish, Muswell Hill, north London, where he had the opportunity to do anything that needed doing!

During that year he married Cherith, a native of Omagh and a primary school teacher.

Mark was ordained in St Alban’s Diocese and served his first curacy in Christ Church, Bedford.

He and Cherith felt called back to Northern Ireland, and Mark became accustomed to the ways of the Church of Ireland through a second curacy in Bangor Parish, Diocese of Down and Dromore.

During this time he did a lot of work with the congregation of The Primacy, a small church on a large housing estate shared with the Methodist Church.

Mark was later appointed rector of Killyleagh in Co Down, and after seven years moved to Connor Diocese as rector of Ballyclare.

He remained in Ballyclare for more than 18 years before the move to Ballymena, where he currently ministers along with his wife Cherith and their three children, Daniel, Matthew and Erin.

A date for his installation to the Chapter of St Saviour has yet to be set, but Rev McConnell will continue to be rector of the Ballymena Parish while a Canon of Lisburn Cathedral.

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