While a presbytery tour is primarily pastoral in nature with visits to congregations and initiatives supported by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), they also have strong civic and public elements to them. Today Dr Kirkpatrick and his wife Joan spent time with the teachers and pupils of Howth Road Mixed National School in Clontarf. On Tuesday they were also welcomed to St Andrews College, Blackrock.
Howth Road Mixed National School is a small 4 teacher school under the patronage of Clontarf and Scots Presbyterian Church, which set up the school in 1890. Opening at the same time as, the church and school are adjacent to each other. As the principal Martha Woolmington explained, the school provides primary level education from junior infants to sixth class in a co-educational setting. “While we are a reasonably small school with 4 classrooms, for our 10 members of staff and 90-plus pupils, it was lovely to be able to take the time to have Dr Kirkpatrick and his wife Joan join with us, and be able to show them the school, especially our newly renovated building.
“During their visit they were made very welcome and I know the staff appreciated chatting over coffee about some of the issues facing them and the schools ethos. The fact that Dr Kirkpatrick prayed for them, the work of the school and the children was also welcomed. During his visit to our fifth and sixth year’s RE class, he was certainly put to the test!”
Howth Road is the only National School under Presbyterian patronage in the Presbytery of Dublin and Munster Presbytery, with the Kirk Session of Clontarf and Scots acting as patron with representation on the Board of Management. The minister of Clontarf, Rev Lorraine Kennedy-Ritchie, accompanied the Moderator on the tour.
“Presbytery tours are about people and it was great to be able to spend time with Ms Woolmington and her team, and Lorraine our local minister, as we looked around this great school. Teachers across the board probably don’t really appreciate fully the impact that they ultimately have on a person’s life, and for many it is a genuine calling. From our visits to Howth Road and to St Andrew’s College that is very evident.”
The RE class that the Moderator took time talk to, and answer questions, was looking at Philippians 1 with the children identifying points of thankfulness. “What came back as I listened was so impressively thoughtful, from being thankful for family and friends, to being able to freely express themselves to being thankful for democracy. I said to the class that they could also ask me anything they liked and they did! From what is my favourite colour is to whether ‘Die Hard’ is or isn’t a Christmas movie. Among the questions were those that showed the capacity of young minds to think deeply, perhaps the most profound being ‘what is the meaning of life?’ What a moment to witness,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
On Tuesday the Moderator visited St Andrew’s College in Blackrock, which also has a close association with the denomination. Founded in 1894 by members of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, around 1,250 attend the junior and senior schools. During the tour Dr Kirkpatrick met the college’s acting-principal, Rob Micallef, the senior leadership Team (SLT) and the student council. He was also given a guided tour of the school by members of the SLT, visiting the Library, the Art Department, the Maths and English Departments. He also visited the Junior School and popped into a couple of classes.
“It was a privilege to host Dr Kirkpatrick today, which was the first visit of a Moderator to the College in many years. Our mission is to prepare our young people with the knowledge, skills and characteristics that they need to live fulfilling lives and become successful global citizens who can make an impact and help to build a better world. I hope that Dr Kirkpatrick got a sense of that when he met the SLT and students.
“We had the opportunity to talk about many things, including the challenges that coming out of covid posed for the College. Dr Kirkpatrick was also interested in our vision for the future and our approach to learning, including the pastoral side of the College where we believe that all students are noticed and all students are cared for. We talked about the structures that enable that. I very much hope he enjoyed his visit,” Mr Micallef said.
Dr Kirkpatrick was joined on his visit to the College by Rev Alastair Dunlop, minister of Howth and Malahide Presbyterian Churches, who is also a member of the College’s Board of Management. Speaking about the visit, the Moderator said, “As with Howth Road, we’re very proud of St Andrew’s College and its long history. On our visit I had the pleasure of meeting staff and pupils alike who are such a real credit to the College.
“I was also reminded that the vision of its Presbyterian founders continues to be realised - high quality education inspired by Christian principles. It is my prayer that long into the future St Andrew’s College will continue to be the blessing it is to so many, and will keep on producing the high calibre of students for which it is known,” he said.
Photos (1) The Moderator, Dr Kirkpatrick, Rev Lorraine Kennedy-Ritchie, minister of Clontarf & Scots Presbyterian Church, which is patron of Howth Road Mixed National School, and Mrs Kirkpatrick outside the church which is adjacent to the school (2) left to right Rev Lorraine Kennedy-Ritchie in the staff room with Jean Acheson, school secretary, Mrs Kirkpatrick, Dr Kirkpatrick, and Martha Woolmington, school principal (3) the Moderator with the fifth and sixth year’s RE class (4) At St Andrew's College, Blackrock (LtoR) Hilary McCowen-Rabbette chair of the College's Board of Governors, Rev Alastair Dunlop, minister of Howth and Malahide Presbyterian Church who is also one of two Presbyterian ministers on the Board who is pictured with the Moderator and acting principal Rob Micallef (5) the Moderator and members of St Andrew's College Student Council.