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Celebrating Rev. Elise Hanley—From Brooklyn to Cork!

By Tim Dwyer, parishioner and vestry member

An extraordinary confluence of circumstances allowed me the privilege of witnessing both the farewell festivities for Rev. Elise Hanley at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights as well as her institution at her new church home just two weeks later at Christchurch in Cork, Ireland.

It began last fall when my daughter Sophie—a junior at Emory University in Atlanta—was accepted into a program of study for the spring semester at Trinity College, Dublin. At almost the same time, my Irish-born boss, now a resident of Philadelphia, purchased an apartment in her old hometown of Youghal (pronounced “Yall”), located about an hour outside of Cork. My boss invited me to stay there and work remotely for the month of February, so I could be near my daughter.  Days later, I learned that Rev. Elise would be leaving St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church to take up ministry in Cork. Happily, I was able to work my itinerary so that I could be there for her February 4 institution.

To understand the delicate complexity of Rev. Elise’s mission, it is helps to know the unusual place the Church of Ireland (a branch of the Anglican Communion) has in Irish society and history. In 1536, just two years after the creation of the Church of England, the Irish parliament made Henry VIII (who was also King of a conquered Ireland) head of the newly minted “Church of Ireland,” essentially appropriating the buildings and lands of the Roman Catholic Church for Protestant use. Though most Irish people remained loyal to the Bishop of Rome, the Irish branch of Anglicanism was the established state Church of Ireland until 1871. It was the Church for wealthy landowners, titled nobility, and newly imported Englishmen – for the few, the powerful, and the privileged – and was greatly resented by poor, disenfranchised Catholics. After Irish independence, many Irish Protestants fled to Northern Ireland (Ulster) and only a remnant of the Church of Ireland remained in what became the Republic of Ireland, with many Protestant church buildings abandoned or converted for other use.

It is a sign of greater ecumenism in Ireland that the local Roman Catholic Cardinal was among the notables at Rev. Elise’s institution. Also present were the mayor of Cork, the commander of the local navy base, and of course, many local Protestant clergy. I was warmly welcomed during a social event after the ceremony, and people were delighted to learn that I had a connection to Rev. Elise’s last parish in the United States.

Protestant clergy are in short supply in the Republic of Ireland, so Rev. Elise has three churches under her care. I have a feeling that she will sleep well on Sunday nights!

It was heartening to see the warmth and enthusiasm with which she was welcomed. Let us all pray for her, her spouse, their pets, and their mission!

You can view a recording of Rev. Elise’s institution below.

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