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Dorset Rector Receives Award from Archbishop

by Gerry Lynch last modified 25 Apr, 2018 02:30 PM

Team Rector of Swanage and Studland recognised for ecumenical work while Dean of Belfast

Dorset Rector Receives Award from Archbishop

The Very Revd John and Helen Mann with the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby

A Dorset rector has been awarded the Lambeth Cross by Archbishop Justin Welby for his work in bringing Christian churches together.

The Revd John Mann, Team Rector of Swanage and Studland, was given the award for ecumenical work carried out while he was Dean of Belfast from 2011 until 2017, when he moved to this Diocese to take up his current post.

The Award Citation reads as follows:

The Lambeth Cross which has been awarded to former Dean of Belfast John Mann.

The Very Reverend John Mann – The Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism, for courageous and visionary leadership which affirmed diversity, fostered healing and made Belfast Cathedral a place of welcome as a sacred, civic space at the heart of a divided city.

“It was a big surprise to receive the award”, John says, “I hadn’t the slightest idea until a letter popped through the door in January.

“I came to Swanage last September and before that I didn’t know this area at all well. We’ve come to love it very quickly. People have been incredibly welcoming.

“It is a very big move, though. The setup in the Church of England is very different, with it being the established Church, and effectively the default place where everyone comes unless they have a reason to worship somewhere else. The Church of Ireland, is only one of four main churches in Northern Ireland, and parish clergy are seen much more as serving a particular congregation.

“A large part of my ministry has been about working with a Roman Catholic community that is both large numerically and strong in terms of organisation. It’s very different in Dorset; although our local Roman Catholic Church is thriving it’s on a much smaller scale in comparison with what I’ve grown used to in Belfast.

“There are also some practical differences in terms of the administration one needs to carry out as a parish priest. For example, marriage law changed dramatically in Northern Ireland 15 years ago and is now very different to what exists in England.

“Interestingly, though neither my wife, Helen, or I are from Northern Ireland originally. She is from the Isle of Man, and I grew up in London. I first went to Belfast in 1973 as an undergraduate, but then most of our adult lives were spent in and around Belfast. I did spend four years in the Diocese of Winchester around 25 years ago.

“I’ve found not only the people in Swanage but also my colleagues in the Diocese to be very warm and supportive and encouraging, which has helped make it a pleasant transition.”

The citation for the Lambeth Award continued:

John Mann’s six-year tenure as Dean of Belfast was marked by building relationships and fostering a sense of community within the regular congregation.

In 2017 he installed the first Roman Catholic priest as an ecumenical canon, alongside previously installed Presbyterian and Methodist ministers. The Choir School initiative was his vision, in partnership with three north Belfast schools (one Protestant, one Catholic and one integrated). The cathedral music department takes responsibility for teaching music in the schools and identifies boys and girls who are then trained to sing the services in the choirs of the Cathedral. They attend practice in the context of an after-school homework club.

Belfast Cathedral became a focus for civic events and as a sacred civic space benefited from the patience, grace and leadership of John Mann. He worked tirelessly with other religious leaders in the city and made a profound contribution to the civic understanding and acceptance of the concept of a Cathedral Quarter, a significant part of the 21st Century regeneration of Belfast, and ensuring that the Cathedral remains at its heart.

In his last three years there were congregations of between 800 and 1000 for Evensong and Compline on ‘Culture Night’, an evening of free arts events in September, and thousands more visited the cathedral. Guided tours and school visits became regular daily features, so too, for the first time, the daily offices. Over his tenure as dean John Mann raised over a million pounds for local charities through his pre-Christmas (Black Santa) sit-out for charity. In February 2017, at the Good Samaritan Service, the Dean distributed £230,000 – the largest sum raised to date, passing the target by some £30,000.

Christians from Africa, the Far East and the UK were among the recipients of the 2018 Lambeth Awards presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Awards, launched by Archbishop Welby in 2016, recognise outstanding service in different fields, including those of the Archbishop’s ministry priorities of prayer and the Religious life; reconciliation and peacebuilding; and evangelism and witness.

To learn more about this year’s Awards, visit here.

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