WORK is expected to begin shortly on urgent repair works St Nicholas church in Adare, the former Augustinian abbey which will mark its 700th anniversary in 2015. The work, in a number of phases, has already attracted significant funding from the Heritage Council. But for the small community of Church of Ireland parishioners who worship there, however, raising the rest of the funds will be a challenge.
“It is very daunting,” Janet Bray, secretary of the select vestry said this week. “We are a very small community and this is a very big sum of money. But we are full of enthusiasm for the challenge ahead. And with the assistance of the wider community and of the Heritage Council, I am sure we will get there. But it will be an ongoing project.”
The arrival of their new rector, the Rev Gary Paulsen, just three weeks ago, has already boosted confidence – and generated enthusiasm. Adare and the union of parishes which includes Kilpeacon, Croom and Kilmallock have been without an appointed rector since April last year when the Rev Alan Matchett died suddenly.
Rev Paulsen, who was serving in a big Capetown parish when he saw the notice for the Adare vacancy, admits he is still finding his feet. But he is genuinely pleased to be in Ireland – and to be serving in a diocese which has links with his former diocese of Saldanha.
“I have been fascinated by Ireland always,” he said this week. “I wanted to come here.”
Rev Paulsen spent some time in Co Limerick in March. “I came over to have a look and stayed here for ten days to get a feel.” He was also interviewed for the position at the time – and although his initial plan was to move to Ireland in 2012, when he was offered the living in Limerick, he accepted with great pleasure.
His family will join him next year in the rectory on the banks of the Maigue in Adare, where another renovation project is almost complete.
His first reaction to St Nicholas’s church in Adare was one of delight. “I thought it was beautiful. I love old buildings.” He was particularly pleased that the church complex, which dates from 1315, was once an abbey – as he is fascinated by the monastic life.
He is fast coming up to speed on the challenge that is the restoration project. But, he says: “This is not just for this community, for the Church of Ireland. It is part of Irish history.”
He goes on: “For me, it is important that this is a house of prayer. It has been a place of prayer for many centuries and we continue that tradition.”
“For me, it is a privilege to come and serve in a community,” he adds. “I think my role is to journey with the community.” And while he has some ideas in mind for the future of his various congregations, he wants first to listen. “First I must live with the community.”
Already though, some of the music and dance which are central to South African culture and to their practice of worship, have won favour in Adare.
“He is very enthusiastic and open about his faith,” Ms Bray says. “And he has filled us with enthusiasm.”
The first phase of the restoration programme will involve repairs to the roof and valleys – where a major leak has caused a lot of damage. A second phase will, hopefully, see the restoration of the abbey cloisters and a further project will see the restoration of the Dunraven mausoleum.