John Paterson in retrospect
It is now two decades since John Thomas Farquhar Paterson retired from the deanery of Christ Church Cathedral, his death sadly coming a mere eighteen months later.
One could write much about John, but a retrospective is neither biography nor hagiography. This short piece will therefore focus on two particular areas where it may be suggested that he made a significant contribution to the life of the Church of Ireland in the late twentieth century. The first relates to liturgical worship and its presentation. The second concerns the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood.
Throughout his ministry as a priest, John laid constant emphasis on the importance of presenting liturgy well as a crucial means of evangelism. As he would cheerfully explain, when he was ordained deacon in 1963, leading worship was essentially a matter of beginning on the right page and concluding on the right page of the Book of Common Prayer. One would remain largely immobile throughout, other than for expeditions to the pulpit and possibly the lectern. With the arrival of new and more adaptable authorised liturgies within the coming years, John Paterson was one of those at the forefront of exploring how worship might become more vibrant and dynamic while still remaining within the parameters of a set liturgy. As vicar of Saint Bartholomew’s Church Ballsbridge through much of the 1970s, John had the freedom to experiment continually with how movement and colour could enrich worship. However, he also understood liturgy from a more theoretical and scholarly perspective and was well able to hold his own amidst discussions in the Church of Ireland’s Liturgical Advisory Committee as to what constituted Anglican doctrine and what did not!
* Full article available in printed copies.
Was Archbishop of Armagh (2012 - 2000) and formerly Bishop of Meath and Kildare. He continues to research and write in retirement.