New Presbyterian Minister
A fresh-faced former pharmacist will be ordained as the new Sligo Presbyterian minister this weekend.
David Clarke (35) from the Derry village of Culnady will be ordained minister at Sligo Presbyterian Church this Saturday 13th January.
The community has been without a minister for over two years since the Rev Alan Mitchell left.
David took time out from moving house last week to speak to The Sligo Champion in advance of his big day.
"It's very exciting," he said. "I've done a three year Master's in Divinity at Union College in Belfast and then did two years as an assistant minister in Kilfennan Presbyterian Church in Derry," he said.
"I'm moving to live in the Presbyterian Manse in Temple Street so my car is full of Ikea furniture at the moment," he smiled.
"It's an exciting move but also a bit daunting. It's a new church for me, a new place to live, all is changing but really exciting at the same time," he said.
"I really felt from the very beginning a strong draw towards Sligo and I felt that this was the direction God was leading me and was very hopeful to end up here and thankful that I have," he said.
David's first impressions of the town are positive: "Geographically it's in a beautiful location with Benbulben and the beaches and everybody I've met seems very friendly," he said.
"Certainly the church are lovely. They have a really vibrant community of faith. One of the things I love about it is that it's multicultural so it's a place where people have found a home from all different backgrounds. There's plenty going on," he said.
Rev. Alan Mitchell served as minister in Sligo for 27 years and left over two years ago. "I wouldn't use that word 'replace'," he smiles, "I'm continuing on the good work that Alan carried out," he adds. David's route into ministry was circuitous. He's a qualified pharmacist and practiced for several years as a hospital pharmacist in Antrim Hospital until the age of 27.
"I really enjoyed it but felt the call from God was leading me into full-time Christian work," he explains.
"I really enjoyed the work I did in Church and enjoyed it more than pharmacy. I gradually tested the waters and did some volunteer work with the church. I did a ministry internship for a year in Kilkenny with the Reverend David Moore. Really loved that and felt this is what I ought to be doing.
"I'm passionate about seeing people enter into a living relationship with Jesus and then growing that faith and living it out. I really love working with people and teaching the Bible,"he said. "You see people at their best and their weakest points and get to pray with people who are ill or undergoing a trial - you really get to know people. It's a privilege really," he said.
The oldest of four, David's father Jim is a farmer and his late mother Susan died in 2005.
"It was a difficult time because we were all reasonably young, my youngest brother was 16," he recalls.
"My mum would have had a strong faith and I was sent to church as a young child but owned the faith myself, believed what I was hearing and have been walking with Jesus since," he said.
He admits his father was "quite surprised" when he announced his career change "to go into the unknown" but has been very supportive and proud of him ever since.
In fact a whole contingent of the Clarke family are travelling down from Derry this Saturday to witness David's ordination. There are also a "couple of bus loads" of parishioners coming from Derry.
"As a minister I want to see people come to a living faith in Jesus and then grow in that so I'm looking forward to growing in my own faith and seeing people in church deepening their faith and becoming more Christ-like. I want to see people who haven't started that journey to start it.
"Ministry is about relationships and I think it's going to take time for me to build up relationships with people in the church and establish myself and see where God is leading the church," he said.
To relax, David likes going to the gym, exercising and cycling, as well as travelling. "I just love exploring different cultures and meeting people from different places. There's something nice about stepping on a plane and being somewhere new," he said.
The Presbytery of Monaghan will ordain, install and induct David as minister at 2.30pm this Saturday with a reception in the Church Hall after. "I hope to be here for the long term, that's my goal," he added.