Atheists could lead the prayers in the Keys

Monday 2nd May 2022 10:37 am
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Laa Columb Killey Festival at Ballabeg. Rev Irene Cowell new vicar for Arbory crowns the fair princess Poppy Irving .

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People who don’t believe in God could lead prayers before sittings of the House of Keys in future.

The recommendation comes from the house’s management and members’ standards committee, which was published this week

As it stands, the chaplain of the House of Keys leads prayers before every sitting.

However, the practice was questioned in February.

The committee made a number of recommendations, including the appointment of a chaplain for the house.

She is the Reverend Irene Cowell, who currently presides over Arbory and Castletown.

The committee – made up of Speaker Juan Watterson, Garff MHK Daphne Caine, Glenfaba and Peel MHK Tim Crookall and Rushen MHK Michelle Haywood – says that it would be possible to have prayers led by a range of different people, ‘including those of different faiths or no faith’.

It recommends that standing orders should be amended to allow a chaplain to involve people of other faiths or none to lead prayers.

‘We would normally expect the chaplain to be present if available,’ the committee says.

‘In the case of a planned absence, our proposed reform would open up the possibility of the chaplain arranging “cover” by another person, with the agreement of the Speaker.’

MHKs were sent questionnaires about the issue.

Responses were published, but the identities of the members were not.

One suggested that prayers could take place ‘in the church across the road or in a members’ office if they so choose’.

Another had very traditional views.

Commenting on whether there should continue to be a chaplain, he or she said: ‘Her Majesty the Queen, Lord of Mann, is supreme governor of the Church of England, the Protestant Anglican Church, so a minister should be of that faith.’

Three said that prayers have no place in a modern legislature.

Three said agreed that the ‘House of Keys are an expression of my faith and the faith of the community I represent. We tamper with them at our peril’.

Bishop Peter Eagles commented on the appointment of Rev Cowell, a former nurse, as chaplain.

‘In taking this next step in her life of Christian ministry, Irene brings proven pastoral gifts and wide professional and personal experience to the role.

‘I am grateful to her that she is willing to serve God in this new capacity and I look forward immensely to working with her.

‘I offer my condolences to the people of Arbory and Castletown, where Irene has exercised such a wonderful ministry for the past four years but I hope Irene’s people will be both pleased and indeed proud that they have played a part in preparing her for this greater responsibility.’

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