A blog about church history and related matters, particularly unitarian and non-subscribing history, as well as matters of faith, theology, liberal christianity, non-creedal religion and related topics. By the editor of 'Faith and Freedom' and the 'Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society'.
In Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough we held three successful Harvest Thanksgiving Services in the month of October. Always an important part of the year we were restricted by the ongoing rules relating to the pandemic but still we were able to to celebrate the Harvest in a meaningful way. Below are some images from the decoration of the church as well as a video that forms our online Harvest Thanksgiving.
Our service includes:
Psalm 65 v.1-13 read by Dillon Howell John ch.4 v.31-38 read by Sophia Cleland Psalm 104 v.1-12 read by Robert Neill 2 Corinthians ch.9 v.6-11 read by Elsie Nelson Harvest Samba sung by Dillon and Haydn Howell Ode to Autumn by John Keats read by Sue Steers All things bright and beautiful sung by Sarah Rooney
As well as hymns played by John Strain: Come ye thankful people come (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 454) Welcome harvest, now beginning (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 462 We plough the fields and scatter (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 456) Plus a Harvest Medley
The First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick will publish this new book in October 2021. Written by Mary Stewart, the Church secretary, it is a 36 page, illustrated guide to the notable graves and memorials in the churchyard.
A Guide to the Notable Grave Inscriptions in The First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick
contains 39 black and white illustrations within a colour cover. It costs just £3 and will be available in the Church from October. They will also be available to order by post.
We have now reached the letters, K to M in our alphabetical survey of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism. So our next three videos look, in turn, at Kedron, the Lord’s Supper and Henry Montgomery.
When the Paschal evening fell Deep on Kedron’s hallowed dell, When around the festal board Sat the Apostles with their Lord, Then his parting word he said, Blessed the cup and brake the bread – “This whene’er ye do or see, Evermore remember me.” From a hymn by A.P. Stanley
James Martineau wrote another hymn which mentions Kedron, which is our subject for the letter K. To find out what links Jerusalem’s Kedron valley with the churchyard at Downpatrick watch this service. Filmed at the First Presbyterian Church (NS) Downpatrick, Mary Stewart gives the reading from John ch.18 v.1-9, and church organist, Laura Patterson, plays the hymns Christ, be our light and Great is thy faithfulness’.
The Lord’s Supper
L stands for the Lord’s Supper and in this short film we look at how we understand this important service. Filmed at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church the reading comes from 1 Corinthians ch.11 v.23-25. Church organist, John Strain, plays Lord of all hopefulness, May the mind of Christ my Saviour and My faith looks up to Thee.
The thirteenth instalment in the series is the letter M and features the Rev Dr Henry Montgomery. Filmed at Dunmurry, where Montgomery himself ministered from 1809 to his death in 1865, we look at his importance and his legacy. The reader is Bobby Graham who reads Matthew ch.23 v.1-12. Allen Yarr plays the hymns From all that dwell below the skies and Let saints on earth in concert sing.
We continue our journey through an alphabet of Non-Subscribing Presbyterian ideas, thoughts and objects and have now covered the letters H to J.
Hymns and Hymnbooks
Filmed at Ballee and Downpatrick, in this film we look at some historic hymnbooks and hymns within the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, where there is a tradition of writing hymns and producing hymnbooks which can be traced right back to the early nineteenth century. Conducted by the minister, the reading comes from Colossians ch.3 v.12-17 and is given by Elsie Nelson. Ballee organist John Strain plays the hymns: May the mind of Christ my Saviour (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 512) and Thine be the glory (Irish Church Hymnal 288).
Faith should be open and inquiring, we should have a faith that asks questions and is not simply content to be told what to believe. The ninth service in our series is filmed at Clough (with a bit of extra filming at Downpatrick). Conducted by the minister, the reader is Annabel Cleland who reads from John ch.20 v.24-29. Clough organist Alfie McClelland plays the hymns Thou whose almighty word (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 173) and Lord in the fullness of my might (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 269).
In this video we look at Non-Subscribing Presbyterian understandings of Jesus. How do we see him? How do we understand him? Filmed in Dunmurry with a reading from Luke ch.6 v.46-49 given by Noelle Wilson the service is conducted by the minister in charge. Dunmurry organist Allen Yarr plays the hymns Stand up! Stand up for Jesus (Church Hymnary 532), From all that dwell below the skies (Church Hymnary 228) and Let saints on earth in concert sing (Church Hymnary 227) on the piano.
I was back on Lime Street about ten or eleven days after the previous post (Digging up History on Lime Street). Lime Street is most notable for a number of things: the railway station that bears its name and, of course, St George’s Hall.
But as I went past the road works I noticed that all the setts/cobbles had been removed as well as the old tram lines. I also noticed that a very deep hole had been dug in the road.
Stopping to take a picture a voice from behind me asked ‘Are you in the habit of taking pictures of large holes in the road?’ It was one of the work men who seemed pleased that someone was photographing their handiwork. He and his colleague explained that all the setts had been taken away to be re-used by the Council and that the tramlines had been taken away for scrap. They were widening the pavement, adding a cycle lane and – inevitably – narrowing the road. The hole, apparently, was to allow the planting of trees which would form a barrier between the cycle lane and the road.
Further up the road, in front of Lime Street Station, they have already planted trees and I suppose these will be something similar:
There are a lot of road works going on and safer and well-landscaped roads can only be an improvement but I can’t help wondering what they expect to happen to the current volume of traffic. In the meantime the streets are busy with diggers, barriers and cordons:
Our service is filmed in Oxford and features some of the well-known as well as some lesser-known sights of Oxford. Sue Steers reads Psalm 96 and Jenny Narramore shares an important part of College life in Christ Church. We also have a short reading from ex-slave and abolitionist’s autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Our organists play five hymns: Thine be the glory, John Strain, Ballee; Be still for the presence of the Lord, Laura Patterson Downpatrick; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, Alfie McClelland, Clough; How deep the Father’s love, Allen Yarr, Dunmurry; Blest are the pure in heart, John Strain, Ballee.
As a visual experience Oxford never disappoints. As the seasons change, as the weather or the light changes even in a single day, so the buildings repay careful scrutiny, with the colours of the stone reflecting the sun, the rain, a glowering sky or the bright blue backdrop of recent sunny days. There are less tourists now. Even the lure of Harry Potter and Inspector Morse are no longer sufficient to cram the streets with eager faces, although the city is busy enough despite the pandemic.
But here are a few images I took recently over a couple of days.
We are continuing with our alphabetical exploration of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland and have added the letters E to G to the sequence.
Filmed at Ballee, church organist John Strain plays the hymns Lord for tomorrow and its needs (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 4) and How deep the Father’s love for us (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 407). The reading is from Proverbs ch.9 v.1, 5, 6, 9, 10.
We look at the importance of education to Non-Subscribers across the centuries, including the Killyleagh philosophy school.
Out of our good liking for learning, and for the encouragement of the same in this place, and particularly for encouraging the philosophical school taught at Killileagh, by Mr James McAlpin, professor of philosophy; and in consideration that he is, in the future, to keep and teach the said school, at the town of Killileagh, do hereby oblige ourselves to provide him and his family a convenient dwelling-house…
Part of the original agreement for Killyleagh Philosophy School (1697).
Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Worship from Ballee for Sunday, 1st August conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. The reading is from Habakkuk ch.2 v.1-4. John Strain plays the hymns: Father I place into your hands (Irish Church Hymnal 565) and By cool Siloam’s shady rill (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 399).
Gifts of the Spirit
The seventh in our series of alphabetical explorations of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. This week G – Gifts. Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Worship from Clough, conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. The reading is from 1 Corinthians ch.12 v.4-12. Church organist, Alfie McClelland, plays the hymns Walk in the light’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 334) and City of God, how broad and far (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 202).
They are digging up the streets of Liverpool city centre all over the place at the moment. This is very much the case on Lime Street where they seem to be widening the pavement at one point and presumably planning to lay a new road surface.
Lime Street is a key thoroughfare in the city’s history. It has undergone some ‘development’ in recent years most notably with the controversial demolition of the old Futurist Cinema which I photographed when efforts were being made to save it. I never posted those pictures at the time although I might do in the future. The Futurist dated back to 1912 and deserved to be preserved. Over the road is the art deco frontage of the former ABC Cinema which is in some sort of limbo but also deserves preservation. I have some interesting historic photographs of Lime Street in times gone by which I might post up at some point. But walking along Lime Street now you are coralled behind a large fence, beyond which a digger is removing the old setts which can be seen in part of the road.
It is interesting to see what once constituted the road surface in Lime Street. The digger is scooping up the setts, noisily shaking them about to remove all the excess debris, and then piling them high at the side of the road.
But the other thing this work seems to be exposing is some of the old tramlines on Lime Street. Disused for seventy years and probably unseen for almost as long the tramlines have been uncovered by the digging.
What will happen to the old tramlines? Presumably the old setts are going to be sold off or possibly reused somewhere by the Council. I don’t know what you do with old tramlines, but it is interesting to see them, and interesting to reflect on what lies below the surface of our streets.