The meeting house of the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church in Downpatrick was opened in 1711 at the start of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin. Recognised as one of the most significant architectural examples of the T-shaped meeting-house in Ireland the building celebrated 300 years of continuous worship and witness in 2011.
To mark the tercentenary of the church building the congregation published the History of the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church Downpatrick. Written and compiled by Mary Stewart, the church secretary, the book is a remarkable record of three centuries of church life in the historic building. The book details the history of the congregation in the context of Downpatrick and Irish Presbyterianism, the conflict between subscribers and non-subscribers in the 18th century, the history of the building, the congregation’s engagement with education and much more. The book includes biographies of all the ministers of the congregation going back to the 17th century, extracts from the records of the Synod of Ulster, accounts of services, special events and financial matters, and contains details of committee and session members over the centuries, lists of members going back to the 1860s, and a complete record of all the graveyard inscriptions. It will be valued by all those with an interest in Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church history, local history, and genealogy.
In the first of the two Forewords the Very Rev William McMillan says:
Miss Stewart is to be congratulated on a truly comprehensive publication. She not only presents us with a history of the Downpatrick congregation but has collated a remarkable number of newspaper accounts, together with other printed material which will be of considerable help to future historians.
Her commitment to the congregation is evident from the immense research that she has done and I am delighted to recommend this valuable contribution to the Denomination’s Historical Record in which Downpatrick congregation has played such an important role.
and in the second Foreword the Rev Dr JohnNelson says:
The congregation of Downpatrick has a long and notable history, reflected in the lives of the ministers and lay people who have been part of that church. A congregation which has held a significant place both within Non-Subscribing Presbyterian circles and the wider Presbyterian community.
Perhaps the most outstanding theme of that history is the fact that for the last 300 years the congregation have worshiped in the wonderful building that is Stream Street Meeting House. While that building has always been well maintained, the interior has never been substantially altered, leaving it to-day essentially as built and evoking a sense of history, of presence, and of worship in all who enter there. It is highly appropriate that this book is published as part of the celebrations to mark the 300th anniversary of that meeting house.
Mary Stewart is to be congratulated in producing such a thorough and detailed history of the congregation. Not only does she give the story of the church, but her painstaking researches have produced a wealth of source material which will be a delight to historians, church members, and everyone interested in the heritage of Downpatrick town and community.
This book both opens a door on the past and links it with the living present.
The book contains 408 pages and over 150 illustrations. It is bound in a full colour hard-back cover the book and is excellent value at only £15.
A sense of what it contains can be seen from the list of contents:
Chapter 1 Background History of Downpatrick
Chapter 2 Arrival and Settlement of Presbyterians
Chapter 3 Subscribers and Non-Subscribers, the Faith of the Non-Subscribers
Chapter 4 Presbytery Records from 1691 including Thomas Nevin’s Trial and Consequences
Chapter 5 List of Ministers of Downpatrick, Details of Ministers
Chapter 6 The Church Building
Chapter 7 Church Site and Schools
Chapter 8 Life and Times of Samuel Craig Nelson
Chapter 9 Special Services
Chapter 10 Special Events and Reports
Chapter 11 Church Excursions from 1881
Chapter 12 Social Evenings and Gatherings
Chapter 13 Harvest Services from 1908
Chapter 14 Financial Matters (Inc. Committee Record from 1886)
Appendix I Rules and Regulations of the Downpatrick Congregation
Appendix II Church Elders, Committee and Sunday School Teachers (From 1861-2007)
Appendix III The Church Graveyard and Inscriptions
Appendix IV Sermon by Alexander Colvill A.M. M.D. on the Death of Thomas Nevin 24th March 1744
The cost of the book is just £15. Postage within the UK is £5. If you are interested in having a copy posted abroad please enquire for postal rates. Details of how to purchase the book can be found on the Church’s website: http://www.downpatricknsp.org.uk/History.html