Postcard from Dunmurry: Then and Now

I am not sure how many Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches had postcards produced featuring the meeting-house in Edwardian days. Not all of them I would guess but I have a good few examples and have blogged about a few of them including Downpatrick, Newry, Banbridge, All Souls’ Belfast (including one that quite clearly is not All Souls’), and Crumlin. There are others such as Clough and Dromore which I have seen but not acquired, but recently I was pleased to pick up a picture of Dunmurry.

Dunmurry postcard

Labelled First Presbyterian (R[emonstrant] S[ynod]) Church, Dunmurry, (Dr Montgomery’s Old Church) I have seen this card offered for sale before but I am pleased to at last track one down. Published by F.W. Harding of Lisburn this card was posted on 12th November 1906 to Miss Browne in Aghalee, ‘M.B.’ writes to ‘Maggie’ telling they her they are still waiting for a letter from her but hope to see her soon.

We can compare it with a modern view, taken from more or less the same position last week and see that, of course, although some of the graves, the trees and planting around the church have changed the view is essentially unchanged.

Dunmurry January 2023

In January we filmed some short reflections in the church featuring Allen Yarr on the piano. The video can be seen here:

January Reflections

Reflections for the month of January with the Rev Dr David Steers, minister, and Allen Yarr, church organist. Music: ‘When I survey’, ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’

Canning Street Presbyterian Church, Liverpool: Then and Now

The solid and imposing structure of Canning Street Presbyterian Church was a feature of that corner of Canning Street and Bedford Street for about 120 years.

I’ve mentioned this church before and used its image as it appears in an aerial view of Liverpool painted from a hot air balloon by John R. Isaac in 1859 and published in New York. (This can be viewed on the Library of Congress site. You can also read the original post by clicking on this link – Seven Churches in Liverpool in 1859 viewed from the air). Below Canning Street Presbyterian Church can be seen in the centre of this section of the picture:

Detail from Liverpool, 1859, part of Birkenhead, the docks, and Cheshire coast Library of Congress

In fact of the seven churches mentioned in that post I have blogged about most of them at one time or another (Hope Street Unitarian Church, the Catholic Apostolic Church and Myrtle Street Baptist Church can all also be seen in this image) but recently I acquired a press photograph of Canning Street Presbyterian Church taken in 1931:

The picture is a bit dark but it shows the edifice built in 1846 and finally demolished in the 1960s. It was built by a denomination of exiled Scots, members of the Free Church of Scotland, which became the Presbyterian Church in England. Later this body united with the United Presbyterian Church (at a ceremony in Liverpool in 1876) to form the Presbyterian Church of England. In 1896 the minister, the Rev Simeon Ross Macphail observed that fifty years previously increasing numbers of Scottish emigrants to Liverpool were not inclined to join the local churches which called themselves Presbyterian but were by then Unitarian in theology. This would be true by the 1840s, although it was not the case a couple of generations before when Scots newly arrived in the city, perhaps influenced by the theological moderatism of the Church of Scotland, were often happy to make common cause with the dissenters.

Canning Street, in its prime location in the wealthiest part of the city flourished for decades until it followed the trend to move out of the by then less fashionable Georgian area of the city to the suburbs. In 1931 they sold up and built a new church in Allerton (now Allerton United Reformed Church). It was at this point that this photo was taken as it was sold to the German Church in Liverpool who moved their location from the very centre of town to Canning Street.

A German-speaking Lutheran congregation had existed in Liverpool since at least 1846. Meeting in various places over the years they had sufficient capital in 1871 to purchase what had been known as Newington Chapel. This had been founded originally as a break away from the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth. Unhappy with the appointment of an Arian (or Unitarian) minister in 1775, a group of Congregationalists built their own chapel on Renshaw Street. From 1811, with the appointment of Rev Thomas Spencer, this congregation grew rapidly and built Great George Street Chapel as a suitable base for his oratorical powers. Unfortunately, Thomas Spencer never took up his place in Great George Street Chapel, when he drowned in a swimming accident in the Mersey, but the congregation moved nevertheless and continued to flourish under the leadership of Rev Dr Thomas Raffles. In the best tradition of non-conformist awkwardness a small minority of the congregation refused to move and stayed in Newington Chapel, stayed, in fact, until 1871 when the German Evangelical/Lutheran Church was able to buy the meeting-house from them.

This congregation remained here until 1931 when the Cheshire Lines Railway Company purchased the site from them for £14,000. That was a good price and more than enough to buy Canning Street Church for just £4,000 in that year, the building being formally opened for Lutheran worship on 25th October 1931.

The site of the church today

Canning Street Church – Deutsche Kirche Liverpool

The German congregation has worshipped on that site ever since but in the 1960s they demolished the old church and replaced it with a rather plain building which doesn’t really catch the eye.

A view of the corner of Canning Street and Bedford Street today. The German Church is opposite the viewer, the site of the one-time Catholic Apostolic Church can be seen on the far left.

No pictures or text may be reproduced from this site without the express permission of the author.

Christmas Reflections

Over the period of Advent in the run up to Christmas at Dunmurry we have uploaded three videos generally reflecting on Advent and Christmas carols, their origin and use, as well as the Christmas story itself. You can see them all by clicking on the videos below.

Christmas Reflections: The Christmas Story

Christmas Reflections
The Christmas Story

First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church

Told by Sue Steers FRSA
Organ: Allen Yarr
Trumpet: Jack Steers

Carols:
Hark! the herald angels sing
O Little town of Bethlehem
O Come, all ye faithful

It came upon the midnight clear

Click on the video above to see the Christmas Reflections

Two Christmas Carols: Deck the hall (1784) & Ding, dong merrily on high (1924)

Two Christmas Carols

Click on the link above to see this short exploration of two well-known carols:
Deck the hall with boughs of holly (first published 1784)
Ding, dong merrily on high (first published in 1924)

Filmed at First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church and at the Continental Market, Belfast

Trumpet played by Jack Steers

Advent Reflections: ‘Hark the glad sound!’ by Rev Philip Doddridge 1702-1751

A Short Reflection for Advent

Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes
writtten by Rev Philip Doddridge DD (1702-1751)

Trumpet: Jack Steers

Click on the link above to see the video

Faith and Freedom – Autumn and Winter 2022

The new issue of Faith and Freedom is available now. Our cover picture shows James Martineau on top of his house in Prince’s Park, Liverpool (from a lithograph by John R. Isaac and now held by the Library of Congress).

The cover of our latest issue

Historian Jim Kenny (well known for his blog The Priory and the Cast Iron Shore, which he publishes under the name Glen Huntley) gives the first full account of the house Martineau built in Liverpool overlooking the Park. Planned in detail by Martineau himself, including a curious network of subterranean passages, it was described by a visitor as A pie-crust sort of house, with all the “curiosities and niceties that a Unitarian Minister could wish.” In the lithograph, based on an original watercolour by W.G. Herdman, James Martineau looks down on the ‘Fancy Fair’ in aid of local hospitals. The building is long gone now although the site became the centre of a struggle between developers and conservationists in recent times and the underground passages were still discoverable then, and may yet have survived to the present day.

Passage entrance on the site of Martineau’s house, c.2001. Courtesy of Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels

These and more illustrations accompany the article which tell this fascinating story of a unique house, the brainchild of the most significant Unitarian theologian of the nineteenth century, and built in the most prosperous suburb of Liverpool.

An Edwardian postcard showing nearby Prince’s Park and the Prince’s Park Mansions, neighbours of James Martineau.

Ian Rocksborough-Smith, assistant professor of US history at the University of Fraser Valley in S’ólh Téméxw/British Columbia, Canada, writes about ‘The Ambiguities of White Catholic Liberalism’ in the context of a ‘A Case Study in the Aftermath of the 1951 Race Riot in Cicero, Illinois’. He writes:

‘What did religiously-inclined white racial liberalism look like through the mid-twentieth century at a local level? This article looks at the intersections of race, religion, and civil rights in the wake of the 1951 race riot in Cicero, Illinois. Specifically, it considers the efforts of white Catholic liberals who advocated for racial reform measures well ahead of the mainstream orthodoxies of the Catholic Church – the latter of which did not pivot substantively towards civil and human rights until after Vatican II in the early-mid 1960s.’

We also have two fine examples of thoughtful and challenging sermons, the first on ‘Catching the Spirit’ given by London District Minister Jim Corrigall at New Unity congregation, North London, and the second ‘On Agreeing – But Not Quite – with Adam Gopnik’s Liberal Credo’ by Frank Walker given in the chapel of Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

Reviews include two books (in English and Welsh) reviewed by Graham Murphy, former Principal of Unitarian College, Manchester, and a Welsh-speaker, which explore the identity of Y Smotyn Du, ‘the Black Spot’, the heartland of Welsh-speaking Unitarianism, as well as two reviews on peacebuilding in the Middle East and Christian pluralism in Britain today. These are by Marcus Braybrooke, Anglican minister and a leading figure in inter-faith relations both nationally and internationally. In addition Lena Cockroft, current moderator of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, reviews a book on mindfulness and golf.

Books Reviewed

Eric Jones, Best Foot Forward, South East Wales Unitarian Society, 2020, pp 112, £6.95 pbk.

Goronwy Evans, Procio’r Cof, Y Lolfa, 2021, pp 208, ISBN 978-1-80099-042-5, £9.99 pbk.

Ron Kronish, Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the Midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Publisher Ron Kronish in Israel, 2022. Available on Amazon Kindle and as a paperback 978-1734470093, $ 22.97.

Alan Race, My Journey as a Religious Pluralist: A Christian Theology of Religions Reclaimed. An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, pp.202. ISBN 978-1-7252-9823-1, pbk £20.00. Hbk 978-1-7252-9822-4, e-bk 978-1-7252-9824-8

Martin Wells, No One Playing. The essence of mindfulness in golf and in life. John Hunt Publishing, 2022, pp 108. ISBN: 978-1-78904-781-3, pbk £ 8.99. ISBN: 978-1-78904-782-0, e-book £ 4.99.

Subscription Details

An annual subscription for each volume (two issues) costs £16.00 (postage included) in the United Kingdom. Single copies can be ordered at a cost of £8.00 each (postage included). Cheques should be made out to Faith and Freedom and sent to the business manager:

Nigel Clarke,
Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
16 Fairfields,
Kirton in Lindsey,
Gainsborough,
Lincolnshire.
DN21 4GA.

It is also possible to pay online. For more details see our website: https://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/subs.htm

Advent Reflections

First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church

Reflections for Advent

The Rev Philip Doddridge DD (1702-1751) was one of the most significant dissenting ministers in the first half of the eighteenth century. Among other things he was the author of the Advent carol ‘Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes’. This short reflection by Rev Dr David Steers, minister of the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Dunmurry, looks at Philip Doddridge and his hymn in the context of Advent. Jack Steers plays the hymn on the trumpet.

Illustration of Philip Doddridge, engraving by George Vertue after Andrea Soldi, National Portrait Gallery. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The History of the Bible

Three illustrated talks on the History of the Bible given at First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church in October and November 2022. Available to view in three parts on video.

The History of the Bible Part 1

The Formation of the Bible

Click on the video above to see Part One

Title page of the first edition of the American Revised Edition of 1901, once owned by Rev Alexander Gordon

The History of the Bible Part 2

The Translation of the Bible

Click on the video above to see Part Two

God speaks to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Medieval carving in the Chapter House, Salisbury Cathedral

The History of the Bible Part 3

The Interpretation of the Bible

Click on the video above to see Part Three

Revised Version of 1885

Medieval Biblical Interpretation. The Last Judgement, St Thomas’s Church, Salisbury

The lying in state of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Service of prayer from First Dunmurry NSP Church, Friday, 9th September

At the time of writing the coffin of Her Majesty the Queen is lying in state in Westminster Hall and many thousands of people are queuing in order to be able to pay their last respects. Special services have been held all over the country in the last week and at First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church we held a short service of prayer and reflection on Friday, 9th December. An edited audio recording of the service can be heard by clicking on the video above. Allen Yarr is the organist.

Below are some images from the lying in state in Westminster Hall.

Pallbearers carry the Queen’s coffin into Westminster Hall
A short service was held on the arrival of the Queen’s coffin
With the Imperial State Crown atop the coffin the Queen is guarded by members of the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals

Earlier in the week, on Monday, 12th September a very moving service of thanksgiving for the life of the Queen was held in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. Below are some images from that occasion.

The coffin is brought in to the Cathedral
The sermon was delivered by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland
The ancient Crown of Scotland, part of the Honours of Scotland, is placed on the Royal Standard of Scotland

Services of thanksgiving for the life of the Queen were also held in Belfast and Cardiff.

The service at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast

I shall not die, but live, and shall
the works of God discover.
The Lord hath me chastised sore,
but not to death giv’n over.
O set ye open unto me
the gates of righteousness;
Then will I enter into them,
and I the Lord will bless.
This is the gate of God, by it
the just shall enter in.
Thee will I praise, for thou me heard’st
and hast my safety been.

Translation of Psalm 118 v.17-21 which was sung in Scots Gaelic by Karen Matheson at the service in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God

Hawarden, North Wales

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil

These opening lines from God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins supply us with the opening words and the theme of this week’s online service. Filmed at various locations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland places visited include the Hawarden estate, Flintshire, North Wales; the sand dunes at Formby near Liverpool; the Derbyshire Peak district; the River Thames (Isis) at Oxford; Norton Priory, Cheshire; Sefton Park, Liverpool; Rathmullan, county Down; and Dunmurry, county Antrim. As we look at these varied landscapes we explore the meaning of this idea of the divine presence in the natural world alongside readings from Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Merton and Ernesto Cardenal.

Sefton Park – the heron flies over the lake

The world is charged with the grandeur of God – click on the video above to see the meditation and reflections

In the service Graham Murphy reads two poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins – Binsey Poplars and Pied Beauty, both recorded at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire. In addition Robert Neill and Emma McCrudden read extracts from the works of Thomas Merton and Ernesto Cardenal.

Binsey, near Oxford

Music played includes:

For the beauty of the earth, played by Allen Yarr, organist of First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry.

Come let us sing of a wonderful love, played by John Strain, organist of Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

O love that wilt not let me go, played by John Strain.

Let saints on earth in concert sing, played by Allen Yarr.

Norton Priory, Cheshire, walled garden
Formby, sand dunes
The River Thames at Oxford

Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into a prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all. – Thomas Merton

Oxford

Divinity School
Fieze above the entrance to the Bodleian

To accompany our service of worship conducted from Oxford we have a few views of various parts of the university and its environs.

Click on the video to see the service

The service features readings, hymns and prayers as well as poems relating to Oxford. As part of the service we are very pleased to have Graham Murphy read Duns Scotus’s Oxford, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oxford, by C.S. Lewis.

Readings:
Psalm 139 read by Rev Dr David Steers
Duns Scotus’s Oxford by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by Graham Murphy
Oxford by C.S. Lewis, read by Graham Murphy
Oxford (extract) by T. Lovatt Williams, read by Sue Steers

Hymns:
‘The King of Love my shepherd is’, Alfie McClelland (Clough)
‘From all that dwell below the skies’, Allen Yarr (Dunmurry)
‘Lord of all hopefulness’, John Strain (Ballee)
‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’, Laura Patterson (Downpatrick)
‘In Christ Alone’, John Strain (Ballee)
‘It is well with my soul’, Allen Yarr (Dunmurry)

In the service you will see:
Radcliffe Camera, Brasenose College, River Thames (Isis), Harris Manchester College, Mansfield College, New College, Christ Church (Peckwater Quad, Tom Quad, Memorial Garden), Christ Church Meadow, Old English Longhorn Cattle, Divinity School, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre, Christ Church Cathedral, University Church, Martyrs Memorial.

Portmeadow
Tom Quad, Christ Church
Christ Church cloisters
Blue Boar Quad
Old English Longhorn Cattle, Christ Church Meadow
New College
New College, antechapel
New College cloisters
St Patrick, New College cloisters

Sea-born Reflections

Travelling across the Irish Sea from Belfast to Liverpool I was struck by the tranquility and the blue-ness of the sea. I filmed the scene for a couple of minutes, partly in the hope of seeing a pod of dolphins swim past, but found it strangely calming. So with sections of hat film to start and close this short video I put together a few Sea-born Reflections:

Reflections while crossing the Irish Sea.

Click on the video above to see the Reflections.

Conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers, First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry.

Hymns: Will your anchor hold in the storms of life played by Laura Patterson (organist Downpatrick) and O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness played on the piano by Allen Yarr (organist Dunmurry).