Our two most recent videos involve both celebrating and nourishing the natural environment. Our first video contains a ‘Prayer for the Glory of the Outward World’, which is based on one found in Orders of Worship, and includes ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ played on the piano by Allen Yarr, church organist. It features some of the lovely plants growing around First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church and it can be seen here:
Many of our churches celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and at Ballee and Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches special services were followed by the planting of trees to mark the occasion, a Mountain Ash at Ballee and a Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’ at Clough. This is part of the Queen’s ‘Green Canopy’ which aims to plant trees to enhance the natural environment. We are grateful to everyone who took part, to Sue Steers FRSA who led the service and to John Strain and Jack Steers who provided the music. The video can be seen here:
On Wednesday, 4th May 2022 the long delayed final stage of the restoration of the Murland Mausoleum by the Follies Trust at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church took place. There was a good attendance of people gathered at the event, originally scheduled to take place in March 2020 but inevitably cancelled at the start of the lockdown. The meeting included a short service of thanksgiving for the work of the Follies Trust and the singing of the hymn Praise my soul the King of Heaven, accompanied by Melanie Campbell on the organ. Rev Dr David Steers welcomed everyone and spoke about the history of the Church, and introduced Dr Finbar McCormick who gave a fascinating talk on the restoration of the Murland Vault and the history and place of mausolea as places of burial in Ireland. Primrose Wilson, chair of the Follies Trust, thanked everyone involved, especially Noel Killen who had carried out the restoration of the monument, and invited everyone to Ballydugan Mill where the launch of the Trust’s new book Fifteen Years of the Follies Trust took place.
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).
This week’s service comes from Clough and makes use of the Bible presented to the Church in 1837 by the Rev David Watson. Published in Edinburgh in 1793 it is a symbol of the continuity of the congregation going back to before the split that took place into subscribing and non-subscribing congregations in the period 1829 – 1837.
We focus on the 23rd Psalm, that ancient hymn that means so much to so many people. Probably the best known portion of the Scriptures in every age. During the service church organist Alfie McClelland plays The Lord’s my Shepherd (Crimond) and The Lord my pasture shall prepare.
Churches in County Down are replete with interesting ancient mausolea and tombs and this is especially true in the area around Lecale, most particularly amongst the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches, and the churchyard at Downpatrick, for instance, alone has eight or nine large tombs of different designs.
But the most celebrated Mausoleum of all is at Clough.
The Murland Mausoleum was built in about 1860 by a family who were closely connected to the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian congregation at Clough for generations. The Murland family were wealthy local mill owners, they lived at Ardnabannon and it is thought that the architect who designed their house also designed the family mausoleum. This was Thomas Turner, a Dublin-born architect who began his career as an assistant to Charles Lanyon in Belfast and who had a long and productive career designing buildings all over Ireland including Stormont Castle and Coleraine Town Hall.
But it is very clear when you look at the Murland Mausoleum that this was the work of someone steeped in the designs of classical architecture and particularly ancient funerary architecture. The inverted torch is used in Christian iconography to represent the resurrection and the eternal life of the soul. But it actually goes back to ancient Greece where it represented Thanatos the Greek god of death.
It is a very rich design.
Professor James Stevens Curl describes it as
something one might expect to find in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise or in one of the great American cemeteries, rather than in a small rural churchyard in the shadow of the Mountains of Mourne.
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society list describes the mausoleum as ‘the phenomenal Murland vault of about 1860, furnished with all the pompe funebre of the classical manner, with trimmings.’
For local schoolchildren it is a place well-known for decades as somewhere where the bravest of them could stand near the open grill and peer in at the coffins resting in the dusty gloom.
As such an old structure the building was gradually becoming in need of restoration and to see this done the church was able to partner with the experience and expertise of the Follies Trust, a body set up in 2006 to help, in their own words, with ‘the conservation, preservation, restoration and protection, in their original setting, of mausolea and monuments; follies; grottoes; garden buildings and other structures of particular beauty or historic, environmental, architectural or industrial significance.’
At the church we were very pleased to welcome local expert Dr Finbar McCormick of Queen’s University, Belfast who gave a fascinating talk on the history and development of memorials to the dead in Ireland and beyond, looking at the influence of the Reformation and classical ideas.
This was a prelude to the work being done on the mausoleum. A number of specialists have looked at the building, and the job of restoring the structure was given to Noel Killen, noted for his work in restoring the nearby Mill at Ballydugan.
Generally, considering its great age, the building was in good shape but there was lots to be done to make the structure fully watertight and secure again for the future. Stonework that had crumbled had to be replaced. The iron work in the grills and the heavy door had to be conserved. They were also repainted in the original colour, which had largely long faded from view.
Work commenced in August 2019 and was completed within a few months. To mark the completion of this work and the collaboration that was involved we planned a special service of celebration with representatives of the Follies Trust and others, but this wasn’t to be. Like so many other plans it fell foul of the pandemic and couldn’t be held. But the important thing is that this striking and unique structure is now restored and fit to last for another 160 years.
This Sunday our service comes from Clough and explores some ideas connected with prophecy. Following on from Pentecost and the account of the Apostles given in the second chapter of Acts we look at this topic.
The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit. (John ch.3 v.8)
We also look at the famous prophecy of Ezekiel and Cliff Reed’s new book of poems, reflections and prayers for worship entitled Beyond Darkness.
Click on the video above to join the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 30th May). The service comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. The reading is Ezekiel ch.37 v.1-10 and is given by Noelle Wilson at Dunmurry. The hymns are played by church organist Alfie McClelland and include At the name of Jesus (Mission Praise 41) and Lord forgive me, day by day (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 370). Also played at the start of the service is When morning gilds the skies.
Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The reading for our service today, from Clough, comes from the 4th chapter of Ephesians.
The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers with the reading being given by Elsie Nelson. Church organist Alfie McClelland plays the hymns Immortal Love, forever full (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 84) and The Lord my pasture shall prepare (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 88) also played at the start and end of the service are Sun of my soul and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.
Also uploaded this week is this short video, a Prayer for Spring:
Two disciples walk along a dusty road towards Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. In their grief and confusion they are joined by a stranger who talks to them about what they have been through, yet at no point do they recognise him until later when they break bread together.
In today’s service we examine this story and its meaning where Jesus is only known in the breaking of the bread:
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
Today’s service comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. It is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers, with the reading from Luke ch.24 v.13-35 given by Robert Neill. Church organist Alfie McClelland plays Lord of all being, throned afar (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 2) and Come all who look to Christ today (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 236) as well as Praise to the Lord, the Almighty at the start and end of the service. Molly McCloy also sings the solo Bless the Lord, O my soul accompanied by Laura Patterson on the organ at Downpatrick.
Click on the above video to join in our act of worship.
Our online Sunday worship today comes from Clough and has, as its starting point, Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121 is associated with travelling and with pilgrimage, neither of which are particularly possible at the moment, but the reading is given a vivid backdrop by the sight of the mountains of Mourne.
In the service Clough church organist Alfie McClelland plays the hymns: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, Once to every soul and nation and Through all the changing scenes of life.
Click on the video below to see the service:
By tradition St Patrick is buried in Downpatrick but this year the town was inevitably much quieter and more subdued than usual, although a brief ceremony was held at his grave. But I recorded a few reflections on St Patrick’s Day which can be seen in the following video:
According to tradition St Patrick is buried with the remains of St Brigid and St Columba here in the grounds of Down Cathedral.
After almost twelve months of on and off lockdown as we have grappled with the challenges of the Coronavirus we have been effectively in our own period of perpetual Lent. Our service today reflects on Lent in the light of this situation.
The service comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is conducted by the minister. The reading is given by Robert Neill of Downpatrick and comes from Luke ch.4 v.1-15. Church organist, Alfie McClelland, plays the hymns ‘Walk in the light, so shalt thou know’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 334) and ‘Courage, friend, and do not stumble’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 329). Click on the video above to see the service.