In the time of Lent

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.

Sunday Service, 21st February 2021 (available after 9.45 am on 21st February)

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.

What does the Lord require of you?

In Micah chapter 6 verse 8 we read the famous statement:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

In our service today, from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, we explore how you can summarize – in a few words or a sentence – the real meaning of faith.

On one occasion someone asked Rabbi Hillel to recite the whole of the Torah while standing on one leg. He said simply, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to others. That is the whole of Torah, the rest is commentary on it.’

Sunday Service, 17th January 2021

The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. Robert Neill gives the reading from Micah ch.6 v.6-8 and Alfie McClelland, the church organist, plays the hymns which are Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 22), Sun of my soul, thou Saviour dear (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 439) and Rejoice! the Lord is King (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 62). Click on the above video to see the service.

Third Sunday in Advent

The service for the Third Sunday in Advent is led by the members of the Sunday School at Clough who do a wonderful job of leading our worship in a very special Christmas service. Big thanks goes to Leanne Straney for organising the recordings and making the whole thing possible, and to all the children who have put together such a brilliant service. Thanks also goes to Laura Patterson who accompanies the service on the organ at Downpatrick and plays the hymns Come and join the celebration and Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. You can view the video here:

Worship from Clough NSP Church led by the Sunday School

Installation at Banbridge

On Friday, 11th December – the same day as the latest lockdown in Northern Ireland ended – the Presbytery of Antrim installed the Rev Brian Moodie as the new minister of Banbridge Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. In the present circumstances the occasion was much more scaled down than usual with no visitors or guests allowed to be present, no hymns, no speeches and no refreshments, but nevertheless it was a considerable achievement on the part of the Presbytery of Antrim and the congregation to arrange for all the necessary steps leading to an installation – candidature, taking the mind of the meeting as well as a full installation service – during a pandemic. We wish the Rev Brian Moodie and the congregation every blessing for the future.

Rev Brian Moodie, after the installation service, Friday, 11th December

God is not only interested in religion

The words at the top of this page are by Marcus Braybrooke. They are a distillation of a longer quotation from William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-1944) quoted in Marcus’s book Peace in Our Hearts, Peace in our World:

It is a great mistake to suppose that God

is interested only, or even, primarily in religion.

Religion is more than doing things a certain way, it is about the way we live our lives. Consequently faith is supposed to find its conclusion in the way we live. We are reminded of this in the Letter of James:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

James ch.2 v.14-17

How we live and how we interact with the world is a measure of how far the Kingdom of God is being constructed.

As Mahatma Gandhi said:

No work that is done in God’s name

And dedicated to God is small.

A scavenger who works in God’s service shares equal distinction

With a king who uses his gifts in God’s name.

This is the theme of today’s online service. Filmed in Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church Alfie McClelland plays the organ and Elsie Nelson gives the reading. The hymns played are Thou Whose Almighty Word (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 173) and Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 326).

The service can be seen here:

Sunday Worship Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Interpreting the Bible

The Bible or Shakespeare

Many of the most vivid phrases that have passed into everyday use in the English language originate in either the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible or in Shakespeare. That is the starting point for our service today. The Bible requires translation for it to be intelligible and it requires interpretation to achieve any relevance for its hearers. For the best part of three centuries one version – the Authorized Version of 1611 – held sway in the English-speaking world. From the end of the nineteenth century onwards this has changed as a plethora of translations have emerged reflecting changes in language and Biblical understanding.

“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asks the Ethiopian in Acts ch.8 v.27-40. “How can I, unless some one guides me?” he replies (RSV), or “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” as the NIV says.

Click on the video above to see today’s service

Today’s service comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. The reading (2 Timothy ch.3 v.14-ch.4 v.8) is given by Robert Neill (Downpatrick) and Alfie McClelland plays the hymns Through all the changing scenes of life and Jesus the very thought of Thee.

Something far more deeply interfused

….And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air…


The service for today considers our experience of the holy, especially in relation to the natural world. The Biblical reading comes from Job ch.12 v.7-10 and is given by Doreen Chambers. Alfie McClelland plays the organ at Clough – the hymns ‘When morning gilds the skies’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 26) and ‘City of God, how broad and far’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 202). The service is conducted by Rev Dr David Steers. Click on the following video (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 13th September) to join in the act of worship.

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you

(from Job ch.12)

Sunday Worship from Clough, 5th July

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This Sunday our service comes from Clough. The theme is inspired by Thomas Carlyle’s remark that ‘Wonder is the basis of worship’. In this light we explore the place of singing in our worship (‘O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands hath made’). Dr Anna Ferguson reads Psalm 96 and Alfie McClelland plays the hymns: City of God, how broad and far and Love divine, all loves excelling.

This week’s Time for a Story has the theme of Diligence and tells the story, from India, of Janaka. It can be viewed here:

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Worship from Ballee 28th June

Roots hold me close; wings set me free

Today’s service comes from Ballee and features a reading sent in by Jonathan Chambers, now of Somerset, which reminds him of Ballee. It is by George Eliot from Daniel Deronda (1876):

A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labours men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge: a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be inwrought with affection, and kindly acquaintance with all neighbours, even to the dogs and donkeys, may spread not by sentimental effort and reflection, but as a sweet habit of the blood. At five years old, mortals are not prepared to be citizens of the world, to be stimulated by abstract nouns, to soar above preference into impartiality; and that prejudice in favour of milk with which we blindly begin, is a type of the way body and soul must get nourished at least for a time. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one’s own homestead.

This links in with Psalm 8 (read for us by Rachel Neill):

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is humankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honour.

and with our hymns played by John Strain which include:

He formed the stars, those heavenly flames,
He counts their numbers, calls their names;
His wisdom’s vast, and knows no bound,
A deep where all our thoughts are drowned.

But all this helps us reflect on our roots, where we come from, what we have achieved in the course of our lives, and our place in the vastness of the universe.

Also this week we uploaded Time for a Story: Saying Please, which has its own Somerset connection:

 

and my own thoughts on churches coming out of lockdown in Northern Ireland:

Children’s Service Sunday, 21st June

The Sunday School at Clough have this week put together a very special service. At this time of year we would usually be holding our Children’s Day Service where the children of the Sunday School would lead our worship and also receive their prizes for attendance and for work submitted to the denominational Sunday School Exhibition. Since none of that can happen this year the Sunday School at Clough decided to put together their own act of worship, all filmed at home under the current restrictions and together it forms a wonderful service which can be viewed through this link:

Very special thanks go to Leanne Straney whose Idea the service was and who did so much to make the service happen.

Taking part in the service are;

David Rooney – Welcome

Ethan Straney reads Mark 10: 13 – 16

Sophie Ramsey and William Rooney sing ‘My Lighthouse’

Olivia Rooney – Prayer

Ethan Perkins – Prayer of Thanks to God

Poppy Rooney reads 1 John ch.4 v.9.

Zak Straney reads the poem ‘Hold my hand, Lord’

Lexie Rooney – Prayer

Eva Rooney & Anna Rooney – Lord’s Prayer

Abi Straney sings ‘Who is the king of the Jungle?’

Sophie Ramsey sings ‘I believe, I believe’

Hannah Rooney reads John 3: 16 – 17

Sarah Rooney sings ‘For God so loved the world’

Abi Straney – Prayer, ‘Hold my Hand God’

Sunday, 21st June is also Fathers’ Day and in this week’s Time for a Story video Sue Steers gives an account of the history of Fathers’ day:

Worship for Pentecost Sunday 2020

 

Mountains of Mourne from near Ballee

The mountains of Mourne from near Ballee

“What does this mean?”

Our service today comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and features music played by Laura Patterson and Alfie McClelland on the organ, a duet on bagpipes by Laura and Robert Neill and a reading by Adele Johnston (Acts ch. 2 v.1-21).

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Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Taking our cue from the onlookers at the first Pentecost, in the service today we ask what does Pentecost mean to us today? Can we reclaim Pentecost as part of our liberation? Can we find meaning for us today?

The hymns played are:

I, the Lord of sea and sky (Mission Praise 857)

and

Thy kingdom come – on bended knee (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 210)

Friday, 29th May saw the 67th anniversary of the climbing of Everest and in our Time for a Story this week Sue Steers reflects on the meaning of this famous event achieved by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in terms of co-operation and team work.