Celebrating Harvest

This Sunday’s worship again reflects on the importance of the harvest in our lives, both spiritually and temporally. Our reading is given for us by Dillon Howell and the hymns and harvest music is played by John Strain on the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

The video both begins and ends with images from harvest services in our churches over recent years. They are always such uplifting occasions and a great deal of thought goes into making the churches look so attractive. It is nice to be reminded of some of the imaginative and creative displays that we always see in our churches. Click on the above video to see the service.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is gracious,

for his steadfast love endures for ever.

Psalm 107.1

Sunday Worship Downpatrick, 12th July

Today’s service is from Downpatrick and deals with the gospel story of Jesus – and Peter – walking on water. What is the meaning of this for faith in our day and age? After the feeding of the five thousand Jesus goes up a mountain to pray while the disciples go out on the lake in a boat. Threatened by a sudden storm Jesus comes out to save them, although at first they are more alarmed by this than anything else. We look at the way God interacted with humanity through water in the Old Testament. The hymns are played by Downpatrick organist Laura Patterson.

Time for a Story: Imagination deals with one of the most famous literary figures of the nineteenth century. Born in Cheshire in 1832 he spent his working life as a Mathematics don in Oxford. Generally known by his pseudonym his creations have a enjoyed a place in the popular imagination ever since.

 

 

Worshipping Together, Sunday, 7th June

 

“There is nothing in all the world so like God as stillness”

Meister Eckhart

Banbridge front

This Sunday’s service comes from Banbridge and a big thank you goes to Ruby Bushby of Banbridge, who did the reading (1 Kings ch.19 v.4-13), John Strain, who played the organ (at Ballee), and Robert and Laura Neill who played the duet ‘Work for the Night is Coming’ on the bagpipes, being filmed overlooking the dramatic coastline of Lecale.

The theme of the service is silence and includes the following quotation from James Martineau:

Silence is in truth the attribute of God; and those who seek him from that side invariably learn that meditation is not the dream but the reality of life; not its illusion but its truth; not its weakness but its strength. .. All great things are born of silence. .. all beneficent and creative power gathers itself together in silence, ere it issues out in might. .. Silence came before creation, and the heavens were spread without a word. Christ was born at dead of night; and though there has been no power like his, ‘He did not strive nor cry, neither was his voice heard in the streets.’ Nowhere can you find any beautiful work, any noble design, any durable endeavour, that was not matured in long and patient silence, ere it spake out in its accomplishment.

And in the Psalms we read:

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honour;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

(Psalm 62 v.5-8.)

We uploaded two additional videos in the last week both of which deal with animals and the animal kingdom. The first one will definitely appeal to cat-lovers:

This is the story of Faith the Cat, a stray cat that found its way into a church in London during the Second World War. Faith survived a bomb that destroyed the church and rescued her kitten, later being awarded a silver medal. The story also includes two cat poems.

The second video, was uploaded on World Environment Day and features a prayer for the animal kingdom alongside a reading from Matthew ch.6 v.25-33 which accompany some of the marvellous wildlife photographs taken by Graham Bonham. Graham is a keen amateur photographer, some of his pictures have been used in Faith and Freedom Calendars, and these depict a wide variety of animals including a Great Crested Grebe (above), a red panda and a mouse in his conservatory.

Banbridge with Methodist church second

First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Banbridge. Next door is the Methodist Church.

Sunday Service, 24th May

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Morning has broken
Like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken
Like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing
Fresh from the Word!

Our service today comes from the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick. Our organist is Laura Patterson, the reading (from Ephesians chapter 3 verses 7-19) is provided by Robert Neill, and Jack Steers also plays the trumpet.

The hymns played are:

Morning has broken (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 433)

and

Amazing grace – such love profound  (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 337)

The service includes an exploration of the idea of ‘Thin Places’ and includes a quotation from a poem by the eighteenth-century Welsh poet and Calvinistic Methodist minister Thomas Jones (from The Mistle Thrush – in Celtic Christian Spirituality, edited by Mary C. Earle):

If our Lord is great, and great his praise
From just this one small part of earth,
Then what of the image of his greatness
Which comes from the whole of his fine work?
And through the image of the ascending steps
Of his gracious work, which he has made,
(Below and above the firmament,
Marvellously beyond number),
What of the greatness and pure loveliness
Of God himself?

 

We also uploaded in the week just gone a new Time for a Story video, in this case the story of the widow and the emperor, a marvellous tale about Hagia Sophia, the emperor Justinian, the widow Euphrasia and some hungry donkeys.

 

Communion Sunday, 3rd May 2020

This week’s service is a Communion Service recorded at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Sunday, 3rd May 2020

Service conducted by the minister the Rev Dr David Steers

Organist: John Strain

Reading: Matthew ch.14 v.13-21

The hymns played are:

‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ No. 326

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah

‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ No. 61

Now thank we all our God

The full words of the hymns can be found in the description under the video on YouTube.

For most congregations in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland May is the month in which one of the two communion services of the year are held.

We also uploaded to YouTube, earlier in the week, another video which set out to explain something of the background to the celebration of Communion within the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. Recorded at Downpatrick it can be seen here:

Online Sunday Worship

Our Sunday service today comes from the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Stream Street, Downpatrick.

 

Sunday Worship, 29th March 2020

First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick

Service conducted by the minister, the Rev Dr David Steers

Organist: John Strain (playing the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church)

Reading: Philippians ch.4 v.1-9

The hymns played are:

Hymn No. 22 Hymns of Faith and Freedom

Tune: Lobe den Herren

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation:
All ye who hear, Now to his temple draw near,
Joining in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth:
Hast thou not seen, How thy entreaties have been
Granted in what he ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy shall daily attend thee:
Ponder anew, What the Almighty can do,
Who with his love doth befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath come now with praises before him!
Let the Amen, Sound from His people again:
Gladly for aye we adore him!

 

Hymn No.283 Hymns of Faith and Freedom

Tune: Nottingham

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to thee;
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
With the impulse of thy love;
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from thee.

Take my will and make it thine;
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is thine own,
It shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At thy feet its treasure-store;
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for thee.

 

Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Reflections

Today is St Patrick’s Day (17th March) but it comes in the midst of our growing awareness of the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Among other things it looks like this virus is going to put the normal operation of churches out of action. Earlier today the Church of England announced the suspension of its Sunday services and a number of other denominations in Britain and Ireland have since followed suit. In their letter the Archbishops of Canterbury and York talk of putting less emphasis on weekly worship and more emphasis on giving daily prayers and support to those around us. I am sure this is a model that others will take up and although we face a lot of difficulties there are ways we can develop new forms of ministry that reach out to people and provide meaningful support in these testing times.

I uploaded a video to our new You Tube channel reflecting on this situation:

 

Over the weekend before St Patrick’s Day, in our Downpatrick Church, we had to take down the venerable old horse chestnut that stood at the back of the church. Sadly it was rotten in many places and was becoming a danger. Its age has been estimated at 300 years, so it is probably as old as the church itself. You can see the growth rings in the side view of the trunk telling us of the changing patterns of growth in each different year. It had surveyed the world through rebellion, industrial revolution, famine, two world wars and all the countless human experiences that have gone on in the church, as well as provide generations of children with conkers. We will now have to consider planting new trees to replace it.

Tree 02

Tree 01

Remembering Tom Banham

On Saturday, 30th November I was honoured to be asked to lead the service and give the address at the Memorial Service for the Rev Tom Banham at First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast. Tom was the minister of First Church from 1975 until his retirement in 1993 and was senior minister from then until his death in August 2019.

IMG_1951

With Rev Simon Henning and Rev Robert McKee (Photo: Mark Adair)

It was a very impressive service indeed with contributions from Rev Simon Henning, Dr Pamela Topping, the church secretary, who read So Many Different Lengths of Time by Brian Patten, and Mark Adair who spoke warmly of his memories of Tom and read Praise of a Man by Norman McCaig.

Memorial Service

The service was particularly notable for its musical contributions under the leadership of the church’s Director of Music, Richard Yarr. Tanya Houghton, the newly appointed Musician in Residence, played two pieces on the harp and the eight Banham Scholars gave their first ever public performance. The organist was Nigel McClintock.

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Tanya Houghton with the Banham Scholars and Richard Yarr (Photo: Mark Adair)

Before he died Tom endowed the church to enable them to establish a choral scholarship scheme for the church. As a result a group of choral scholars have been formed who, it is planned, will sing once a month at Rosemary Street, as well as on special occasions, and will undertake outreach projects on the church’s behalf. The congregation has named them the Banham Scholars in Tom’s memory.

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The Banham Scholars and Richard Yarr (Photo: Mark Adair)

The musical programme in the service comprised pieces which reflected Tom’s own musical interests and some of his favourite pieces:

Church Choir & Banham Scholars: Beethoven – Creation’s Hymn

Tanya Houghton (harp), Musician in Residence, First Church –

Puccini: O Mio Babbino Caro, from Gianni Schicchi (with soprano Mary McCabe)

Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana

Banham Scholars –

Rutter: The Lord Bless You And Keep You

Handel: Hallelujah Chorus, from Messiah

The Banham Scholars are eight professional singers: two Sopranos: Mary McCabe and Katie Lyons; two Altos: Dawn Burns and Sarah Richmond; two Tenors: Owen Lucas and Mark Tilley; and two Basses: James Cooper and Adam Reaney.

IMG_1950

The Church Choir and the Banham Scholars (Photo: Mark Adair)

The hymns were Love divine, all loves excelling, The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended and Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.

The whole occasion was such a fitting tribute to someone who was a major figure in his denomination for so long and who made such a great contribution to society through his ministry and leadership.

Rev Tom Banham 1971

Rev Tom Banham 1929 – 2019

Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy

Minister, Ballycarry and Raloo 1971 – 1975

Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Belfast 1975 – 1993, senior minister 1993 – 2019

(Picture taken in 1971)

 

John Strain’s 40th anniversary as organist at Ballee

Ballee Presentation 30 June 2019 02

In front of the organ after the service (Photo: Mary Stewart)

On Sunday, 30th June 2019  we celebrated John Strain’s 40 years as organist at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. John discovered his talent as a musician at a young age and assumed the mantle of organist back in 1979. In all those years John has only missed a Sunday service on three occasions and is well-known for his wide knowledge of tunes and his willingness to find just the right hymn even at a moment’s notice. In that time John has played at many baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as at many other local churches including the local Church of Ireland for the last thirty years. Some years ago John released a record of his playing on the church’s organ made by Samuel Dalladay of Hastings in 1912 and in 2012 played for the congregation’s organ centenary twelve-hour hymnathon.

Ballee Presentation 30 June 2019

With Doreen Chambers and Sophia Cleland who both read lessons during the service (Photo: Mary Stewart)

This special service was built around six hymns chosen by John who also gave his reasons for choosing them. During the service readings were given by church members and John’s tremendous commitment, loyalty and achievement in the church was celebrated as a special presentation was made to him to mark this significant anniversary. The hymns John chose were ‘Morning has broken’, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’, ‘Go work in my vineyard’, ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’, ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross’, and ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’, all from Hymns of Faith and Freedom.

Ballee Presentation 30 June 2019 03

With Jayne Caven, church secretary (Photo: Doreen Chambers)

An audio recording of the service is available.

You can read about Ballee’s Carnegie organ here