The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a powerfully potent one in the human imagination. Often seen as the source of sin in the world, in today’s service we examine this well-known story in the light of a view of the Bible that is less hidebound by fundamentalism and a literal approach and which relies instead on the use of human imagination and appreciates the importance of metaphor. A tradition that goes back at least to the writings of Origen.
The service comes from the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick and is conducted by the Rev David Steers. The reading is from Genesis ch.2 v.15 – ch.3 v.8. Church organist Laura Patterson plays You are my strength, When He cometh and For the beauty of the earth.
So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field.
A small but historically important liberal Christian denomination, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church was born out of the interaction between faith and the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. This act of worship includes this first part of a video series telling the history of the Church. In this film detailing the origins of the denomination in the Presbytery of Antrim in 1725, the work of John Abernethy, the Belfast Society, the influence of Glasgow University, and the Church’s place in a Europe-wide movement are all discussed.
The service is filmed at Downpatrick, a distinctive building of 1711, and one of the best examples in Ulster of a traditional T-shaped meeting house. The organist is Laura Patterson, who plays ‘Christ be our light’ and ‘The power of the Cross’. The reading is Isaiah ch.51 v.1-6.
You can see the service and the address on the history of the denomination in the following video:
Service of Worship from Downpatrick, including part one of the History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 14th February)
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Matthew ch.5 v.5 ‘The Message’
This Sunday’s service comes from the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick and is conducted by the minister. Mary Stewart, the church secretary, gives the reading from Matthew ch.5 v.1-10 as we consider the idea of ‘the meek’ and humility. Church organist Laura Patterson plays the hymns How can I keep from singing (Hymns for Living 133/Mission Praise 1210) and Hide me now under Your wings (Mission Praise 1057) as well as Shall we gather at the river as an introduction to the service.
Click on the following video to see the service:
During the service we also quote the Rev Matthew Henry (you can see a picture of his chapel in Chester on this blog by clicking here) :
Portrait of Matthew Henry, half-length, in an oval surmounted by ribbons and laurels, slightly turned to the left, dressed in an academic gown with bands at his neck and a periwig on his head, illustration to the “Gospel Magazine” (1779) Engraving and etching
If you can’t get to church on Sunday amidst all the current restrictions or, indeed, if you have been to church but would like to join in another Christmas service, you can click on our video and join in our Service of Carols and Readings.
Filmed partly in Downpatrick it features music played on the organs at Ballee and Downpatrick plus music on the trumpet and bagpipes as well as readers from different churches who re-tell the Christmas story.
Click on the video to see the service:
Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick
Christmas Carol Service
Sunday, 20th December 2020
O Come, O come, Emmanuel (played by Jack on the trumpet)
Opening Words Rev Dr David Steers
1st Reading Isaiah ch.9 v.2, 6-7 Nigel
1st Carol O Come, all ye faithful (played by Laura on the bagpipes)
1st Carol O Come, all ye faithful (played by John on the organ at Ballee)
2nd Reading Isaiah ch.11 v.1-9 Margaret
2nd Carol O little town of Bethlehem (John)
3rd Reading Isaiah ch.40 v.1-5 Rosemary
3rd Carol Once in Royal David’s City (John)
4th Reading Luke ch.1 v.26-35 Adele
4th Carol The first Nowell (played by Laura on the organ at Downpatrick))
5th Reading Matthew ch.1 v.18-25 Emma
5th Carol Mary’s Boy Child (Laura)
6th Reading Luke ch.2 v.1-7 Emma
6th Carol Silent night! (John)
7th Reading Luke ch.2 v.8-20 Noelle
7th Carol See amid the winter snow (Laura)
8th Reading Matthew ch.2 v.1-12 Mary
8th Carol Hark! The Herald Angels sing (John)
9th Reading John ch.1 v.1-14 Robert
9th Carol Joy to the world (Laura)
A Great and Mighty Wonder (John)
O thou eternal Wisdom, whom we partly know and partly do not know;
O thou eternal Justice, whom we partly acknowledge, but never wholly obey;
O thou eternal Love, whom we love a little, but fear to love too much:
In so many places tomorrow Remembrance Services have either been curtailed or cancelled because of the pandemic. This is one of the many inevitable consequences of the situation around the coronavirus. Nevertheless, many churches will hold a service of Remembrance on Sunday morning, at least they will in Northern Ireland although obviously not in other places such as England where a lockdown has again closed the churches. I will be leading two Remembrance services tomorrow and we also have an online Remembrance Service which can be viewed here:
Our service comes from Downpatrick and features the two memorials which we have in the church. One is the First World War memorial which includes the names of all the members of the congregation who served in the war as well as three who are listed as having died in the war. When I researched the details for the Roll of Honour of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland in 2018I discovered that many church war memorials, although often cast in bronze or carved in marble, sometimes didn’t quite match the records as we know them today. So in the case of the Downpatrick memorial one of the members who is listed as having served actually died in 1920 from wounds he received at Ypres and his grave is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. So four members of the congregation were killed through fighting in the First World War.
We also have a second memorial which includes a poppy from the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation which was on show in the Tower of London in 2014 and which was given in memory of Rifleman John Hayes. Click on the following link to read about this:
Last week we were considering the legacy of Rev Henry Montgomery and using the story in Mark’s gospel of Jesus and the disciples walking through the grainfields and plucking the ears of corn to eat on the Sabbath. In its own way this was a template for being prepared to radically reform religious practice whenever it is deemed essential.
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.
Mark ch.2 v.21-22.
Today’s service continues with this theme. Filmed in the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick the reading is from 2 Corinthians ch.3 v.1-6 and is given by church secretary Mary Stewart. Laura Patterson plays the hymns How deep the Father’s love for us and Great is thy faithfulness. Click on the following link to join in the service:
If you look closely at the film outside the Church in Downpatrick at the start and during the hymns you will catch glimpses of the Swifts flying about the church yard.
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.
Surely the LORD is in this place; and I did not know it
Our service today comes from Downpatrick and we are delighted to have Megan Neill giving the reading (Genesis ch.28 v.10-22), and Laura Patterson playing the organ.
The theme is Jacob’s Ladder:
And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.”
Where do we find the house of God and the gate of heaven in a lockdown?
The service can be viewed here:
Last week, in Time for a Story, Sue Steers told the story of Sir Isaac Newton and the discovery of gravity. The video, with animation by InkLightning can be seen here:
Brilliant mathematician, astronomer, discoverer of gravity, Master of the Mint, Unitarian theologian, learn about this remarkable man who is still commemorated on modern coins.
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)
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.