The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Doors

Having reached the letter ‘D’ in our alphabetical survey we look at ‘Doors’.

Doors are both highly symbolic and completely essential for our meeting-houses. In this service we look at the doors we find in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland.

In religious art perhaps the most famous image of a door is that found in William Holman Hunt’s Light of the World:

Light of the World by William Holman Hunt. Manchester Version. Public Domain. Wikipedia Commons

A more ornate image than the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church doors that appear in today’s film. An image inspired by the reading used in today’s service:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Revelation ch.3 v.20.

What meaning can we find in the doors of our churches, what can they tell us of our attitudes and faith?

Sunday Service. The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Doors. Click on the video to see today’s service – after 9.45 am on Sunday, 18th July 2021

Today’s service comes from Dunmurry. The pianist is Allen Yarr who plays Ye holy angels bright (Church Hymnary 39) Yield not to temptation (Church Hymnary 704) and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, by J.S. Bach. The reading is Revelation ch.3 v.20-22.

All the doors mentioned in the video can be seen on my Non-Subscribing Presbyterian History blog beginning here: Portals to a Liberal Faith

And remember each week we will upload a new video that will go live on Sundays at 9.45 am. The services can be found on our YouTube channel. Click here to see the videos

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Collecting Ladles

Collecting the Offering in a Scottish Kirk by John Phillip, 1855. (Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. York Museums Trust)

At first sight it might seem strange to select Collecting Ladles as the subject for letter ‘C’ in our alphabetical exploration of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. But Collecting Ladles formed a fairly essential part of church life for Presbyterians in Ireland and Scotland for generations. In some places they are still in use today but often aren’t recognized by those outside the Scots-Irish Presbyterian community. The above picture perfectly illustrates their use in a church in Scotland. It is a delightful image, although the people in the pew being asked for their offering seem to display something of the modern concept of the ‘messy church’ more than anything else. But collecting ladles also lead us into questions of giving and the stewardship of resources.

To see the service click on the above video after 9.45 am on Sunday, 11th July

Our service today is filmed in Downpatrick. Church organist Laura Patterson plays the hymns God has spoken to his people’ (Mission Praise 182) and How can I keep from singing (Hymns for Living 133/Mission Praise 1210). The reading is 2 Corinthians ch.9 v.6-8.

Eighteenth-century collecting ladle Downpatrick (two ladles from Ballee at the top of the page)

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Bible

In this service we look at some Bibles that also give us a hint of the historical identity of Non-Subscribing Presbyterians.

All Souls’ Church, Belfast possesses a number of very interesting Bibles, including one printed by the printer James Blow in Belfast in the early eighteenth cnetury. We look at the Clough Bible of 1793 as well as Bibles that belonged to Rev Alexander Gordon and Rev James Martineau.

The Clough Bible, dated 1793

Clough’s old Bible was presented to the church by the first minister in the new meeting- house of 1837, some 44 years after it was printed in Edinburgh. The inscription, which is shown in today’s video, emphasises the Rev David Watson’s belief that the Non-Subscribing church represented contuity with the original congregation or, as he styled them, ‘the Members of the New Presbyterian House of Worship in Clough’.

We also look at a Bible that once belonged to the Rev Alexander Gordon. You can discover more about him in this video. But this Bible stands out because it is the Revised Version of 1881-1885 (the New Testament was brought out first in 1881) ‘Newly Edited by the American Revision Committee’ in 1901 and published in New York.

Alexander Gordon’s signature on the title page

Another Bible is one that once belonged to Rev James Martineau when he was minister of Eustace Street in Dublin from 1828 to 1832. There is some information about James Martineau on this blog here. He left Eustace Street after only a short ministry but judging by the date of this Bible, 1818, and the fact that it was discovered in Ireland, it seems likely that it was one he used in this ministry in Dublin. All this and more can be found in today’s service.

Click on the video to see the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 4th July)

Filmed in Ballee, Downpatrick and Clough Ballee organist John Strain plays the hymns I am not worthy Holy Lord (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 384) and Just as I am (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 268). The reading is from Acts ch.8 v.26-40. The service is conducted by Rev Dr David Steers.

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Abernethy

This week we begin a new series of videos. The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism will be an alphabetical exploration of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, looking at its identity and ethos through items and ideas possessed by its churches.

John Abernethy

I say at the start that this will not be a succession of biographical accounts of outstanding individuals – and I will stick to that. However, that is exactly where I have to start with John Abernethy (1680-1740). It is hard to avoid him and would be a mistake to do so, he is such a remarkable and crucial figure. Among other things he was minister at Antrim (see picture at the top of this page).

Click on the above video to join in the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 27th June)

The service is filmed in Ballee where John Strain plays the church’s Carnegie organ and features the hymns When morning gilds the skies (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 26) and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 158). The reading is Romans ch.14 v.5-9 which is the passage that inspired Abernethy’s famous sermon of 1719 on Religious Obedience Founded on Personal Persuasion.

The title page of Abernethy’s published sermon of 1719

The Lord’s my Shepherd

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.

Click on the above video to watch the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 20th June)

All the trees of the wood will rejoice

This week our service comes from Dunmurry. We reflect on Psalm 96, recast by J.S.B. Monsell into the famous hymn O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;

Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.

Psalm 96 v.11-12

Online service. Click on the video above after 9.45 am on Sunday, 6th June 2021

The service is conducted by the minister in charge, Rev Dr David Steers. The reading from Psalm 96 is given by Lorraine Donaldson. Church organist Allen Yarr plays the hymns Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Church Hymnary 22) and O Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 18) as well as an excerpt from Music for the Royal Fireworks by G.F. Handel, all on the piano.

The Place of Prophecy

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.

The One Spirit

Today our service comes from the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Dunmurry. Conducted by Rev David Steers, the minister in charge, Emma McCrudden gives the reading from 1 Corinthians ch.12 v.4-14 and church organist Allen Yarr plays the hymns on the piano. The hymns played in the service are For the beauty of the Earth (‘Church Hymnary’ 17) and When peace like a river (‘Mission Praise’ 757).

Click on the video above to see the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 2nd May 2021)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

1 Corinthians ch.12 v.4-6

Ode, Composed on a May Morning by William Wordsworth

While from the purpling east departs
The star that led the dawn,
Blithe Flora from her couch upstarts,
For May is on the lawn.
A quickening hope, a freshening glee,
Foreran the expected Power,
Whose first-drawn breath, from bush and tree,
Shakes off that pearly shower.

All Nature welcomes Her whose sway
Tempers the year’s extremes;
Who scattereth lustres o’er noon-day,
Like morning’s dewy gleams;
While mellow warble, sprightly trill,
The tremulous heart excite;
And hums the balmy air to still
The balance of delight.

The Free Mind

This Sunday’s online service comes from the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick and is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. The reading comes from Luke ch.6 v.43-49. Church organist Laura Patterson plays the hymns and also accompanies Molly McCloy who sings ‘My Lighthouse’ as a solo.

Click on the above video to see the service (available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 25th April 2021)

I call that mind free, which, through confidence in God and in the power of virtue, has cast off all fear but that of wrong-doing, which no menace or peril can enthrall, which is calm in the midst of tumults, and possesses itself though all else be lost. (W.E. Channing)

The service makes use of W.E. Channing’s sermon on ‘Spiritual Freedom’ given in Boston, Mass. in May 1830.

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) by Henry Cheever Pratt, 1857 (Source: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Tercentenary of Ballee

For three hundred years our congregation at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church has been worshipping in its T-shaped meeting-house of 1721. It couldn’t be described as entirely unchanged since that year – originally the building would have been thatched and at some point later in the eighteenth century it had a new roof built of Memel pine, later still the old box pews were removed and used to fit out new rooms in the church. But still the walls are the same walls that have stood as silent witness to our faith for three hundred years.

To join the service click on the video after 9.45 am on Sunday, 18th April 2021

The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers, and the reading is from John ch.4 v.31-38. The church’s organist, John Strain, plays the hymns Lord of all Hopefulness (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 257) and Sent forth by God’s blessing (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 443). At the start and end of the service John also plays Thine be the glory (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 288).

The video includes many of the special features of this historic church and explores the history of the congregation.

In the Ordnance Survey Memoir for this part of County Down in 1835 it notes that the Presbyterians:

have a house of worship at Ballee bridge, and at the late schism of the Synod of Ulster, the congregation departed from the body and joined the Remonstrants. The minister of the congregation receives 50 pounds a year stipend from his hearers and 75 pounds a year regium donum….

The regium donum was a government grant paid to ministers. But the Ordnance Survey also reports, under a section entitled Habits of the People:

A more intelligent or industrious population is rarely to be found, being punctually honest in their dealings and generally attached to the form of religious worship they profess without being intolerant.