Our service for this Sunday comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church which this year celebrates its tercentenary.
The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers, and John Strain, the church organist, plays the hymns ‘O Love that wilt not let me go’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 276) and ‘Spirit of the living God’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 178) as well as ‘How deep the Father’s Love for us’ (Irish Church Hymnal 224) which is played at the beginning and end of the service. The reading is Psalm 139 v.1-12, 23-24.
The above quotation comes from Meister Eckhart and it seems a fitting thought to have in mind at the start of a new year, especially after all the difficulties of the year that has gone before.
This new year is also the 300th anniversary of the building of the Ballee meeting-house and both the new year and this tercentenary feature in our service for Sunday, 3rd January. The date is close too, to the feast of the Epiphany and a reflection on the story and meaning of the Magi features in our worship.
Christmas Crib at Ballee from a couple of years ago
With music played by John Strain on the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, Jack Steers on the trumpet and Laura Neill on the bagpipes. The reading comes from Matthew ch.2 v.1-12.
Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church traces its origins back to the middle of the seventeenth century but the present meeting-house was built in 1721, after the previous one blew down in a storm. For three hundred years the congregation have worshipped in this important example of an early eighteenth-century T-shaped meeting-house. We have a number of special events planned to celebrate this significant milestone.
We have three services online over the Christmas period all of which can be accessed from this post.
Our service for Christmas Eve on Thursday 24th December is filmed in First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church and conducted by Rev Dr David Steers. The readings include A Visit from St Nicholas, read by Sue Steers, The Oxen by Thomas Hardy and It is a good thing to observe Christmas day by Henry van Dyke. Church organist Allen Yarr plays the carols O Come all ye faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Ballee organist John Strain plays It came upon the midnight clear and Laura Neill plays Jingle Bells on the bagpipes. Special thanks to InkLightning for the Father Christmas artwork.
Our Christmas Day service is filmed in Clough, Ballee and Downpatrick churches. Conducted by Rev Dr David Steers the readings are given by Sophia Cleland (Luke ch.2 v.8-20) and Eve Lightbody (Matthew ch.2 v.1-12). Music includes God rest ye merry gentlemen played on keyboards and sung by Dillon and Haydn Howell; Silent Night played by Laura Neill on the bagpipes and Laura Patterson on the organ of the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick; Mary’s Boy Child; Joy to the World; The First Nowell; Jingle Bells/Christ is born today; When a child is born, all played by John Strain on the organ of Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.
Sunday, 27th December
Filmed at Inch Abbey in county Down and conducted by Rev Dr David Steers our service for the last Sunday in 2020 includes as readings Llananno by R.S. Thomas and an extract from My Cathedral: A Vision of Friendship by Alexander Irvine. Jack Steers plays It came upon the midnight clear on the trumpet, Downpatrick organist Laura Patterson plays In the bleak mid-winter, and John Strain plays While shepherds watched their flocks by night and O little town of Bethlehem on the organ at Ballee.
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:
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.
Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand.
Isaiah ch.64 v.8
Our service for the Second Sunday in Advent comes from First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick and has as its reading Isaiah ch.64 v.1-9. In that passage God is likened to a potter and through interaction with our Creator we can be remade. This image of the potter at work at the wheel is a very powerful one in the Bible, it is suggestive of the ongoing process of creation of which we are a part.
The video can be seen here:
The organist is John Strain, playing the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, who plays Lo! He comes with clouds descending (Mission Praise 424) and Hark the glad sound! The saviour comes (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 107).
Our service for the first Sunday in Advent comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Advent begins this year with Northern Ireland once again back in lockdown, this time for two weeks. As before we are not allowed to have public worship in our churches, but as we have done throughout the pandemic we have an online service on our YouTube channel every Sunday.
The service for Advent can be seen here:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
Isaiah ch.9 v.2
Today’s reading is from Jeremiah ch.33 v.14-16 and is read by Haydn Howell. Church organist John Strain plays the hymns Come, thou long-expected Jesus (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 110) and How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 111). John also plays Promised Lord and Christ is he and Make way, make way.
The closing scenes of the video includes film of some Whooper Swans in a field in the shadow of the Mountains of Mourne. Newly arrived from Iceland they spend the winter here and currently share their field with some Greylag Geese:
We thank Thee for the stars wherewith Thou hast spangled the raiment of darkness, giving beauty to the world when the sun withdraws its light. All this magnificence is but a little sparklet that has fallen from Thy presence, Thou Central Fire and Radiant Light of all! These are but reflections of Thy wisdom, Thy power, and Thy glory!
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
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:
Orders of Worship was published in 1932 and was rooted in a deeper, historic liturgical tradition which is outlined in the preface to the book. But it also undoubtedly reflects the times in which it was published, it could hardly not, and when you read a prayer like the one below you can sense the international tensions that would be uppermost in people’s minds when it was written. It is the second of two prayers entitled ‘For the Peace of the World’ published in Orders of Worship. But when I read it the other day it seemed curiously apposite when we consider our contemporary concerns (Presidential elections, Brexit etc) beyond the Coronavirus. I think that is testimony to the skills of the compilers of Orders of Worship, it is a true test of any liturgy that it has a power and relevance beyond the time of its immediate creation. I used it together with a prayer for schools, colleges and universities and a short reflection in a video which was uploaded the other day, it can be seen at the bottom of this page.
From Orders of Worship
November is a month of Remembrance and next Sunday we will have an online Remembrance Service but this weekend’s worship also explores that theme with a service that commemorates the life of Flight Lieutenant John Alexander Bright. Complete with many illustrations from the service that was held at Templepatrick in November 2019 to dedicate his medals the video also includes images that depict his service in the Second World War and the various memorials where he and countless others like him are commemorated:
Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Worship, Sunday, 1st November
Today, 31st October, is Reformation Day and in this week’s Time for a Story Sue Steers tells the story of the production of the Bible in English:
Non-Subscribing Presbyterian reflections:
Filmed at First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry
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.
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.