The History of the Bible

Three illustrated talks on the History of the Bible given at First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church in October and November 2022. Available to view in three parts on video.

The History of the Bible Part 1

The Formation of the Bible

Click on the video above to see Part One

Title page of the first edition of the American Revised Edition of 1901, once owned by Rev Alexander Gordon

The History of the Bible Part 2

The Translation of the Bible

Click on the video above to see Part Two

God speaks to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Medieval carving in the Chapter House, Salisbury Cathedral

The History of the Bible Part 3

The Interpretation of the Bible

Click on the video above to see Part Three

Revised Version of 1885

Medieval Biblical Interpretation. The Last Judgement, St Thomas’s Church, Salisbury

Oxford

Divinity School
Fieze above the entrance to the Bodleian

To accompany our service of worship conducted from Oxford we have a few views of various parts of the university and its environs.

Click on the video to see the service

The service features readings, hymns and prayers as well as poems relating to Oxford. As part of the service we are very pleased to have Graham Murphy read Duns Scotus’s Oxford, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oxford, by C.S. Lewis.

Readings:
Psalm 139 read by Rev Dr David Steers
Duns Scotus’s Oxford by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by Graham Murphy
Oxford by C.S. Lewis, read by Graham Murphy
Oxford (extract) by T. Lovatt Williams, read by Sue Steers

Hymns:
‘The King of Love my shepherd is’, Alfie McClelland (Clough)
‘From all that dwell below the skies’, Allen Yarr (Dunmurry)
‘Lord of all hopefulness’, John Strain (Ballee)
‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’, Laura Patterson (Downpatrick)
‘In Christ Alone’, John Strain (Ballee)
‘It is well with my soul’, Allen Yarr (Dunmurry)

In the service you will see:
Radcliffe Camera, Brasenose College, River Thames (Isis), Harris Manchester College, Mansfield College, New College, Christ Church (Peckwater Quad, Tom Quad, Memorial Garden), Christ Church Meadow, Old English Longhorn Cattle, Divinity School, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre, Christ Church Cathedral, University Church, Martyrs Memorial.

Portmeadow
Tom Quad, Christ Church
Christ Church cloisters
Blue Boar Quad
Old English Longhorn Cattle, Christ Church Meadow
New College
New College, antechapel
New College cloisters
St Patrick, New College cloisters

Sea-born Reflections

Travelling across the Irish Sea from Belfast to Liverpool I was struck by the tranquility and the blue-ness of the sea. I filmed the scene for a couple of minutes, partly in the hope of seeing a pod of dolphins swim past, but found it strangely calming. So with sections of hat film to start and close this short video I put together a few Sea-born Reflections:

Reflections while crossing the Irish Sea.

Click on the video above to see the Reflections.

Conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers, First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry.

Hymns: Will your anchor hold in the storms of life played by Laura Patterson (organist Downpatrick) and O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness played on the piano by Allen Yarr (organist Dunmurry).

Dunmurry Garden Wildlife

Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in Heaven: see yourself in your Father’s palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys: having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the angels.

Thomas Traherne

One of the beauties of Dunmurry is not just the gardens and grounds that surround the church but the variety of animal and bird life that lives there. Louise Steers has been busy filming many of the birds, animals and insects that live there and we have two videos that consist of Louise’s films and photographs of them accompanied by music provided by John Strain on the organ at Ballee. Among the animals you can expect to see in Part One are robins, blue tits, blackbirds, a thrush, grey squirrels, a mouse, ladybirds, a speckled wood butterfly and a peacock butterfly.

Dunmurry Garden Wildlife Part One

Click on the video above to see some of the birds, animals and insects that live in the gardens round the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry. Medley played by John Strain on the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

Dunmurry Garden Wildlife Part One

The second of two films featuring some of the birds, animals and insects that live in the gardens round the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry. All pictures are by Louise. In this case the accompaniment is by John Strain on the organ at Ballee playing God speaks to us in bird and song, For the beauty of the earth, and God who made the earth.

Click on the video above to see Part Two. The video includes forty-two images featuring: blue tit, female chaffinch, male chaffinch. starling, thrush, shieldbug, lacewing, bumblebee, carder bumblebee, hoverfly, ladybird, peacock butterfly, speckled wood butterfly, grey squirrel, hedgehog, wood pigeon, blackbird, magpie, fledgling blue tit, male bullfinch, great tit, robin.

Louise also has her own animation channel (InkLightning), which includes animation like this short video:

Giving thanks for the world

Our two most recent videos involve both celebrating and nourishing the natural environment. Our first video contains a ‘Prayer for the Glory of the Outward World’, which is based on one found in Orders of Worship, and includes ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ played on the piano by Allen Yarr, church organist. It features some of the lovely plants growing around First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church and it can be seen here:

Many of our churches celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and at Ballee and Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches special services were followed by the planting of trees to mark the occasion, a Mountain Ash at Ballee and a Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’ at Clough. This is part of the Queen’s ‘Green Canopy’ which aims to plant trees to enhance the natural environment. We are grateful to everyone who took part, to Sue Steers FRSA who led the service and to John Strain and Jack Steers who provided the music. The video can be seen here:

Ballee tree planting, Sunday, 5th June 2022
Clough tree planting, Sunday, 5th June 2022

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society April 2022

The issue for 2022 (vol 28 No.1) will be with subscribers shortly and once again this is a very full and very special issue because members will receive two journals for their subscription. Part One contains three important articles plus reviews and more, Part Two is produced in collaboration with the Reckoning International Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist Histories Project.

Part One

The cloisters, Ullet Road Church Liverpool

In Part One our main articles look at Unitarianism, slavery and philanthropy. A number of Unitarians were actively involved in the abolition of slavery. One very prominent example of this was William Roscoe whose memorial is located in the cloisters in Ullet Road Church, a set of buildings constructed at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries which perfectly illustrate the enormous philanthropic contributions of wealthy Unitarians at this time.

‘Jewel Case’ – The Man and his Money Derek McAuley

Very Rev George Case, MA, DD (used with permission of Clifton Diocesan Archives)

Derek McAuley traces the story of the Very Rev George Case whose journey from the Anglican to Catholic priesthood was followed by a very generous bequest to the Unitarian movement. His father was a contemporary of William Roscoe in Liverpool but unlike Roscoe he was deeply implicated in the slave trade. Using modern tools and databases Derek examines the source of Dr Case’s wealth.

Reflections on a Window Rory Delany

The Wilson Memorial Window, Dublin Unitarian Church (Photo: Rory Delany)

The most prominent and striking window within Dublin Unitarian Church, St Stephen’s Green is the Wilson Memorial Window which memorializes Thomas Wilson, long standing member of the congregation and generous benefactor. In this article Rory Delany looks at the source of Thomas Wilson’s wealth, again using the databases and records which have become available and which highlight those families involved in the slave trade. He contrasts Thomas Wilson’s attitudes and business interests with his contemporary and fellow church member James Haughton who was a noted anti-slavery campaigner.

Unitarians and Philanthropy 1860-1914 Alan Ruston

Looking towards the library at Harris Manchester College

Alan Ruston gives a substantial survey of Unitarian philanthropy between 1860 and 1914. Many wealthy Unitarians gave vast sums to build churches, establish charities and develop educational institutions such as Manchester College (see above) which was founded in 1786 in Manchester but moved to Oxford in 1893 following a number of very generous donations.

Books Reviewed

Reviewed by David Wykes, Alan Ruston and David Steers

Part Two

The ethnographic composition of Hungary in 1910 (Map: Lehel Molnár)

Part Two of this issue develops the successful initial event of the Reckoning International U/UU Histories Project which was entitled ‘Transylvanian Unitarians Resisting and Surviving in Authoritarian Times’ and which took place on Thursday, 4 November 2021. This can be viewed online at the Starr King School for the Ministry YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/ozH1fnDkSHk).

The dismemberment of Hungary by the Treaty of Trianon (Map: Lehel Molnár)

We are very pleased to be able to carry in this issue an introduction and summary of the whole Reckoning project compiled by its co-ordinators Claudia Elferdink and Lehel Molnár This is followed by two articles which are not transcripts of the original webinar but which give additional insight and information on the experience of Hungarian Unitarians over the last one hundred years, particularly following the Communist takeover in Romania after the Second World War. The first of these is ‘The Hungarian Unitarian Church in the Twentieth Century’ by Sándor Kovács and Lehel Molnár, an explanation of the struggles of the church from the Treaty of Trianon – when Hungary lost two thirds of its historic territory – to the present century. This is followed by ‘Resistance or/and Compromise. The Struggles and Service of Unitarian Bishop Elek Kiss (1888–1971) in Communist Romania’ by Sándor Kovács which gives a very detailed view of the problems and stresses experienced by the church in the Communist era.

The ethnographic compostion of Hungary in 1880

New subscribers are very welcome, annual membership costs only £10. If you haven’t yet taken out a subscription or would like to renew your subscription that can be done through the Society’s treasurer who can be contacted via the Unitarian Historical Society website here.

Silent yet eloquent memorials

Starting off on the tour

On Wednesday, 23rd March a group from the four Belfast Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches enjoyed an excellent visit to the Belfast City Cemetery. We were blessed by good weather, almost like a summer’s day, which showed off the whole site to its fullest advantage. Designed in the shape of a bell and opened in 1869 it has been the burial place of approximately 225,153 people ranging from the some of the poorest members of society, buried in paupers’ graves, to some of the wealthiest merchants, industrialists and businessmen of Victorian Belfast. Years of neglect and vandalism obscured the importance of the cemetery in the city’s history for a long time, but the remarkable work done by Tom Hartley on the graves and history of the cemetery, not least reflected in his book Belfast City Cemetery, has opened up the cemetery to a wider and appreciative public. It is good too to see the construction of a visitors’ centre and the restoration of some of the larger memorials. Tom Hartley has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history and significance of the site and was our informative guide as he showed us round a large proportion of the original Victorian graveyard, so attractively laid out with the Belfast hills providing a dramatic backdrop. Tom made special reference to some of the Presbyterian and Non-Subscribing Presbyterian graves in the cemetery and we encountered the last resting places of some familiar figures from our tradition. Among others we saw the grave of Margaret Byers, the founder of Victoria College, and Elisha Scott, legendary Liverpool goalkeeper. Cemeteries are such important repositories of history: funeral monuments, grave inscriptions, memorial artwork all tell us a great deal and in this case Belfast City Cemetery provides a fascinating window into the growth, development and history of Belfast as a city. After the tour we had lunch at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich. Below are some images of what we saw:

The grave of Rev John Scott Porter (Biblical scholar, theologian and Belfast Non-Subscribing minister) and his brother William Porter, attorney general at the Cape Colony who introduced a franchise into the colony that extended the vote, at the time, to all people irrespective of race.
View across the cemetery showing the memorial to John Kirker (1891) on the right in the form of an ornamental Celtic Cross carved from a single piece of limestone.
.
Tom Hartley at the grave of Lord and Lady Pirrie. William Pirrie was a leading Belfast politician and shipbuilder, chairman of Harland and Wolff and responsible for the building of the ‘Titanic’. His wife Margaret Montgomery Pirrie was a significant figure in her own right, closely involved in the establishment of the Royal Victoria Hospital and a granddaughter of the Rev Henry Montgomery of Dunmurry.
Another nineteenth-century Celtic Cross containing ancient religious imagery including, in this case, the Ouroboros (at the bottom of the Cross), the snake consuming its own tail.
The infamous location in the cemetery where an underground wall, six feet tall, divided what were planned to be the Catholic and Protestant plots.
The grave of Elisha Scott, Belfast born Liverpool goalkeeper who played for the club for 22 years and made 468 appearances for Liverpool (which undoubtedly would have been more but for the First World War). He finished his career as a highly successful player-manager of Belfast Celtic until sectarian violence brought about the closure of that club.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation

We continue to pray for Ukraine and offer up our Reflections on the situation in Ukraine created by the invasion by Russian forces.

At Dunmurry we organised a collection of warm clothing, non-perishable food, medical supplies and toiletries to send to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. The response from the church and wider community was heartening. In the space of a week two van loads of goods were sent but we are aware that this is only the start of the crisis; the number and needs of refugees will only increase, the difficulties faced by so many people inside Ukraine and now exiled outside the nation’s borders will grow. There will be a need for considerable action by governments in the West.

Collection for Ukraine at Dunmurry
This week’s Reflections

Our March Reflections look at Nation shall not lift up sword against nation (Isaiah ch.2 v.4), particulalrly in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Led by Rev Dr David Steers at Dunmurry the organist is John Strain (Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church) who plays the hymn Lord of all Hopefulness.

In our prayers we include the ‘World Peace Prayer’:

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth;
lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
our world, our universe.

Amen

Our response to the situation in Ukraine

We are currently witnesses to an almost unbelievable situation with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Air strikes, tanks, missiles – the invading Russians are using the full force of their military capabilities against the people of the country. Vladimir Putin’s forces have occupied the site of Chernobyl and are clearly intent on trying to capture or lay siege to the capital city. The sight of a forty mile long Russian military convoy making its way towards Kyiv is one that can only induce a sense of utter horror for us, especially when we consider the deaths already of so many men, women and children. At the moment the Russians seem to be intensifying their assault although the resistance in Ukrainian cities is much stronger than the invaders anticipated.

The roof of the University of Kharkiv after being hit by a Russian missile (Photo: BBC)

So far there have been tens of thousands of refugees who have left Ukraine and this could eventually amount to hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. One thing we can do to be of assistance to the people of Ukraine is to send aid to refugees and Emma McCrudden has organised an appeal for this. Further details can be found on First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church on Facebook.

Firefighters try to stop the blaze at the University of Kharkiv (Photo: BBC)

Can you help?

We are collecting donations that will be sent and distributed to Ukrainian refugees and those impacted by the current invasion. All items can be left in the Dunmurry McCleery Hall (main entrance) up until Sunday 6th March. Items requested include:

– Warm clothes for children or adults
– Sleeping bags or blankets
– First aid supplies
– Toiletries
– Non perishable food items.

For more information, please message First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church on Facebook directly.

Lord God,
We ask you to hold the people of Ukraine deep in your heart.
Protect them, we pray;
From violence,
From political gamesmanship,
from being used and abused.
Give, we pray,
the nations of the world the courage
and the wisdom
to stand up for justice
and the courage too,
to dare to care – generously.
Lord in your mercy,
Take from us all,
The tendencies in us
That seek to lord it over others:
Take from us those traits
that see us pursuing our own needs and wants
before those of others.
Teach us how to live in love
And dignity
And respect – following your example.
In your name and for your sake,
Amen

(Prayer from the Faith Impact Forum of the Church of Scotland)

Prayers for these times

Pray for Ukraine

God of all,
with alarm and concern we bring before you
the military intervention in Ukraine.

In a world you made for peace and flourishing,
we lament the use of armed force.

We mourn every casualty of this conflict,
every precious life extinguished by war.
We pray comfort for those who grieve
and those who are fearful.

Hear our longing that leaders and nations
will honour the worth of all people
by having the courage
to resolve conflict through dialogue.

May all our human failings be transformed
by your wonderful grace and goodness.

We ask this in the name of Christ,
the author of peace and sustainer of Creation.
Amen.

(A Prayer from the Joint Public Issues Team of of the United Reformed Church, Methodist Church and Baptist Union)

We also have two new Reflections on our YouTube channel:

Available from 8.00 am on Sunday, 27th February

Reflections on Transfiguration

First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Dunmurry

Rev Dr David Steers

Pianist: Allen Yarr

Hymn: ‘Praise to the Lord the Almighty’

Reading: Matthew ch.17 v.1-13

Includes reflection on the situation in Ukraine.

Wisdom

Reflections on Wisdom

First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Dunmurry

Rev Dr David Steers

Organist: John Strain (Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church)

Reading: Psalm 90