In Micah chapter 6 verse 8 we read the famous statement:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
In our service today, from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, we explore how you can summarize – in a few words or a sentence – the real meaning of faith.
On one occasion someone asked Rabbi Hillel to recite the whole of the Torah while standing on one leg. He said simply, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to others. That is the whole of Torah, the rest is commentary on it.’
The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. Robert Neill gives the reading from Micah ch.6 v.6-8 and Alfie McClelland, the church organist, plays the hymns which are Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 22), Sun of my soul, thou Saviour dear (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 439) and Rejoice! the Lord is King (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 62). Click on the above video to see the service.
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.
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:
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
The quotation at the top of this page comes from Martin Luther King. It is in fact itself a distillation of a quotation from Theodore Parker, the nineteenth-century Unitarian theologian and abolitionist:
I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
It is interesting to compare the two sayings; one a very powerful soundbite, the other, the older one – the first to make the case for this imagery – far less snappy but explaining the idea in a very clear way.
I use this saying in this week’s online service which looks back to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The impetus for this momentous event came from the churches, most notably in Leipzig where St Nicholas Church became the centre of resistance to a corrupt state in a society poisoned by secret police and corrupted by layers of informers and spies.
The minister of the main church in Leipzig, the Rev Christian Führer, led the people in mass prayer vigils which helped to bring the system to an end. His position was similar to that of László Tőkés in Romania, who I was privileged to meet a couple of years ago in Transylvania, and who distilled his experience in his book With God, for the People. But both men showed the necessity of observing the phrase in our reading today ‘choose this day whom you will serve’.
You can see the service in this week’s video:
Available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 15th November
This week’s service is filmed in Dunmurry. The reading is from Joshua ch.24 v.14-18 and is given for us by Emma McCrudden. Church organist Allen Yarr plays the hymns When I survey the Wondrous Cross and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.
Time for a Story: War Horse
With Armistice Day in mind this week’s Time for a Story, given by Sue Steers, tells the story of the work of horses in the First World War, an aspect of the story of that conflict which was long overlooked until the publication of Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse. The video can be seen here: