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.

In May

The Welsh poet W.H. Davies (1871-1940) lived a difficult life (described in his Autobiography of a Super-Tramp of 1908) but achieved a high level of popular appreciation for his verses during his lifetime. He is probably best known today for his poem Leisure.

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

In today’s service I make use of another of his poems, one that is, perhaps, less well-known – In May. It features in our act of worship from First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick.

Click on the video to join our service which goes live at 9.45 am on Sunday, 23rd May 2021

The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers and the organist is Laura Patterson. The reading is Psalm 103 and the hymns played are 10,000 Reasons, Great is thy faithfulness, and Be still for the presence of the Lord.

Rev Alexander Gordon

Our worship today comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is the first in a new series considering significant Non-Subscribers from history.

Alexander Gordon was born in Coventry on 9th June 1841 and died in Belfast on 21st February 1931. A self-styled Englishman by birth, Scotsman by education and an Irishman by inclination Alexander Gordon was the foremost historian of religious dissent in the British Isles whose influence is still recognized today.

Alexander Gordon arriving at Dunmurry, 18th January 1931

I’ve mentioned before the above photograph of Alexander Gordon, (click here to see the original post) the last known picture of him, arriving at Dunmurry to take the service in 1931 and this and many other images are used in the video for today’s service.

Click on the video to see the latest service (from 9.45 am on Sunday, 16th May 2021)

The service is recorded in Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is conducted by the minister. The reader is Carol Nixon who reads Psalm 100 and the organist is John Strain who plays the hymns Spirit of God, unseen as the wind (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 478) and Fairest Lord Jesus (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 19). Also played at the beginning and end of the service are As the deer pants and Who is on the Lord’s side.

As well as the images connected with Alexander Gordon the film includes video of the eighteenth-century roof beams of Ballee Church constructed from Memel pine.

Memorial in First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast

Over the course of a long career Gordon was minister of a number of congregations in England and Ireland and was Principal of the Unitarian College, Manchester and lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at the University of Manchester, in what was then the first free faculty of Theology in Britain. He was also a renowned historian who travelled all over Europe in the course of his work. He regularly travelled between England and Ireland, even throughout the First World War, and always travelled from wherever he was to Dunmurry in order to attend the twice yearly communion services there. He also travelled across Europe visiting record offices and archives – most notably in Poland, Hungary and Transylvania – at a time when such visits were rare and logistically difficult. This is referenced in the service. His researches, whose subject matter stretched over centuries and many areas of religious life, link us with the past and with his life. They set us in context and in time.

Time

Time is the feather’d thing,
And, whilst I praise
The sparklings of thy looks and call them rays,
Takes wing,
Leaving behind him as he flies
An unperceived dimness in thine eyes.
His minutes, whilst they’re told,
Do make us old;
And every sand of his fleet glass,
Increasing age as it doth pass,
Insensibly sows wrinkles there
Where flowers and roses do appear.
Whilst we do speak, our fire
Doth into ice expire,
Flames turn to frost;
And ere we can
Know how our crow turns swan,
Or how a silver snow
Springs there where jet did grow,
Our fading spring is in dull winter lost.
Since then the Night hath hurl’d
Darkness, Love’s shade,
Over its enemy the Day, and made
The world
Just such a blind and shapeless thing
As ’twas before light did from darkness spring,
Let us employ its treasure
And make shade pleasure:
Let ‘s number out the hours by blisses,
And count the minutes by our kisses;
Let the heavens new motions feel
And by our embraces wheel;
And whilst we try the way
By which Love doth convey
Soul unto soul,
And mingling so
Makes them such raptures know
As makes them entranced lie
In mutual ecstasy,
Let the harmonious spheres in music roll!


Jasper Mayne (1604-1672)

Faith guided by Reason

Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (1837)

Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The reading for our service today, from Clough, comes from the 4th chapter of Ephesians.

Click on the video to see this week’s service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 9th May)

The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers with the reading being given by Elsie Nelson. Church organist Alfie McClelland plays the hymns Immortal Love, forever full (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 84) and The Lord my pasture shall prepare (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 88) also played at the start and end of the service are Sun of my soul and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

Also uploaded this week is this short video, a Prayer for Spring:

Filmed in the grounds of Dunmurry Church

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.

On the Road to Emmaus

Two disciples walk along a dusty road towards Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. In their grief and confusion they are joined by a stranger who talks to them about what they have been through, yet at no point do they recognise him until later when they break bread together.

In today’s service we examine this story and its meaning where Jesus is only known in the breaking of the bread:

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

Today’s service comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. It is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers, with the reading from Luke ch.24 v.13-35 given by Robert Neill. Church organist Alfie McClelland plays Lord of all being, throned afar (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 2) and Come all who look to Christ today (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 236) as well as Praise to the Lord, the Almighty at the start and end of the service. Molly McCloy also sings the solo Bless the Lord, O my soul accompanied by Laura Patterson on the organ at Downpatrick.

Service from Clough, available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 11th April 2021

Click on the above video to join in our act of worship.

Easter 2021

This Sunday our Easter service comes from the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick. We are starting to move back to worship in our churches but are continuing with our online services on YouTube as well.

First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick

Easter Service from Downpatrick

Click on the above video (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 4th April) for our Easter service

The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers, and features church secretary Mary Stewart as reader (Matthew ch.28 v.1-10), Molly McCloy as soloist and Laura Patterson as organist. Gerard Manley Hopkins poem Easter is also read.

Good Friday Reflections

Good Friday Reflections 2nd April 2021

Sue Steers gives this reflection on Good Friday which combines an examination of a famous human story from 1912 with Jesus’s sense of destiny and self-sacrifice, looking also at images of Jesus, including this early Byzantine mosaic picturing Jesus without a beard. John Strain plays the organ at Ballee with the hymns My Faith Looks up to Thee (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 72), Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 288) and Thou Whose Almighty Word (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 173).