Sunday Worship Banbridge, 26th July

Banbridge with Methodist church second

Our service today comes from First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Banbridge. The reading is given by Sam Agnew (Mark ch. 4 v.21-34) and John Strain is the organist, playing the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. The hymns are O worship the King, all glorious above (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 21) and God speaks to us in bird and song (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 66).

 

I see an angel waiting to be released

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Michelangelo, the famous Renaissance sculptor, was once encountered chipping away at a large, shapeless block of marble. “What do you see?” someone asked him. Michelangelo replied simply “I see an angel waiting to be released”. (Picture: Ullet Road Church, Liverpool).

 

Click on the above video to see Time for a Story: Neverland which tells the story of a famous statue in Liverpool’s Sefton Park which stands alongside the Palm House there. The video is filmed nearby in the outstanding building of Ullet Road Unitarian Church designed by Thomas and Percy Worthington at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries. The video also features some of the wildlife in the park as well as animation by InkLightning.

Below are some of images taken at the time in the church and in the park that relate to the video.

Sefton Park:

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Ullet Road Church:

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Sunday Worship

Our service on Sunday, 19th April comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and encompasses, among other things, in different ways: the Mountains of Mourne; the Church’s cherry blossom tree; a bagpipe duet; a nineteenth-century Unitarian minister in Wandsworth, London and sometime editor of the Inquirer; George Herbert, Anglican clergyman and poet; the book of Proverbs, and much more.

At times we cannot be at the thing we would; yet there’s a good thing to do.

W.G. Tarrant

Recorded Service at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, county Down, Northern Ireland

Sunday, 19th April 2020

Minister: Rev Dr David Steers

Organist: Alfie McClelland

Bagpipes: Robert Neill & Laura Neill

Reading: Proverbs ch.13  v.14-21.

The hymns played are:

‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise’

Hymns of Faith and Freedom No. 30

‘Fight the good fight with all thy might’

Hymns of Faith and Freedom No. 198

‘Amazing Grace’ (bagpipes)

When every day is pretty much like any other it is important to remember which day is Sunday. We need to keep one day special, to punctuate our week with prayer and meditation.

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John ch.4 v.24 NRSV

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Pink Moon on 8th April 2020.

 

Online Worship: Easter Day

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Our service for Easter Sunday comes from First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church, Dunmurry.

Easter service, Sunday, 12th April 2020.

Service conducted by the minister in charge: Rev Dr David Steers

Piano: Allen Yarr

Guitar and solo: David Gibbs

Reading: John ch.20 v.11-18

 

The hymns played are:

Church Hymnary No. 119

‘Jesus Christ is risen today’ (first three verses)

Church Hymnary No. 123

‘The day of resurrection’

With special music provided by David Gibbs of Portrush. David sings Moliannwn (Let’s Rejoice) a Welsh folk hymn written by a Welsh slate quarryman called Benjamin Thomas who lived from 1838 to 1920. This is a great song for this time of year. Benjamin Thomas emigrated from Wales to North America and with his roots in Wales but living in America it beautifully brings together his experiences of the Spring on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Stories in Slate blog says:

“Born on April 9, 1838, Benjamin Thomas was a native of the famous slate quarrying town of Bethesda in North Wales, but he spent a good half a century on the North American Continent ending his days in the Slate Valley. He was a man who involved himself in things Welsh, most notably in poetry – he penned several verses which can be found in countless old periodicals of the age. Most are musings upon the vicissitudes of life, but there is no doubt that his most enduring piece is ‘Moliannwn’, the vigorous song of praise at the arrival of spring.”

You can read the full fascinating account of this song here:

Moliannwn (Let’s Rejoice)

Thank you David for singing it for us.

Image at the top of this page: The Three Marys at the Tomb (1396) by Lorenzo Monaco, Illumination on vellum, 46 x 48 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Source: Wikimedia. Public Domain.

Online Worship: Palm Sunday

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‘The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem’ (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti. A fresco in the south transept of the Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi. (Source: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain).

Our Sunday service today comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church county Down.

Minister: Rev Dr David Steers

Organist: John Strain

Reading: Matthew ch.21 v.1-11.

The hymns played are:

Hymns of Faith and Freedom No. 43

King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee;
And that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
Thou hast heard me;
Thou didst note my working breast,
Thou hast spared me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
Thou didst clear me;
And alone, when they replied,
Thou didst hear me.

Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
In my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
To enrol thee:
E’en eternity’s too short
to extol thee.

 

Hymns of Faith and Freedom No. 327

Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
O’er the world’s tempestuous sea;
Guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
For we have no help but thee;
Yet possessing every blessing
If our God our Father be.

Jesus, breathe forgiveness o’er us;
All our weakness thou dost know,
Thou didst tread this earth before us,
Thou didst feel its keenest woe;
Tempted, taunted, yet undaunted,
Through the desert thou didst go.

Spirit of our God, descending,
Fill our hearts with heavenly joy,
Love with every passion blending,
Pleasure that can never cloy;
Thus provided, pardoned, guided,
Nothing can our peace destroy.

 

 

Visit to seven churches – in one day

I was pleased to lead members of Reclaim the Enlightenment on a tour of no less than seven Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches on Saturday, 26th October. We were fortunate to enjoy a beautiful bright day and although we couldn’t see everything or hear the full story in each place we did cover a lot of ground and saw a great deal. We visited, in turn, All Souls’, Belfast; Dunmurry (where the ladies kindly provided very welcome sustenance in the form of tea and scones); Rademon; Clough; Downpatrick; Ballee and Killinchy. As we went around the congregations we were welcomed by clergy and church members and I gave a talk about each church in each place except in Rademon where Jim Ferris gave a wonderful talk about his church. Below are some images from the day. You can read about Reclaim the Enlightenment here.

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Dunmurry

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Refreshments at Dunmurry

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Rademon

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Members of Reclaim the Enlightenment at Downpatrick

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On our way back on the bus outside Ballee

 

Ballee Harvest 2019

Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church held their annual service of Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday, 13th October when they welcomed as guest preacher the Rev Brian Moodie of Dromore together with the highly regarded choir, the Lindsay Chorale, and their musical director Sheelagh Greer. It was a wonderful service which everyone appreciated. The church was beautifully decorated throughout with each window sill reflecting a different colour of creation, some of which are shown here.

Ballee Harvest Choir

Ballee Harvest 2019 window red

Ballee Harvest 2019 window yellow

Ballee Harvest 2019 window white

Ballee Harvest 2019 window purple

Ballee Harvest 2019 window pink

Ballee Harvest 2019 window orange

Ballee Harvest 2019 window brown

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Ballee Harvest 2019 Pulpit

The red telephone boxes of south county Down

One valued feature of our streetscapes is the red telephone box. Designed by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott they are usually described as ‘iconic’ but apart from anything else they are simply a good design which fits so comfortably in our minds of how the world should look. By far the most popular and widespread version is the K6. The original prototype was made in 1924, the K6 is a slightly smaller design dating from 1935. The first versions of this carried a Tudor crown, after 1953 they featured the crown of St Edward used in the coronation.

But while a red telephone phone box undoubtedly has a place in many people’s affections it is unlikely that many people really have any use for them. I would think you have to be aged at least 40 to remember what it was like to need to find a phone box or be distraught at finding one and then discovering it didn’t work or having to stand outside waiting for one to be vacated. These days you are as likely to see one as a feature in someone’s garden as you are on the road but you do still see some of them in their original surroundings.

In fact their numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years. The total number of public pay phones in Northern Ireland is now 1,660 of which just 184 are red telephone boxes. Or at least that was the figure given in 2018, and even that is a reduction of 17 from just two years before that. BT have an ‘adopt a phone box’ scheme and this is quite big in some places where the boxes can be used as bars, coffee shops even libraries. I am not sure how much take up of this there is in Northern Ireland but a particularly useful adaptation is to use them to house defibrillators of which there is an example in county Down, although not in a K6 box.

Some red telephone boxes are now listed buildings and 27 are listed in Northern Ireland. There are places where they are seen as essential features of the landscape, their disappearance would be missed and they remain popular with tourists from overseas. But it is hard to avoid the suspicion that they are very largely redundant in terms of their original purpose. They were once essential and must have been particularly important in rural areas. I remember once – before the advent of the mobile phone – breaking down in the car near Rademon. I had to knock on someone’s door to call the AA. Even then it would have been a long walk to the nearest payphone in Crossgar but in county Down there are still some examples of the K6 red phone boxes in their original positions.

But yesterday, as I travelled around county Down, I kept an eye out for telephone boxes and determined to record some of them while they are still there. So we start in Ardglass where a K6 box sits in front of Jordan’s Castle.

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This is actually a listed building, but whether it complements Jordan’s Castle I leave to others to decide. A close inspection of it reveals a high degree of dilapidation, there is no glass at all in one wall, and the interior, even if the phone still works, does not look at all inviting.

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With a view of the harbour at Ardglass

The phone box in Ardglass is one of only two K6 boxes listed in this part of county Down. The other is in Strangford. Apart from the fact that the box in Ardglass has a moulded Tudor crown and so must date from between 1936 and 1953 I am not sure what criteria was used to ensure that those two were listed and not the other two that I pass quite frequently. Near Ballee is the only red phone box which I saw which is clean, well-maintained and looks entirely usable. It sits at its rural cross roads and looks entirely fitting. It would seem to me to have a higher claim to being listed.

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The phone box at Ballee

At Woodgrange, in a very rural area, there is a splendid view across the fields to the mountains of Mourne.

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The view at Woodgrange

There is also a K6 phone box which like a medieval ruin is gradually being reclaimed by nature and which fits into the landscape itself in quite a charming way.

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Ivy creeps in and out of the box and I didn’t attempt to open the door. Partly this was because it looked like it hadn’t been opened in years but also I didn’t want to interfere with the delicate ecosystem which seemed to be developing inside. There was a modern card phone unit but the place was filled with cobwebs. To misquote C.H. Spurgeon slightly, it looked like a good place for spiders.

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A few miles away at Kilmore there is a more modern box, what is known technically as a KX100. Presumably, given its location with more housing around it, it gets more use but it does not look particularly well maintained.

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Kilmore

And in Crossgar there are two KX100s, although one is converted, usefully, to a place to house a defibrillator.

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Crossgar

The KX100 is not a very attractive piece of street furniture but they are cheaper to erect and maintain than the old K6 boxes. But they can never give the kind of visual appeal that comes from Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design. Only about 20% of the original K6 boxes survive over the whole of the UK so it is nice to know that at least some remain in rural county Down.

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Woodgrange

John Strain’s 40th anniversary as organist at Ballee

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In front of the organ after the service (Photo: Mary Stewart)

On Sunday, 30th June 2019  we celebrated John Strain’s 40 years as organist at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. John discovered his talent as a musician at a young age and assumed the mantle of organist back in 1979. In all those years John has only missed a Sunday service on three occasions and is well-known for his wide knowledge of tunes and his willingness to find just the right hymn even at a moment’s notice. In that time John has played at many baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as at many other local churches including the local Church of Ireland for the last thirty years. Some years ago John released a record of his playing on the church’s organ made by Samuel Dalladay of Hastings in 1912 and in 2012 played for the congregation’s organ centenary twelve-hour hymnathon.

Ballee Presentation 30 June 2019

With Doreen Chambers and Sophia Cleland who both read lessons during the service (Photo: Mary Stewart)

This special service was built around six hymns chosen by John who also gave his reasons for choosing them. During the service readings were given by church members and John’s tremendous commitment, loyalty and achievement in the church was celebrated as a special presentation was made to him to mark this significant anniversary. The hymns John chose were ‘Morning has broken’, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’, ‘Go work in my vineyard’, ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’, ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross’, and ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’, all from Hymns of Faith and Freedom.

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With Jayne Caven, church secretary (Photo: Doreen Chambers)

An audio recording of the service is available.

You can read about Ballee’s Carnegie organ here

Christmas in Lecale 2018

Some images from the Christmas services and special events at Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches.

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Participants in the Clough Carol Service

(click here for more pictures from Clough Carol Service)

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Santa visits Ballee following the Carol Service

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Choir singing in the Downpatrick Carol Service

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Downpatrick Christmas party

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Clough Christmas party

(click here for more pictures from Clough Christmas party)

Ballee Harvest 2018

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Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church held their annual service of Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday, 14th October at 3.00 pm. The church was beautifully decorated by church members with the theme ‘World Harvest’, with special displays depicting harvest from the five continents. The special preacher was the Rev Dr Will Patterson, who led the worship, with special music contributed by local singing group Harmony. It was a wonderful occasion and following the service all the non-perishable produce was distributed to the Downpatrick Foodbank.

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Ballee Harvest Organ

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Window display showing the Harvest of the World by continent

Ballee Harvest

Members of Harmony with the visiting preacher, Rev Dr Will Patterson, outside the church after the service