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.
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.
In the month of January 2022 we have uploaded four new short video Reflections to our YouTube channel. These cover Epiphany; the installation of the Rev István Kovács as the new bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church in Kolozsvár, Transylvania, Romania; the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; and Psalm 8. John Strain and Allen Yarr provide music. The Reflections are by Rev David Steers and Jennifer Miles provides a reading. The picture at the top of the page and the thumbnail for the fourth video are images taken remotely from the camera on the International Space Station. The videos can be seen below.
We have now completed the whole of our alphabetical survey having added the letters V to Z over the Christmas period. V stands for Verse, W looks at the role of Women in the church and ministry, X is represented by eXile, Y stands for Yahweh, and Z is for Zechariah. All the videos can be seen below.
Where fishes play and bells do ring
Having reached the letter V in our study of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism we look at poets and poetry in our tradition. Radicals, United Irishmen, literary giants, writers in Ulster Scots; the story of poets in our tradition is remarkably broad.
Who was the first person to refer to Ireland as the ‘Emerald Isle’? Which Ulster town was described as a place ‘where fishes play and bells do ring’? Which hymn penned by a Non-Subscriber has been in print for over 200 years? To which congregation did the ‘Shipyard Poet’ belong? Find out the answer to these and other questions in today’s service which looks at seven poets from the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian tradition. Conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers and filmed at First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry the reading is from Isaiah ch.12 v.4-6. Church organist Allen Yarr plays the hymns: Just as I am, Thine own to be (Church Hymnary 497) and Thy Kingdom come, O God (Church Hymnary 152).
The twenty-third in a series of alphabetical explorations of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. W – Women. Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Worship conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers. Filmed at Ballee and Dunmurry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches. Reading: Acts ch.16 v.11-15. Organist: John Strain (Ballee) who plays the hymns: My spirit longs for thee (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 301) and Sent forth by God’s blessing (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 409). In today’s service we look at the role of women in our denomination and at the Rev Gertrude von Petzold who has the distinction of being the first women minister, commencing her ministry in Leicester in 1904.
X is for eXile
In this service we look at the considerable contribution made by Non-Subscribers who left their native shores to found churches and extend their faith all around the world, particularly in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Who knew that there was once a Presbytery of Canada or that the first electoral register in the Cape Colony in South Africa was introduced by a Non-Subscriber and paid no attention to race? The service is conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers and filmed at Downpatrick and Dunmurry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches. The reader is Gilbert Cameron (Dunmurry) who reads Jeremiah ch.24 v.4-7 and the organist is Laura Patterson (Downpatrick) who plays the hymns: In the bleak midwinter and When he cometh. At the start of the service John Strain also plays ‘Hark a thrilling voice’ on the organ at Ballee.
The name of God
In the penultimate service in our alphabetical journey through our religious tradition we have reached the letter ‘Y’ and look at the Hebrew word for God, what we understand by it and how it influences our faith in the twenty-first century. Filmed at Ballee, Clough and Dunmurry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches the reader is Elsie Nelson (Clough) who reads Exodus ch.3 v.1-6. John Strain plays the hymns: I heard the voice of Jesus say (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 199) and Go work in my vineyard (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 294). At the start of the service John also plays Lo he comes with clouds descending.
Having reached the letter Z in our journey through the alphabet of our denomination, Z stands for Zechariah. This service is filmed at Ballee and Dunmurry. The reader is Robert Neill (Downpatrick) who reads Luke ch.1 v.67-79. Laura Neill (Downpatrick) plays Auld Lang Syne on the bagpipes. John Strain plays the hymns: I heard the voice of Jesus say (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 199) and Go work in my vineyard (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 294).
We have been powering on with our alphabetical journey through the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland and have now added the letters R to U to our survey. R covers the topic ‘Remonstrant’, S is ‘Stained Glass’, T stands for ‘Tokens’ and U is ‘Ubi Spiritus Domini ibi Libertas’. I will upload the video for each letter below.
Remonstrant is an interesting word, not unique to Ireland, but only really used as a denominational name in one other country in Europe. In this video we look at the meaning behind the word and its resonance for us today. Conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers, Robert Neill (Downpatrick) reads Matthew ch.4 v.16-23 and John Strain plays In Christ there is no East or West (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 235), Thy way, not mine, O Lord (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 347) and Be still for the presence of the Lord at the start of the service on the organ at Ballee NSP Church.
Some of our churches have only ever held plain glass through which the light shines directly illuminating our worship. Over time more churches have installed stained glass of various types and designs and have used light to tell a story or to beautify the sanctuary. In this service we look at the stained glass within Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches. Robert Neill is our reader again, reading from Job ch.28 v.12-18, and John Strain, Ballee, plays Bright the vision that delighted (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 35) and Light of ages may Thy ray (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 270).
In this service we use the history of Tokens – more specifically Communion Tokens – to look at our attitude to Communion which has always been open and inclusive.
In this service Emma McCrudden (Dunmurry) reads from Mark ch.14 v.22-26 and John Strain plays O thou who this mysterious bread (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 407), Put peace into each other’s hands (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 408) and This is the hour of banquet and of song (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 403) at the start of the service. The video contains examples of eighteenth-century communion tokens. Click on the video above to see the service.
Ubi Spiritus Domini ibi Libertas
Under the letter U we look at the phrase Ubi Spiritus Domini ibi Libertas, its meaning and significance to us.
Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Worship conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers. Filmed at Ballee, Clough and Dunmurry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches the reading is 2 Corinthians ch.3 v.12-18. Ballee organist John Strain plays the Advent hymns O Come, O come, Immanuel (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 112), Hark the glad sound! The saviour comes (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 107) and, at the start of the service, Soon and very soon. The meaning of liberty for us.
We have covered the letters N to Q in our alphabetical look at Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism. These letters cover, in turn; ‘New Light’, ‘Organs’, ‘Pews’ and ‘Quires and Places where they sing’.
Filmed at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers, the reading is from Matthew ch.5 v.13-16 and is given by Robert Neill. The organist is Alfie McClelland who plays the hymns Take my life and let it be (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 283) and The wise may bring their learning’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 247) as well as Lord of all hopefulness.
N stands for New Light and that is what we look at in the service, a term first coined by the Rev John Malcome in 1720 but indicative of the theological position of the Non-Subscribers ever since.
Non-Subscribing Presbyterians were pioneers in the use of organs and this video looks at their use in the denomination beginning with the building of the first organ in the Second Congregation of Belfast in 1806 and once played by the famous Edward Bunting. Our worship is filmed at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and conducted by the minister. Our reader is Robert Neill who reads Psalm 150. John Strain plays the hymns: In Christ there is no East or West (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 235) and Go work in my vineyard (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 294) as well as Here O my Lord I see Thee face to face at the start of the service.
Perhaps the most famous historical organist in our denomination, the recorder of the music of the 1792 Harpers’ Festival in Belfast and organist at Belfast’s Second Congregation which installed the first organ in a dissenting church in Ulster in 1806.
Filmed at the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick and conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers, the reading is Psalm 122. The organist is Laura Patterson who plays the hymns: To God be the glory! Great things He hath done, I, the Lord of sea and sky, and Amazing Grace. Having reached the letter P, in the service we look at those essential items of church furniture: Pews.
Quires and Places where they sing
Filmed in Clough, Ballee and Dunmurry churches the reading comes from Psalm 92 v.1-5. Ballee organist: John Strain plays the hymns Immortal, invisible, God only wise (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 30), Make me a channel of your peace’(Hymns of Faith and Freedom 338) and also plays I am not worthy holy Lord.
Having reached the letter Q we look at Quires, an archaic spelling of Choirs which comes from an 1862 prayer book, partly edited by James Martineau, which re-used the original phrasing of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. To find out more click on the video above.
Very special thanks goes to John Strain, organist at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, who has now recorded over 100 pieces for our online services during the period of the pandemic over the last 18 months. This is a significant contribution which has been a tremendous part of our online worship. Thank you John.
We continue our journey through an alphabet of Non-Subscribing Presbyterian ideas, thoughts and objects and have now covered the letters H to J.
Hymns and Hymnbooks
Filmed at Ballee and Downpatrick, in this film we look at some historic hymnbooks and hymns within the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, where there is a tradition of writing hymns and producing hymnbooks which can be traced right back to the early nineteenth century. Conducted by the minister, the reading comes from Colossians ch.3 v.12-17 and is given by Elsie Nelson. Ballee organist John Strain plays the hymns: May the mind of Christ my Saviour (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 512) and Thine be the glory (Irish Church Hymnal 288).
Faith should be open and inquiring, we should have a faith that asks questions and is not simply content to be told what to believe. The ninth service in our series is filmed at Clough (with a bit of extra filming at Downpatrick). Conducted by the minister, the reader is Annabel Cleland who reads from John ch.20 v.24-29. Clough organist Alfie McClelland plays the hymns Thou whose almighty word (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 173) and Lord in the fullness of my might (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 269).
In this video we look at Non-Subscribing Presbyterian understandings of Jesus. How do we see him? How do we understand him? Filmed in Dunmurry with a reading from Luke ch.6 v.46-49 given by Noelle Wilson the service is conducted by the minister in charge. Dunmurry organist Allen Yarr plays the hymns Stand up! Stand up for Jesus (Church Hymnary 532), From all that dwell below the skies (Church Hymnary 228) and Let saints on earth in concert sing (Church Hymnary 227) on the piano.
We are continuing with our alphabetical exploration of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland and have added the letters E to G to the sequence.
Filmed at Ballee, church organist John Strain plays the hymns Lord for tomorrow and its needs (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 4) and How deep the Father’s love for us (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 407). The reading is from Proverbs ch.9 v.1, 5, 6, 9, 10.
We look at the importance of education to Non-Subscribers across the centuries, including the Killyleagh philosophy school.
Out of our good liking for learning, and for the encouragement of the same in this place, and particularly for encouraging the philosophical school taught at Killileagh, by Mr James McAlpin, professor of philosophy; and in consideration that he is, in the future, to keep and teach the said school, at the town of Killileagh, do hereby oblige ourselves to provide him and his family a convenient dwelling-house…
Part of the original agreement for Killyleagh Philosophy School (1697).
Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Worship from Ballee for Sunday, 1st August conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. The reading is from Habakkuk ch.2 v.1-4. John Strain plays the hymns: Father I place into your hands (Irish Church Hymnal 565) and By cool Siloam’s shady rill (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 399).
Gifts of the Spirit
The seventh in our series of alphabetical explorations of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. This week G – Gifts. Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Worship from Clough, conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. The reading is from 1 Corinthians ch.12 v.4-12. Church organist, Alfie McClelland, plays the hymns Walk in the light’ (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 334) and City of God, how broad and far (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 202).
In this service we look at some Bibles that also give us a hint of the historical identity of Non-Subscribing Presbyterians.
All Souls’ Church, Belfast possesses a number of very interesting Bibles, including one printed by the printer James Blow in Belfast in the early eighteenth cnetury. We look at the Clough Bible of 1793 as well as Bibles that belonged to Rev Alexander Gordon and Rev James Martineau.
Clough’s old Bible was presented to the church by the first minister in the new meeting- house of 1837, some 44 years after it was printed in Edinburgh. The inscription, which is shown in today’s video, emphasises the Rev David Watson’s belief that the Non-Subscribing church represented contuity with the original congregation or, as he styled them, ‘the Members of the New Presbyterian House of Worship in Clough’.
We also look at a Bible that once belonged to the Rev Alexander Gordon. You can discover more about him in this video. But this Bible stands out because it is the Revised Version of 1881-1885 (the New Testament was brought out first in 1881) ‘Newly Edited by the American Revision Committee’ in 1901 and published in New York.
Another Bible is one that once belonged to Rev James Martineau when he was minister of Eustace Street in Dublin from 1828 to 1832. There is some information about James Martineau on this blog here. He left Eustace Street after only a short ministry but judging by the date of this Bible, 1818, and the fact that it was discovered in Ireland, it seems likely that it was one he used in this ministry in Dublin. All this and more can be found in today’s service.
Filmed in Ballee, Downpatrick and Clough Ballee organist John Strain plays the hymns I am not worthy Holy Lord (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 384) and Just as I am (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 268). The reading is from Acts ch.8 v.26-40. The service is conducted by Rev Dr David Steers.
This week we begin a new series of videos. The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism will be an alphabetical exploration of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, looking at its identity and ethos through items and ideas possessed by its churches.
I say at the start that this will not be a succession of biographical accounts of outstanding individuals – and I will stick to that. However, that is exactly where I have to start with John Abernethy (1680-1740). It is hard to avoid him and would be a mistake to do so, he is such a remarkable and crucial figure. Among other things he was minister at Antrim (see picture at the top of this page).
The service is filmed in Ballee where John Strain plays the church’s Carnegie organ and features the hymns When morning gilds the skies (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 26) and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 158). The reading is Romans ch.14 v.5-9 which is the passage that inspired Abernethy’s famous sermon of 1719 on Religious Obedience Founded on Personal Persuasion.
Today’s worship, from Ballee, incorporates the second in our series that looks at significant Non-Subscribing Presbyterians in history. Today’s subject is William Hamilton Drummond who was born in Larne in 1778 and died in Dublin in 1865.
Drummond had a long and multi-faceted career. As a young man he supported the 1798 Rebellion and as a student at Glasgow University first turned his hand to verse, producing poems that supported the aims of the United Irishman. Leaving Glasgow without a degree he nevertheless progressed towards the ministry and was called to Belfast’s Second Congregation (see picture above) in 1800. In Belfast, as a minister, he was at the heart of the city’s educational, commercial, cultural and religious life. He produced a number of epic poems. Many of these now extolled the virtues of the Union of 1801 with Great Britain whilst the most famous of all was The Giant’s Causeway, published in 1811.
In 1815 he was a candidate for the Chair of Logic and Belles Lettres at the Belfast Academical Institution. When he was unsuccessful, because so many of the electors were members of his own congregation who did not wish to see him leave, he left Belfast for Dublin instead, where he commenced a ministry of fifty years in which he achieved further notability as a theological controversialist, a biographer and a supporter of the rights of animals.
The service comes from Ballee. The reading is from Psalm 8 and is given by Mary Stewart at Downpatrick. Church organist John Strain plays the hymns Come sing praises to the Lord (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 113), Lord the light of your love is shining (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 621). Also played is Father I place into your hands.
Flow, LAGAN flow – though close thy banks of green,
Though in the picture of the world unseen…
Flow on fair stream – thy gathering waves expand,
And greet with joy the Athens of the land;
Through groves of masts thick crowding o’er thy tide,