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.
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.
In our service this morning, from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, we continue to look at the early history of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian denomination and in this address ask questions about the meaning of ‘heresy and orthodoxy’ and look at the role of Thomas Emlyn in sparking the first subscription controversy when the Synod of Ulster introduced compulsory subscription to the Westminster Confession following his imprisonment in Dublin in 1703.
The service comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is conducted by the minister. The reading is from Romans ch.14 v.1-9 and is read by Sue Steers. Church organist John Strain plays the hymns Who is on the Lord’s side (Thanks and Praise 164) and Wisdom Divine, bright shining, never fading (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 55) on the church’s Carnegie organ.
Also this week we have uploaded to the Downpatrick, Ballee & Clough NSP Churches YouTube channel a service that was originally broadcast from All Souls’ Church, Belfast on BBC Radio Ulster in 1995:
Converted from a cassette tape to mp3 format the service was recorded live from the radio in October 1995. The service is conducted by the minister at the time, Rev David Steers. The readers are Barbara Moneypenny (Psalm 46) and Jim Jackson (Luke ch.6 v.12-31). Muriel Singleton leads the prayers. The church organist is Albert McCartney who plays on the church’s Compton organ the hymns Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation; Just as I am, thine own to be; Dear Lord and Father of mankind; Immortal, invisible, God only wise and leads the Church Choir in the singing of Lead me Lord (music S.S. Wesley, words Psalm 5) and Grant us Thy Peace (music Timothy Troman, words D. Bruce-Payne).
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.
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!
This Sunday’s worship again reflects on the importance of the harvest in our lives, both spiritually and temporally. Our reading is given for us by Dillon Howell and the hymns and harvest music is played by John Strain on the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.
The video both begins and ends with images from harvest services in our churches over recent years. They are always such uplifting occasions and a great deal of thought goes into making the churches look so attractive. It is nice to be reminded of some of the imaginative and creative displays that we always see in our churches. Click on the above video to see the service.
The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches of Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough are marking the time of Harvest with an online service. The service features readings delivered by members, hymns played on the organs of the three churches by the church organists and film of farming activity across the locality provided by church members.
The service can be viewed here:
The service is led by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers with readings given by:
Elsie Nelson, Deuteronomy ch.26 v.1-4, 8-11
Robert Neill, Psalm 65 v.5-13
Sophia Cleland, Mark ch.4 v.26-34
The Church Organists are:
Laura Patterson, Downpatrick
Come ye thankful people come (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 454)
We plough the fields and scatter (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 456)
Alfie McClelland, Clough
Rejoice the Lord is King (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 62)
John Strain, Ballee
Holy is the seed time
The God of Harvest Praise (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 457)
Thou, whose almighty word Chaos and darkness heard, And took their flight; Hear us, we humbly pray; And, where the gospel’s day Sheds not its glorious ray, Let there be light!
Sunday, 6th September marks the day we have started our return to worshipping together in church but our online services continue and today this one comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.
Mountains and hills play a key part in the Old Testament and as we reflect on them we contemplate the whole of Creation and our part in it:
Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, (Psalm 48)
The service is conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers, the reading (Psalm 121) is given by Carol Nixon at Downpatrick, and John Strain plays the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Click on the above link to join in this short act of worship.
Time for a Story: The Riverbank
This week Time for a Story looks at Kenneth Grahame’s famous book The Wind in the Willows. Told by Sue Steers is also features special animation. Click on the above link to see the video.
Water is what connects us to life. It is also – clearly when we look at the book of Genesis – something that connects us to God.
Today’s service comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. It is also a collaborative act of worship because taking part in the service is the Rev Brenda Catherall, minister of Chowbent Unitarian Chapel, Atherton, Lancashire. Brenda reads from Genesis ch.1 v.1-5 and the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination
Brenda is reading at Pennington Flash, near Leigh, an area reclaimed from industrial decay and now a Country Park and home to over 250 species of bird. Wild Geese also feature in the video.
John Strain, Ballee organist, plays the hymns All people that on earth do dwell (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 1) and Bright the Vision that delighted (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 35).
Time for a Story: Wisdom
This week’s story tells the story of Archimedes, famous as an astronomer, inventor and scientist, whose Eureka moment has passed into the English language. Click on the above video which features special music, images from the British Museum and animation created by InkLightning. This image is of Syracuse, the birthplace of Archimedes.
Here is some more information on Chowbent Chapel. Click on the image below to read about Chowbent Chapel and the Rev Brenda Catherall: