For the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life

Last week we were considering the legacy of Rev Henry Montgomery and using the story in Mark’s gospel of Jesus and the disciples walking through the grainfields and plucking the ears of corn to eat on the Sabbath. In its own way this was a template for being prepared to radically reform religious practice whenever it is deemed essential.

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.

Mark ch.2 v.21-22.

Today’s service continues with this theme. Filmed in the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick the reading is from 2 Corinthians ch.3 v.1-6 and is given by church secretary Mary Stewart. Laura Patterson plays the hymns How deep the Father’s love for us and Great is thy faithfulness. Click on the following link to join in the service:

If you look closely at the film outside the Church in Downpatrick at the start and during the hymns you will catch glimpses of the Swifts flying about the church yard.

His holy mountain…the joy of all the earth

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.

Mole at Ballee

Worship for Pentecost Sunday 2020

 

Mountains of Mourne from near Ballee

The mountains of Mourne from near Ballee

“What does this mean?”

Our service today comes from Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and features music played by Laura Patterson and Alfie McClelland on the organ, a duet on bagpipes by Laura and Robert Neill and a reading by Adele Johnston (Acts ch. 2 v.1-21).

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Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Taking our cue from the onlookers at the first Pentecost, in the service today we ask what does Pentecost mean to us today? Can we reclaim Pentecost as part of our liberation? Can we find meaning for us today?

The hymns played are:

I, the Lord of sea and sky (Mission Praise 857)

and

Thy kingdom come – on bended knee (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 210)

Friday, 29th May saw the 67th anniversary of the climbing of Everest and in our Time for a Story this week Sue Steers reflects on the meaning of this famous event achieved by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in terms of co-operation and team work.

 

 

 

 

Worship: Sunday, 26th April

Downpatrick 1 Oct 2016

Our service this morning comes from the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Downpatrick and again features the Mountains of Mourne which can be viewed in the distance while a bagpipe duet plays courtesy of Robert and Laura Neill. When the music stops it is replaced with the music of birdsong. We are pleased to again have John Strain playing the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, providing us with the music for the hymns:

All things bright and beautiful (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 245)

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 19)

Reading: Genesis ch.1 v.20-31.

The sermon takes as its starting point some words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

We are each, regardless of class, colour or culture, in the image and likeness of God. This is the most important statement in Western culture of the non-negotiable dignity of the human person.

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

Pink Moon crop

Pink Moon on 8th April 2020.

 

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.

PB Ardglass 01

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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PB Ardglass 03

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.

PB Woodgrange view 01

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.

PB Woodgrange long view 02

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.

PB Woodgrange ivy view 02

PB Woodgrange right view 02

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.

PB Kilmore

Kilmore

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

PB Crossgar

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.

PB Woodgrange long view 01

Woodgrange