The lying in state of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Service of prayer from First Dunmurry NSP Church, Friday, 9th September

At the time of writing the coffin of Her Majesty the Queen is lying in state in Westminster Hall and many thousands of people are queuing in order to be able to pay their last respects. Special services have been held all over the country in the last week and at First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church we held a short service of prayer and reflection on Friday, 9th December. An edited audio recording of the service can be heard by clicking on the video above. Allen Yarr is the organist.

Below are some images from the lying in state in Westminster Hall.

Pallbearers carry the Queen’s coffin into Westminster Hall
A short service was held on the arrival of the Queen’s coffin
With the Imperial State Crown atop the coffin the Queen is guarded by members of the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals

Earlier in the week, on Monday, 12th September a very moving service of thanksgiving for the life of the Queen was held in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. Below are some images from that occasion.

The coffin is brought in to the Cathedral
The sermon was delivered by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland
The ancient Crown of Scotland, part of the Honours of Scotland, is placed on the Royal Standard of Scotland

Services of thanksgiving for the life of the Queen were also held in Belfast and Cardiff.

The service at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast

I shall not die, but live, and shall
the works of God discover.
The Lord hath me chastised sore,
but not to death giv’n over.
O set ye open unto me
the gates of righteousness;
Then will I enter into them,
and I the Lord will bless.
This is the gate of God, by it
the just shall enter in.
Thee will I praise, for thou me heard’st
and hast my safety been.

Translation of Psalm 118 v.17-21 which was sung in Scots Gaelic by Karen Matheson at the service in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Dunmurry Garden Wildlife

Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in Heaven: see yourself in your Father’s palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys: having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the angels.

Thomas Traherne

One of the beauties of Dunmurry is not just the gardens and grounds that surround the church but the variety of animal and bird life that lives there. Louise Steers has been busy filming many of the birds, animals and insects that live there and we have two videos that consist of Louise’s films and photographs of them accompanied by music provided by John Strain on the organ at Ballee. Among the animals you can expect to see in Part One are robins, blue tits, blackbirds, a thrush, grey squirrels, a mouse, ladybirds, a speckled wood butterfly and a peacock butterfly.

Dunmurry Garden Wildlife Part One

Click on the video above to see some of the birds, animals and insects that live in the gardens round the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry. Medley played by John Strain on the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

Dunmurry Garden Wildlife Part One

The second of two films featuring some of the birds, animals and insects that live in the gardens round the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry. All pictures are by Louise. In this case the accompaniment is by John Strain on the organ at Ballee playing God speaks to us in bird and song, For the beauty of the earth, and God who made the earth.

Click on the video above to see Part Two. The video includes forty-two images featuring: blue tit, female chaffinch, male chaffinch. starling, thrush, shieldbug, lacewing, bumblebee, carder bumblebee, hoverfly, ladybird, peacock butterfly, speckled wood butterfly, grey squirrel, hedgehog, wood pigeon, blackbird, magpie, fledgling blue tit, male bullfinch, great tit, robin.

Louise also has her own animation channel (InkLightning), which includes animation like this short video:

Pew Numbers 1783-1871

Back in September 2017 I started to look at pew numbers (click here to see that post), particularly looking at Ballee and Downpatrick. Ballee is interesting because numbers like this

Ballee Number 12 – on the inside of a cupboard

were impressively painted on each box pew but removed when the interior was refurbished before the First World War. Since they re-used the timber in the reconstruction of the new interior if you know where to look you can still find the old numbers in odd places like the one above, which is on the inside of a cupboard door. The Ballee numbers, where they still exist, are much larger and emphatic than most pew numbers.

Downpatrick only has pew numbers upstairs in the galleries, and Clough and Dunmurry for instance, don’t have any numbers at all. In modern times the idea of numbering pews is not something that anyone would take up, but for hundreds of years it was essential. Pews were occupied via pew rents, the families who rented them had an entirely proprietorial attitude to the pew or half pew which they paid for. This is the origin of the sense – which many people still have – of a certain pew being ‘their’ pew. In many cases, generations ago, this was quite literally true. In more recent times large urban congregations that had prominent preachers would tell those who rented pews to be in place fifteen minutes before the service began or else their pew would be given to some of the queue of potential hearers formed up outside.

But I have had a look out for pew numbers recently and here is a selection.

First of all a nice example of a ceramic pew number from Killinchy. The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Killinchy was built in 1846 and I have no reason to doubt that this sequence of numbers all date from that period:

Killinchy 38

Older examples, which I would suspect date from the opening of the church in 1783, are the engraved brass numbers affixed to the oak doors of the pews in First Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast:

First Church, Belfast 31
First Church, Belfast 57

In Dublin Unitarian Church the numbers are painted and again will date from the opening of the church, in this case in 1863.

Dublin 28

You can see the care and precision that has gone into these numbers with their three dimensional gold shields.

Dublin 12

All Souls’ Church, Belfast dates from 1896, a building designed by the architect Walter Planck. But the pews are much older and the numbers will be as old as the pews. Again these are brass with the numbers engraved on the surface and picked out in black paint. They still look sharp and clear. The pews in All Souls’ date from 1871. In that year the interior of the Second Congregation, also on Rosemary Street, Belfast, was entirely re-modelled and the box pews replaced with modern open pews, possibly re-using some of the timber from the old pews. This would have been a move as bold and radical in 1871 as a church hauling out its pews today and replacing them with chairs.

All Souls’ 24

The numbers must date from Rosemary Street times because they never were an entirely complete sequence, a tendency which has become more noticeable as more pews have been removed in the last decade.

All Souls’ 20

In all these churches a lot of effort has gone into supplying bespoke numbers for the pews. Times change and their importance has waned but each example speaks to us eloquently of a particular time and place.

Completion of Murland Mausoleum Restoration

On Wednesday, 4th May 2022 the long delayed final stage of the restoration of the Murland Mausoleum by the Follies Trust at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church took place. There was a good attendance of people gathered at the event, originally scheduled to take place in March 2020 but inevitably cancelled at the start of the lockdown. The meeting included a short service of thanksgiving for the work of the Follies Trust and the singing of the hymn Praise my soul the King of Heaven, accompanied by Melanie Campbell on the organ. Rev Dr David Steers welcomed everyone and spoke about the history of the Church, and introduced Dr Finbar McCormick who gave  a fascinating talk on the restoration of the Murland Vault and the history and place of mausolea as places of burial in Ireland. Primrose Wilson, chair of the Follies Trust, thanked everyone involved, especially Noel Killen who had carried out the restoration of the monument, and invited everyone to Ballydugan Mill where the launch of the Trust’s new book Fifteen Years of the Follies Trust took place.

Dr Finbar McCormick in the pulpit at Clough
After the service of thanksgiving in the Church

At the back of the mausoleum

Dr Finbar McCormick, Primrose Wilson, Rev Dr David Steers
Finbar McCormick with Clough members

Ballydugan Mill, itself restored from a ruin by Noel Killen

Book launch at the Mill

Noel Killen and David Rooney

With thanks to Sue Steers for the photos.

The Road to Emmaus

A short meditation for Low Sunday

Recorded for the Sunday after Easter including reflection on the dawn service held on the village green by Dunmurry Churches Together. With Jack Steers on the trumpet playing Easter Hymn (Jesus Christ is risen today). With a reading from Luke ch.4 v.13-35. Click on the video above to see this reflection.

Lord of the Emmaus Road…walk with us Lord, listen to our story, and let us hear your story, straight from the empty tomb.

Holy Week 2022

A couple of short acts of worship to mark Holy Week, 2022:

Some music for Palm Sunday. Four pieces plus an introduction played by the organists of Dunmurry and Ballee for a Palm Sunday service:

Four Hymns for Palm Sunday

Hymns played by Allen Yarr (Dunmurry) and John Strain (Ballee).

How deep the Father’s love, introduction played by Allen Yarr. King of glory, King of Peace, played by John Strain. Ride on, ride on, in majesty, played by Allen Yarr. When I survey the wondrous Cross, played by Allen Yarr. Now thank we all our God, played by John Strain. Filmed at First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry and Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

Image: ‘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.

A short prayer and meditation for Good Friday:

Good Friday 2022

Rev Dr David Steers, First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church. (Source: John Pritchard ‘The Second Intercessions Handbook’. Images the crypt and a side altar (also at the top of this page) at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool).

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation

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.

Collection for Ukraine at Dunmurry
This week’s Reflections

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.

Amen

Collection for Ukraine

With an estimated one million refugees now having fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries there is desperate need for help for those people – mostly women and children – who have had to leave their homeland to get away from the fighting.

This week’s video has been brought forward so that we can give an update on what has been achieved so far in our Collection for Ukraine. First of all thank you to all those people who have already supported the appeal, the response has been magnificent. There is still time to donate if you wish to, items can be delivered up to and including Sunday, 6th March.

This week’s online Reflections shares the latest news of the appeal.

Collection for Ukraine

The hymn sung at the start and end of the video is called ‘Prayer for Ukraine’. The first verse translates as:

Lord, oh the Great and Almighty,
Protect our beloved Ukraine,
Bless her with freedom and light
Of your holy rays.


Click on the short video above to find out about our Collection for Ukraine.

Can you help?

We are collecting donations that will be sent and distributed to Ukrainian refugees and those impacted by the current invasion. All items can be left in the Dunmurry McCleery Hall (main entrance) up until Sunday 6th March. Items requested include:

– Warm clothes for children or adults
– Sleeping bags or blankets
– First aid supplies
– Toiletries
– Non perishable food items.

For more information, please message First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church on Facebook directly.

Our response to the situation in Ukraine

We are currently witnesses to an almost unbelievable situation with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Air strikes, tanks, missiles – the invading Russians are using the full force of their military capabilities against the people of the country. Vladimir Putin’s forces have occupied the site of Chernobyl and are clearly intent on trying to capture or lay siege to the capital city. The sight of a forty mile long Russian military convoy making its way towards Kyiv is one that can only induce a sense of utter horror for us, especially when we consider the deaths already of so many men, women and children. At the moment the Russians seem to be intensifying their assault although the resistance in Ukrainian cities is much stronger than the invaders anticipated.

The roof of the University of Kharkiv after being hit by a Russian missile (Photo: BBC)

So far there have been tens of thousands of refugees who have left Ukraine and this could eventually amount to hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. One thing we can do to be of assistance to the people of Ukraine is to send aid to refugees and Emma McCrudden has organised an appeal for this. Further details can be found on First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church on Facebook.

Firefighters try to stop the blaze at the University of Kharkiv (Photo: BBC)

Can you help?

We are collecting donations that will be sent and distributed to Ukrainian refugees and those impacted by the current invasion. All items can be left in the Dunmurry McCleery Hall (main entrance) up until Sunday 6th March. Items requested include:

– Warm clothes for children or adults
– Sleeping bags or blankets
– First aid supplies
– Toiletries
– Non perishable food items.

For more information, please message First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church on Facebook directly.

Lord God,
We ask you to hold the people of Ukraine deep in your heart.
Protect them, we pray;
From violence,
From political gamesmanship,
from being used and abused.
Give, we pray,
the nations of the world the courage
and the wisdom
to stand up for justice
and the courage too,
to dare to care – generously.
Lord in your mercy,
Take from us all,
The tendencies in us
That seek to lord it over others:
Take from us those traits
that see us pursuing our own needs and wants
before those of others.
Teach us how to live in love
And dignity
And respect – following your example.
In your name and for your sake,
Amen

(Prayer from the Faith Impact Forum of the Church of Scotland)

Be still and know that I am God

So far in February we have had two online Reflections which look at verses from Matthew chapter 6; Look at the birds of the air, and from Psalm 46; Be still and know that I am God. But the call to still ourselves in the presence of God and an awareness of the natural world around us are both routes to closer engagement with the divine. There are different ways to centre ourselves in a way that leads to deeper communion with God.

I am very pleased too, to have images of birds taken by Graham Bonham which feature in the video, some of which are reproduced here.

Sparrow. Photo by Graham Bonham
Look at the birds of the air

February Reflections: Look at the birds of the air
Rev Dr David Steers
First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Dunmurry
Pianist: Allen Yarr
Hymn: ‘For the beauty of the earth’
Bird photographs all taken and kindly provided by Graham Bonham

Snowdrops, Ballee. Photo by Sue Steers
Be still and know that I am God (available after 8.00 am on Sunday, 13th February)

Reflections on Psalm 46

First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry

Organist: John Strain (Ballee NSP Church)

Jay. Photo by Graham Bonham