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 McCromick 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

January Reflections

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.

January 2022 Epiphany

Hungary and Transylvania

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

When I look up to the night skies (available from 8.00 am on Sunday, 30th January)

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism V to Z

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.

Verse

V is for Verse

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).

Women

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Women

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

X is for eXile, the influence of Irish Non-Subscribers around the world

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.

Yahweh

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Yahweh

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.

Zechariah

Z is for Zechariah

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).