Rev John Scott Porter (1801-1880)

In an overgrown corner of Belfast’s City Cemetery stands a bold and intricately carved Celtic cross which marks the grave of the Rev John Scott Porter.

Son of a prominent Presbyterian minister and brother to two more he was part of a significant dynasty. This week’s Reflection looks at the life and work of John Scott Porter.

Rev John Scott Porter (1801-1880) – click on the video above (available from 8.00 am on Sunday, 8th May).

Educated at the Belfast Academical Institution he commenced his ministry at Carter Lane Chapel, London (which became Unity Chapel, Islington), where he became a prominent proponent of the Arian group within English Presbyterianism, editing the Christian Moderator. He returned to Belfast, to the First Presbyterian Church, in 1831.

John Scott Porter c.1845 by Richard Rothwell (Ulster Museum/National Musuems Northern Ireland)

In the video we reflect on his career as a theologian, controversialist, Biblical scholar and Unitarian. Other members of his family are buried with him including his brother William, one time attorney general at the Cape Colony, who brought in a franchise that was inclusive of all races.

What can we learn from reflecting on the impressive Celtic cross that marks his grave? An eloquent Victorian statement of piety and memory, for decades long forgotten, yet still making a statement about his beliefs and his ministry.

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).

Installation at Dunmurry

The Service of Installation at Dunmurry on Saturday, 26th March was a wonderful occasion and thank you again to everyone who took part and everyone in the Church who made the event possible. You can read a full report of the service with pictures on the First Dunmurry blog here.

Some of the participants after the service outside the McCleery Hall

There is a full audio recording of the service:

and also an online recording of the Statement of Principles and Objects:

Unfortunately the Moderator of Presbytery, Rev Stephen Reain-Adair, was prevented from being present by a positive test for Covid. We wish him a full recovery and thank the Very Rev Robert McKee who stood in as Moderator at the last minute.

The flowers in the Hall reflected the colours of the national flag of Ukraine and thank you to Elma McDowell and her team for their work in the Hall and the Church.

A retiring collection for the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal has raised £460.

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.

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: N to Q

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’.

New Light

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: New Light

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.

Organ

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Organ

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.

Edward Bunting

Edward Bunting

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.

Pews

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Pews

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.

Box pews at Downpatrick

Quires and Places where they sing

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Quires and Places where they sing (available after 9.45 am on Sunday, 31st October 2021)

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.

John Strain at the organ at Ballee

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.

Harvest Thanksgiving 2021

In Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough we held three successful Harvest Thanksgiving Services in the month of October. Always an important part of the year we were restricted by the ongoing rules relating to the pandemic but still we were able to to celebrate the Harvest in a meaningful way. Below are some images from the decoration of the church as well as a video that forms our online Harvest Thanksgiving.

Online Service of Harvest Thanksgiving (available after 9.45 am on Sunday, 24th October)

Our service includes:

Psalm 65 v.1-13 read by Dillon Howell
John ch.4 v.31-38 read by Sophia Cleland
Psalm 104 v.1-12 read by Robert Neill
2 Corinthians ch.9 v.6-11 read by Elsie Nelson
Harvest Samba sung by Dillon and Haydn Howell
Ode to Autumn by John Keats read by Sue Steers
All things bright and beautiful sung by Sarah Rooney

As well as hymns played by John Strain:
Come ye thankful people come (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 454)
Welcome harvest, now beginning (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 462
We plough the fields and scatter (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 456)
Plus a Harvest Medley

Click on the video above to join the service.

Downpatrick

Ballee

Clough

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: K to M

We have now reached the letters, K to M in our alphabetical survey of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism. So our next three videos look, in turn, at Kedron, the Lord’s Supper and Henry Montgomery.

Kedron

When the Paschal evening fell
Deep on Kedron’s hallowed dell,
When around the festal board
Sat the Apostles with their Lord,
Then his parting word he said,
Blessed the cup and brake the bread –
“This whene’er ye do or see,
Evermore remember me.”

From a hymn by A.P. Stanley

James Martineau wrote another hymn which mentions Kedron, which is our subject for the letter K. To find out what links Jerusalem’s Kedron valley with the churchyard at Downpatrick watch this service. Filmed at the First Presbyterian Church (NS) Downpatrick, Mary Stewart gives the reading from John ch.18 v.1-9, and church organist, Laura Patterson, plays the hymns Christ, be our light and Great is thy faithfulness’.

The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper

L stands for the Lord’s Supper and in this short film we look at how we understand this important service. Filmed at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church the reading comes from 1 Corinthians ch.11 v.23-25. Church organist, John Strain, plays Lord of all hopefulness, May the mind of Christ my Saviour and My faith looks up to Thee.

A Scottish Sacrament by Henry John Dobson. (Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Henry Montgomery

Click on the video to join the service and hear about Rev Henry Montgomery (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 26th September).

The thirteenth instalment in the series is the letter M and features the Rev Dr Henry Montgomery. Filmed at Dunmurry, where Montgomery himself ministered from 1809 to his death in 1865, we look at his importance and his legacy. The reader is Bobby Graham who reads Matthew ch.23 v.1-12. Allen Yarr plays the hymns From all that dwell below the skies and Let saints on earth in concert sing.

Oxford

As a visual experience Oxford never disappoints. As the seasons change, as the weather or the light changes even in a single day, so the buildings repay careful scrutiny, with the colours of the stone reflecting the sun, the rain, a glowering sky or the bright blue backdrop of recent sunny days. There are less tourists now. Even the lure of Harry Potter and Inspector Morse are no longer sufficient to cram the streets with eager faces, although the city is busy enough despite the pandemic.

But here are a few images I took recently over a couple of days.

The Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren
Tom Quad at Christ Church, with more work from Sir Christopher Wren in Tom Tower
Peckwater Quad, Christ Church
View of the Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College from the University Church
Statue of Cardinal Wolsey, Christ Church (Photo: Sue Steers)
Fireplace in Christ Church Hall. The elongated necks on the brass figures on either side of the fire are said to have inspired one of the scenes in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Lewis Carroll was a Student (ie Fellow) of Christ Church
Cardinal’s hats on gates at Christ Church
Cloisters at Christ Church Cathedral, with organ playing in the Cathedral. A short video (49 seconds)