West Church worshippers mark 150th anniversary
RENOWNED as one of the most vibrant and popular centres of worship and community in Ballymena, West Presbyterian Church has entered a very special year in its long history.
The first service of worship at its Ballymoney Road site took place on the first Sunday in January, 1863. It was, therefore, very appropriate that a special service to mark 150 years at the present location took place on Sunday past, January 6, 2013.
The first pastor to minister on the new site was Rev. Samuel James Moore, who had been the Minister of the Wellington Street congregation.
When the 1859 revival led to an upsurge in Church attendance, a decision to erect a new building to replace the one in Wellington Street was taken in 1860. A Foundation stone was laid in 1861 at a site in the “Bridewell” meadows on the Ballymoney Road and today the stone is sited on the right of the entrance door to the vestry.
Work on the new church was completed two years later and Rev. Moore moved there along with four elders and around half the then Wellington Street congregation.
One of the key players in the transfer to the Ballymoney Road was Mr. William Young whose father, James, had been equally influential in the formation of the Wellington Street fellowship in 1828. Around £5,000 was spent on the erection of the new development, which was opened by Rev. Dr J Hall.
‘Third Ballymena’ as it was originally known became West Church in 1866 and to-date six Ministers have led the congregation beginning with Rev. Moore.
Following his death in 1876, Rev. Edward Fiddes Simpson from Lislooney was installed and when retirement beckoned for him in 1916, Rev. Robert Scott Craig was ordained on August 1 that year and held the reigns until May 31, 1960.
March, 1961 saw the arrival of Rev. Matthew George (Matt) Evans whose work, life and witness is still remembered fondly both during full-time ministry which spanned nearly 25 years at West Church and a period as Minister Emeritus until his death on April 25, 2002.
Rev. William James David Henry began his ministry at West Church in September, 1985, and following his resignation in late March, 1999, the present incumbent, Rev. Daniel John Kane arrived in 2000, having previously been the minister of First Killyleagh congregation in Co. Down.
These men, along with several others, have played their part in making West Church the thriving worship centre it is today. Mr. William Livingstone, who assumed the position of organist and choirmaster in 1940, remained at the ivories until 1999 when he retired after a 59-year musical ministry.
Working with others to show the love of Christ has always been a characteristic of the people at West Church. When St. Patrick’s Parish Church was damaged by a fire in 1879, parishioners there were grateful for the use of the Ballymoney Road building for their services. Sadly, this act of generosity had to be repaid when West was itself destroyed by fire in 1926.
The complex reopened two years later and has been well maintained and enhanced by a number of refurbishments ever since. Arguably the most significant repair scheme began in 1991 and took four years to complete. This initiative saw the re-roofing of the Church and Simpson Memorial Hall completed in September, 1992, at a cost of £125,000.
Restoration of the Rev. S.J. Moore Memorial stained glass window also took place and was completed in October, 1993, at a cost of £8,000. That same year also saw a computer and office suite fitted out at the north end of the main Simpson Memorial Hall. Many other improvements were carried out then and in subsequent years.
In 2006 a ‘lounge’ was created which is used widely by the whole congregation, particularly the young people who grow in Christ thanks to a number of exciting programmes. These include Wild West’ Sunday School; Youth Fellowship; Scouts; Girls Brigade; Junior Youth Club: ‘Switch’ and ‘Link’ Bible studies, not forgetting crèche and ‘Buddies ‘n’ Bundles for mums and toddlers.
West Church continues to fulfil its vision to “Celebrate and Serve Jesus Together” through various activities for all ages such as ‘Men United’, ‘Centurions’ and PW to name but a few. Courses such as Discipleship Explored, Alpha, GriefShare and Christianity Explored run alongside many ministries emphasising Mission, Worship, Evangelism, Pastoral Care and Discipleship. All of these exist not just for the members of West Church but also a wider community.
Sunday services are held at 11am and 6.30pm every week.
The current staff team comprises Rev. Daniel Kane, Mrs Phyllis Linton (Deaconess), Rev. Elwyn Jones (pastoral assistant), Mr. Philip Kerr (assistant minister), Miss Tania Martins DosSantos (children’s and family worker), Mr. Sam Murray, (musical director), Mrs. Myra Buchanan (administrator) and Mr. Robert Sheppard, (church officer.)
Together with the congregation, they participated in the 150th Anniversary service on Sunday, which was led by the Presbyterian Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Roy Patton who was accompanied by his wife, Daphne.
The Mayor of Ballymena, Alderman PJ McAvoy, read the lesson on what was a very special day.
It is the hope and prayer of the minister, session and congregation of West Church that this anniversary will encourage another revival, both in their own fellowship and in Ballymena and district.
Later on, “Mission Revive” from February 25-March 1 will be led by Rev Dominic Smart (minister of Gilcomston Church of Scotland, Aberdeen).
The year-long celebrations will culminate with a Flower Festival on the theme “Heralding our Heritage” from May 10-12 to which the entire community are warmly invited.
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Weather for Ballymena
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South