One of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s youngest congregations – Ballee, on Ballymena’s Old Antrim Road - marked a significant milestone in their journey on Sunday, when the church came together to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Presbyterian Moderator, Rt. Rev. Ian McNie, joined them for the celebrations.
On Saturday, April 3 1976, the new congregation came into being when the then Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Temple Lundie, officially opened what was known at the time as the Ballee Presbyterian Church Extension – or church plant.
Situated at the southern tip of Ballymena in a residential area that includes Ballee estate, 220 families from across the local community attend the Church.
The Rev. Joseph Andrews, who has been Minister of Ballee for nearly 30 years, said: “For 40 years the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed in Ballee and many people have come to faith in Jesus as Saviour.
“We are extremely grateful to all those people who, over the past 40 years, have been a part of Ballee congregation at the different stages in its history. As we offer to Almighty God our thanks and praise for His blessing on our congregation over that time, we look forward with excited anticipation to what plans He has for us in the future.”
While celebrating what has gone before, Mr Andrews said that the church was particularly excited about its special week of Gospel outreach in September, when it plans to present the Gospel to people of all ages.
“No matter where you are from you are welcome and as we celebrate 40 years, it will not be a case of looking back to the past, but rather ‘Forty - looking forward’,” he said.
During the service on Sunday, Dr Ian McNie preached from the Book of Nehemiah, Chapter 1 on the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.
Speaking before he said: “I was told that when laying the foundation stone at Ballee, the Rev Tom Simpson, Deputy Clerk of the General Assembly, said at the time, ‘In this place may true faith flourish, the fear of God, the love of brethren. Here may the voice of prayer continually be heard, the voice of rejoicing and salvation, the voice of praise and invocation of Thy most glorious and honourable name, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit henceforth and for evermore’.
“I am very glad to say, that by God’s Grace, this is exactly what has happened. I am very pleased to be in Ballee today celebrating 40 years of Christian witness and the impact it continues to make in the local area. I am also looking forward to talking part in September’s Gospel outreach.”
The Rev. Brian Savage, retired Minister of Ballykeel - who was in charge of Ballee at the time until a minister could appointed - was unable to attend the special service. However, he sent his greetings via video, which was played during the service. His successor, Rev. John McCullough took part in person.