THE Very Rev. Dr. Harry Uprichard has retired from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ahoghill following a remarkable 41-year ministry.
Born in Lurgan, Dr. Uprichard was installed in Trinity in April 1970 after serving his assistantship at First Ballymacarrett Presbyterian Church in East Belfast.
Reflecting on the advantages of such a lengthy ministry, Dr. Uprichard said: “You get to know the people of your congregation not just as members but as friends.
We have had generations of young people some of whom have come to faith and are now leaders in the congregation and that has been something of an encouragement and an uplift.”
“I have, as in all ministries long or short, shared in the joys and the sorrows of families over the years. It has been an encouragement to see people coming to faith and then growing in their walk with God”, he stated.
Boys’ Brigade and Girls Brigade companies were founded in Trinity not long after Dr. Uprichard and his late wife Maisie arrived. The same was true of a Youth Fellowship and Youth Choir. These organisations continue to flourish there to this day.
Dr. Uprichard smiles: “We had a wonderful evening in the Braid Arts Centre when we celebrated those 40 years and had singing and other events together with the launch of a new Youth Choir called ‘Proclaim’.
One highlight of that evening from my point of view was that past members of the original Youth Choir were brought back and I was given the opportunity to conduct them in a couple of pieces which amongst everything else was a real delight.”
A genuine love for music led Dr. Uprichard to take up the role of Conductor in the Ballymena Presbytery Male Voice Choir for many years.
Something else that has delighted him over the years has been the opportunity to preach God’s Word both on Sundays and during midweek meetings.
He added: “My own approach to that was an expository ministry of preaching through particular books. That has always been satisfying to myself and I hope helpful, encouraging and instructive to my people.”
Special times of mission have also pleased Dr. Uprichard. He recounts two that took place in Trinity. One led by Rev. RJ Coulter and one later in his ministry featuring Rev. Norman McAuley.
Dr. Uprichard continued: “We also had a united mission with the three Presbyterian congregations in Ahoghill and the Church of Ireland in 2009 recalling and commemorating the 1859 Revival. The speaker was Billy Patterson and we had a wonderful time of fellowship and gospel preaching and of interest at that.”
Two major building projects were undertaken at Trinity during Dr. Uprichard’s tenure.
1975 saw the construction of a Church Hall and ancillary rooms thanks to money raised entirely by direct giving on the part of the congregation. An extension, which included a new suite of Halls, was opened in 2005. This was particularly special for Dr. Uprichard as it coincided with his year as Moderator of the General Assembly.
Looking back on this, he said: “Maisie and I had a wonderful year together visiting many, many Churches in the north and south of Ireland.”
“I have an interest in Theological education and it was also my delight to go over to the USA and visit Princeton and Westminster Theological Colleges as well as make contact with the Presbyterian Church in America”, remembered Dr. Uprichard.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Uprichard expressed mixed feelings about his departure from Trinity.
On one hand, he feels gratified for having had the opportunity to preach the Word and on the other, a sense of apprehension and concern. He will miss the people there so much.
Speaking about his retirement plans, Dr. Uprichard said: “I have had four books published by Evangelical Press. This includes a study series beginning with a study commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. I am doing some further work on that at the moment, First and Second Peter maybe other New Testament Books so that is in view. A work entitled ‘What is a Presbyterian?’ is also pending.”
“I also trust that there will be opportunities in various other churches to preach the Word and to see the people there”, he concluded.