My final engagement as Moderator was to preach at the annual Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Service in St Mark’s Parish Church in Armagh.
Senior Officers from the FBI, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Australian Federal Police, An Garda Siochana and a number of GB Forces joined members of the extended Northern Ireland police family at the service.
Members of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Associations also travelled from GB to take part in the interdenominational service. But most of the 800 strong congregation was made up of widows, parents and relatives of deceased RUC GC officers, as well as disabled and retired members.
Dignitaries included the Lord Lieutenant for County Armagh – Lord Caledon; Justice Minister – Mr David Ford; Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Senior PSNI Officers, Acting Chairman of the Policing Board – Mr Brian Rea; Brigadier Smyth-Osbourne, HQNI; Lady Sylvia Hermon and Lord Salisbury, Patron of the RUC GC Associations.
It all began as a photograph of the Session and Committee to be taken in front of the manse. But it evolved into something much bigger. The members of Session and Committee in First Portadown arranged a Garden Party in the manse garden and the weather was very kind to us.
Thirty years ago when Dr Craig was Moderator of the General Assembly, a tree was planted in the garden in his honour. He came back to check on its progress and to help me plant another one.
It was a very memorable afternoon, rounding off a memorable year.
My friend, Tim Magowan, our local Tearfund Director, has developed these promotional videos following our trip to Ethiopia last August to encourage churches in Ireland to connect with what Tearfund is doing. I am delighted to be associated with this superb work.
What really intrigued me about the Kale Heywet Church was the seamless way in which they showed the love and compassion of Christ in both word and deed. In fact, they wouldn’t even recognise that distinction. For them, it’s just all about the gospel.
These past few weeks have included a number of congregational celebrations connected with completed building projects. Unfortunately I have not been able to reproduce here photographs of them all, but each one is testimony to the dedication and commitment of individuals and congregations who in difficult economic conditions, and in spite of the PMS crisis, have completed their projects successfully. It has been a real delight to have shared with each congregation as they have given thanks to God for the provision of new facilities.
Newcastle congregation, in spite of a number of setbacks, opened their new facilities at the beginning of May. The work they have completed is very impressive and will clearly enhance their ministry in the busy seaside resort. Of particular interest is the beautiful flat which will be made available to assistant ministers in the congregation, and will certainly make the Newcastle assignment much sought after among all future students for the ministry. I imagine it might even cause some active retirees from the ministry to offer their services to the congregation.
Irvinestown congregation have a beautiful new building which was opened officially last weekend, and which will greatly benefit the work of the congregation in the town as well as in the whole Fermanagh area. Once again, a bright, attractive building is evidence of the faith and vision of both the congregation and the Board of Mission in Ireland.
High Street congregation in Holywood have completed the second phase of their re-development and are strategically placed in the town centre to carry on their witness and ministry. Once again, a dedicated team of committed people have worked very hard to see this project completed, and are to be congratulated on what has been achieved.
So if you are out and about this summer along the Gold Coast, around the Mountains of Mourne, or in Fermanagh’s Lakelands, watch out for these meeting houses, and if the doors are open, check out the new facilities and rejoice with those who rejoice in a job well done.
Postscript: If anyone has a digital photograph of the Newcastle new facilities or the Irvinestown church building, I will be happy to post them here.