I have been visiting the Iveagh Presbytery which stretches from Newmills, which is close to Portadown, to Newcastle, Co Down, and includes the towns of Banbridge and Rathfriland.
The Presbyterian Church has a long history in Rathfriland. In 1657 the Rev Robert Hueston came from Scotland to minister to the Scottish settlers in and around Rathfriland, but the first meeting house was not opened until 1679. The congregation grew so large that in 1708 the Presbytery of Armagh divided the congregation, one part to meet at Rathfriland and the other to be formed into a new congregation at Ballyroney. The Presbyterian church continued to grow during the 18th and 19th centuries until three Presbyterian congregations were established in the town.
Today, the Presbyterian churches in Rathfriland are busy and active in their local area and further afield. One innovative project which has the support of Christians in several congregations in Rathfriland is The Beacon. This ministry, located in a modern, well-appointed but under-used business park, seeks to support and help young people from all backgrounds. Since its opening a couple of months ago, it has proved to be a popular venue for young people on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, and its leaders are unashamed about their desire to share the message of Jesus Christ with all who come along. It is initiatives like this which provide the opportunities for young people to meet together and to talk about important spiritual and moral issues.
In April this year, Rathfriland Vision Shop opened to help fund the Vision of Good Hope ministry which supports an orphanage , House of Hope, in Moldova and other ministries which aim to provide practical help for poor people in eastern Europe.
We were warmly welcomed by an enthusiastic band of volunteers who maintain the Vision Shop and who, through the generous contributions of clothes and household items of people throughout South Down, are able to raise significant amounts of money to support this great work.
Jesus talked about a city set on a hill whose light cannot be hid. Christians in Rathfriland on the Hill are letting their light shine and it cannot be hid. Young people in Rathfriland and in Eastern Europe are the beneficiaries. Long may the light of Christ shine out from this town on the hill!