Members of the 120-strong congregation, civic dignitaries and representatives from other churches in the town gathered to give thanks and celebrate 100 years of Arklow Presbyterian Church.
During the last number of years Arklow has developed as a commuter town for Dublin and also seen its population grow; some of those coming into the town have found a spiritual home in the Presbyterian church.
Emily Kearon, Arklow’s Clerk of Session, explained that there had been Presbyterians living in Arklow and the surrounding area since the 1800s, with meetings taking place in the town in the 1870s and 1880s. Yet it wasn’t until 1915 that the Church was built and a Minister appointed. “The centenary has been a great opportunity to give thanks and celebrate the past one hundred years and look forward to the next hundred years,” she said.
“I was delighted that it went off so well and so smoothly, especially when around 150 people packed the church. It was a very special occasion and a wonderful opportunity to welcome so many friends and visitors, like the granddaughter of one of our founders. She came all the way from Canada with her husband for the service. In fact, there are two families who are descended from our founders who still attend and are now into their fifth generation of worship here.”
While the congregation is currently seeking a new minister, who will be its 13th in 100 years, Arklow’s last minister, Rev. Michael Anderson, the leading force behind the building of the new Church, attended the service. His immediate two predecessors also attended, Rev. Jim Carson, Minister from 1989-2006 preached the sermon: ‘Jesus the same today, tomorrow and forever’ and Rev. Alistair, Bill, who was minister from 1982-1988, led prayers. The Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Rev. Trevor Gribben led the prayers of intercession.
Those gathered in the County Wicklow town heard three short greetings from Councillor Pat Kennedy, Vice Chair of Arklow Municipal District Council who spoke on behalf of the District and County Councils and Canon Martin Cosgrove of Saint Mary and Peter’s Catholic Church, who brought the greetings of the other churches in the town. As a Home Mission Church, David Bruce, Secretary of the PCI’s Council for Mission in Ireland brought greetings from the Council.
The centenary was also an opportunity to showcase the new extension that was completed in 2012 at a cost of €500,000 (£367,2000). The extension includes a new worship area and seating with three halls – which are used extensively by the local community for various activities various – meeting rooms and a new entrance and foyer. The renovations were funded largely by the congregation, generous supporters and supplemented with a grant from the Presbyterian Church's Home Mission.
Council Secretary, Rev. David Bruce said, “The story of Arklow Presbyterian Church is like Ireland’s recent story. It is changing rapidly, welcoming “new Irish” from all corners of the globe and redefining its relationship to the community.
“The church in Arklow wants to hold on to the best of the past, but adapt to the needs of a radically changed town which has been heavily impacted by the recession; a town which is now re-emerging and full of energy. The new church building, Montessori school, youth activities and outward-looking focus says to Arklow that the church believes in the town, loves the people and is here to stay.”
Those who took part in the Service of Celebration were:
Back Row (left to right) Father Martin Cosgrove P.P., Parish Priest of Saint Mary and Saint Peters Catholic Church, Arklow, Councillor Pat Kennedy, Vice Chair of Arklow Municipal Council
Rev. Michael Anderson, former minister of Arklow Presbyterian Church (APC)
Rev. David Bruce, Secretary, Council for Mission in Ireland, Rev. Jim Carson, former APC minister, Rev. Trevor Gribben, PCI’s Clerk of the General Assembly and Rev. Alistair Bill, former APC minister.
Front Row (left to right) organist Alison Crammond, Emily Kearon, APC’s Clerk of Session, Rev. Katherine Meyer, Christ Church Sandymount, Dublin, Vacancy Commission Convener, and Tara Crammond, Sunday School superintendent and a great-granddaughter of founding member of Arklow Presbyterian Church Joseph Crammond.