Dr. McNeely was one of the 24 individuals to receive various awards at the annual ceremony. Having graduated with a Bachelor of Education from Stranmillis College of Education in 1976, he received his Bachelor of Divinity from Queen’s University five years later, prior to being ordained in Belfast’s Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in 1982.
Professor Gordon Campbell read the citation and spoke of Dr. McNeely’s imagination and leadership and how appropriate the Latin motto of Tottenham Hotspur ‘audere facere’ ‘to dare is to do’ was to this particular fan. Speaking of the Moderator-Designate’s time in First Ballymoney Presbyterian Church, his first congregation and his current ministry in First Holywood, Professor Campbell said that they would have also experienced his pastoral sensitivity, “…indeed folk see in him a mix of courage, wisdom and faith, or qualities that would have made him a good diplomat in another life!
“…Noble has also brought imagination to the contemporary challenges of sharing Jesus Christ with ordinary people in a post-Troubles environment: sports ministry, St. Patrick’s Night events or a gift of the Easter story and a creme egg to local homes around the church – these are examples of ways that have been found to engage the local community and commend to it the Good News.”
Professor Campbell also spoke of Dr. McNeely’s involvement in church life centrally holding numerous positions on various boards and committees, and the 17 years he served on the Board of Studies and its successors through to convening the present Council for Training and Ministry until last year, which brought in a number of key developments.
He concluded by saying, “we now look forward with anticipation to see what the Moderator-Designate will do with ‘audere facere’ in his forthcoming role.”
The Presbyterian Theological Faculty, Ireland awards degrees by the authority of its Royal Charter, which was granted by Queen Victoria in 1881. Congratulating all the recipients the Principal of Union College, Professor Stafford Carson, who presided over the graduation (pictured with Dr. McNeely), said, “To the Moderator-Designate and all the successful students I offer my heart-felt congratulations.
“Thirteen ministry students received a Postgraduate Diploma in Ministry and a Certificate for Licensing, which marks the end of their formal theological education in preparation for ordained ministry within the Church.
"The students are already serving as assistant ministers in a number of congregations and they will be licensed as probationers for the ministry by their presbyteries at services in their home churches next month. As Union Theological College continues to prepare students for effective ministry in Ireland, our prayer is that God would use them and all recipients in significant ways that contributes to the advancement of His Kingdom.”
The graduation also included Heidi England who qualified as a deaconess and eight students of Theology at Queen's University who completed certificates and diplomas in youth ministry.
Professor Carson also acknowledged the work of Union College’s Professor Stephen Williams, who delivered the Charge to the students. Describing him as ‘an internationally-recognised scholar and theologian,’ the graduation was Professor Williams’ final public event as full-time Professor of Systematic Theology after 20 years of teaching at Union and at Queen's University.
Dr. McNeely was elected on 7th February and will be officially nominated to and installed at as year's General Assembly which takes place from the 5th-10th June this year.