Speaking about the tour in advance, Dr Mawhinney said. “Each one is intensive, with upwards of 20 to 30 different engagements and meetings across the week, but they are so worthwhile. They are also wonderful opportunities for Moderators to get a genuine feel for the life and ministry of the Church. This time, for personal reasons, the tour of Templepatrick Presbytery will different, as it holds some special memories for me and my wife Karen.
“I met Karen in First Antrim Presbyterian, and was married there in 1993. We will be there next Sunday, the last day of the tour when I will preach. Having studied to become a doctor, I wrestled with leaving medicine while working in Templepatrick surgery, to offer myself for the ordained ministry. It was First Antrim where I was licenced to preach and spent time as a trainee minister. I also played a little hockey for Antrim Town and have family roots in the area, as does Karen,” Dr Mawhinney said.
The Moderator continued, “As you can see, the Presbytery of Templepatrick has been a significant shaper of my life, holding many fond memories. I know it well geographically, having travelled throughout when on call as a trainee GP, and I look forward to revisiting it during the tour.”
Dr Mawhinney’s tour opened yesterday morning when he preached in Kilbride Presbyterian Church and Templepatrick Presbyterian in the evening. On Wednesday, the presbytery will come together for a joint celebration in Muckamore Presbyterian Church, with the tour concluding on Sunday 11 February in Randalstown Presbyterian, and First Antrim in the evening, where he and his wife Karen met and were married.
Throughout the week there will also be a number of pastoral meetings with different groups of ministers for prayer and fellowship. “Psalm 27:13 says, “I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” My theme for the year is “Confident in Christ” and I hope to encourage a real confidence in Jesus as the PCI members serve the Lord, each other and their communities. Following Jesus, being his disciples is to be a positive, active and outwardly focused reality and I want to encourage this as I visit. I am also looking forward to seeing and being with my colleagues in ministry” Dr Mawhinney said.
Made up of 20 congregations, the Presbytery takes in the towns of Antrim, Crumlin, Randalstown and Templepatrick itself. Situated on the north and eastern shores of Lough Neagh, it extends to just before Toome in the northern part and as far as Ballyeaston to the northeast, and Dundrod in the south, reaching Mullusk at the Presbytery’s eastern edge.
James Livingstone, Clerk of Templepatrick Presbytery explained that visits to schools and businesses, alongside civic engagements, will also feature on the agenda. “Our Presbytery is very much looking forward to the visit of the Moderator and Mrs Mawhinney who has a very strong connection with this part of County Antrim. During their visit they will not only see the work of the church, but visit Loanends Primary School and Crumlin Integrated College.”
Mr Livingstone continued, “In addition to preaching in five of our 20 congregations, Dr Mawhinney will visit the Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Antrim Area Hospital and a number of major employers within the Presbytery bounds, including Randox Laboratories and Brett Martin. Agriculture will also feature with visits to a farm and Greenmount College, while he will also visit Lough Neagh Fisheries.
“The week promises to be a busy one for Dr and Mrs Mawhinney, with one of the key aspects of the tour being the meetings that the Moderator will have with our ministers in small groups, to offer pastoral support and encouragement. Mrs Mawhinney will also be meeting with minister’s wives. The Moderator will also conduct the opening worship at our monthly meeting of presbytery, at which we will take part with the other 18 presbyteries in the election of his successor,” he said.
As he prepares for the tour, Dr Mawhinney said, “Each tour is a wonderful opportunity to focus on the churches, and see first-hand the wide variety of ministry they are engaged in. It also has engagement with business and the public square. Templepatrick will be no different, and I am excited to meet those involved in industry, farming, health, and those leading and serving wider civic society, alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ who worship and live out their lives there.”
Photos (1) Dr and Mrs Mawhinney, who were married in First Antrim Presbyterian Church (Credit PCI/Jamie Trimble) (2) Kilbride Presbyterian Church, where Dr Mawhinney preached on Sunday morning, at the start of the presbytery tour (Credit geograph.org.uk/Wikimedia commons)