PCI’s youngest Moderator in living memory, who is just 17 months older than the congregation itself, attended a special dinner on Saturday evening to mark its golden anniversary. The dinner was attended by over 120 people in Dunsilly hotel, which included one of the congregation’s former ministers and all of the deaconesses who have served the church over the past half century. The Moderator returned to preach at a special service on Sunday morning.
Rev Jonathan Moxen, who is the fifth minister of Greystone Road since 1969, said that he was delighted that the Moderator had been able to come and join the congregation for what is a yearlong celebration. “This has been a special weekend and a celebration of one of those mile stones in the life of a congregation that is significant for a number of reasons.
“The primary reason is that it gives us, as a gathering of a people of God, the opportunity to pause and give thanks to Him for His faithfulness and His goodness to us over the past 50 years. It is also significant that many of those who were there on that first Sunday, half a century ago, are still here worshipping with us today.”
The congregation first met in a large ‘hut’ in November 1969 and was initially drawn together from members of the First Antrim and High Street congregations. The new church was under the leadership of the minister in Killead and Loanends Presbyterian, Rev Derek Weir, until Rev George Cunningham, was installed as Greystone Road’s first minister in April 1971. The present church building was opened the following year.
Mr Moxen explained that the congregation was initially planted on the outskirts of the town to serve new families who had moved into the town from across Northern Ireland. Many of whom had come from Belfast to escape the Troubles.
“The physical location of Greystone Road is on a hill overlooking to the town of Antrim and the Lough beyond. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of his followers being “‘…the light of the world. A town built on a hill [that] cannot be hidden…’” Our Lord also tells us in that passage, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’” In that sense, we are literally, a light set upon a hill.
“It is our prayer that Greystone Road Presbyterian has been and will continue to be a light that shines through its people to the world around about it for another 50 years and beyond. A light that draws people to Jesus. We also pray that through faithful ministry the congregation continues to reach out to those who do not know Jesus Christ as their own Lord and Saviour, and to disciple those who do,” he said.
The congregation is made up of some 350 families with active ministries in a wide range of areas that support and compliment the life of the local community. From children to youth work, including Boys’ and Girl’s Brigade companies and Mums and Tots, other outreach activities have also developed, along with a partnership with Christians Against Poverty, which has seen many people liberated out of debt.
Speaking after his weekend with members of Greystone Road Presbyterian Church, the Moderator, Dr Henry said, “As Moderator I visit congregations across Ireland and I am always struck by how, in different ways, they serve the community, and how this work is being done quietly and compassionately in the name of Jesus. Greystone Road Presbyterian is no different.
“It was a pleasure to be part of this weekend’s celebrations, hearing about the witness and outreach of the Church, and preaching on Sunday morning in a church that is actually younger than me! The number on the cake, however, doesn’t really matter. As one of my predecessors said a few years ago, it doesn’t really matter if we are celebrating 40, 50 or 350 years of the life and witness of a congregation. While they are all special occasions to be marked, what really matters is that faithful Christian people saw a need, both spiritual and practical, and began something new. They preached the gospel, sowed the seed and above all else they were faithful in all of this.
Throughout the year Greystone Road Presbyterian have organised other events, which have included A Celebration of Music Weekend with the Belfast Community Gospel Choir. Other events have also been organised.
Photos: (1) left to right Rev Trevor McNeill, Moderator of the Presbytery of Templepatrick, the Moderator, Dr Henry, Rev Jonathan Moxen, minister of Greystone Road and one of his predecessors, Rev Denis Bannerman who was minister from 1994-2006 (2) Greystone Road's deaconesses, past and present Heather McClean, Christine Freeburn , Roberta Irvine (present deaconess) with Heather McCracken and Pat Shirley.