Accompanied by his wife Karen, on Sunday morning Dr Mawhinney will preach in Second Castlederg Presbyterian Church and First Castlederg, visiting Ardstraw Presbyterian Church in the evening for the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade enrolment service, where he will talk to and pray for the children and young people.
With other congregational visits on the agenda, including a mid-week meeting in Clogherney Presbyterian Church, he will take part in the Remembrance Sunday service at Enniskillen’s War Memorial, the final day of the tour, when Dr Mawhinney will also preach in the town’s Presbyterian church nearby.
Omagh Presbytery is one of 19 regional bodies that make up the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, overseeing the local churches in their area. The Presbytery takes in the geographical area of west Tyrone, and all of County Fermanagh, and is one of the most widespread presbyteries in PCI. Consisting of 40 congregations, it is largely rural, and takes in the towns of Castlederg, Newtownstewart, Omagh, Fintona, Ballygawley, Irvinestown, Enniskillen, Lisnaskea and Pettigo. A moderator last toured the presbytery in 2019.
Speaking about the tour, Dr Mawhinney said. “I am really looking forward to my visit and having the opportunity to encourage the churches and their people in the west of the province, which are far removed from the denomination's headquarters in Belfast’s Assembly Buildings. A recent visit to County Cork, and our most southerly congregations, gave me a fresh appreciation for all that our ministers who serve the Lord in rural congregations do, and I whole heartedly commend their dedication and hard work in ministry.
“I hope the ministers and congregations in the Presbytery of Omagh will be encouraged by my visit as they are reminded of their belonging to the General Assembly of PCI and that we value them highly. Throughout the visit I hope to have time to spend with ministers, their families and congregations, encouraging them to have ‘Confidence in Christ,’ as they serve their people and communities.”
The minister of Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church in Dublin also said that he is ‘very keen’ to see not only what happens on Sunday, but what the church is doing in the community. “It will be a busy week, but I am looking forward to visiting, schools and being part of four assemblies, seeing local businesses, including a farm, PCI’s residential nursing home, Harold McCauley House, and Omagh hospital. There are also a couple of events with young people, and I look forward to engaging with them. I knew the hospital from my time as a medical student in the 1980s and occasional visits when I worked in Altnagelvin Hospital, before studying for the Presbyterian ministry..”
The tour is the second of four such tours that the Moderator will make during his year in office. This tour ends just four days before the start of his Overseas Tour to Kenya. For Presbytery Clerk, Rev Robert Herron OBE, minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Omagh and Gillygooley Presbyterian, this presbytery tour will be the last that he has helped to organise as clerk after 20 years in the role. “Congregations in the Presbytery are looking forward to welcoming the Moderator as the senior representative of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, as he comes to listen, share and encourage us, while experiencing life in our community.
“We are looking forward to his visit, but it comes at a challenging time for our congregations in West Tyrone and Fermanagh. At full strength, our 40 churches that make up the Presbytery are served by 19 ministers. By the end of this year, with retirements, including my own, and ministers receiving calls to serve congregations elsewhere, that number will further reduce. Having said that we are looking forward to being encouraged and hearing about the Moderator’s theme for the year, ‘Confidence in Christ’,” Mr Herron said.
The week that Dr Mawhinney is in the Presbytery coincides with Remembrance Sunday. During the tour he will pay his respects at the Omagh Bomb Memorial and visit Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday itself. Having taken part in the Royal British Legion’s Service of Remembrance at the town’s cenotaph, he will preach in Enniskillen Presbyterian Church. “The community in the Presbytery of Omagh have suffered many deaths and trauma during The Troubles; it will be my privilege to stand with them, listen carefully to their stories and pray for God’s grace, peace and presence.
“I will be joined throughout the week by my wife Karen, and I would ask you to pray for us as preparations are finalised, and as we travel and engage with as many people as we can in throughout next week,” he said.”
Photos (1) Dr and Mrs Mawhinney outside Adelaide Presbyterian Church in Dublin and (2) Second Castlederg Presbyterian Church, where the Omagh Presbytery Tour will open this Sunday morning.