During their year in office, each Moderator makes a week-long tour of 3 of the Church’s 19 presbyteries, which are local regional church bodies located across Ireland. Accompanied by his wife Florence, Dr. McNeely’s tour of Route Presbytery is his first tour and began yesterday, when he spoke at the harvest service in St. James’ Church, Ballymoney in the morning and Kilraughts Presbyterian in the evening.
“It’s most fitting that my first Presbytery Tour happens to be the Presbytery where I began my ministry following four years of assistantship in Belfast. I was installed to First Ballymoney in May 1984 where I served until 1997. Florence and I anticipate a kind of homecoming to north Antrim, where we had 13 happy years and where all of our three children were born,” Dr. McNeely said.
“It will be an emotional occasion to enter the pulpit in First Ballymoney and preach again to the congregation. I recognise there will be many changes and significant people who contributed to our ministry of 13 years will be missing.”
From Bushmills in the north, round the coast road to Ballycastle, Route Presbytery extends across much of north County Antrim, taking in Cloughmills to the south and Finvoy to the west with the town of Ballymoney at its heart. Containing 22 congregations, which includes just over 9,000 people of all ages, the Moderator will see first-hand the work of the Church on the ground, encouraging congregations, meeting ministers, local business people, farmers and visiting schools.
Looking forward to renewing friendships and visiting familiar churches, Dr. McNeely continued, “Ballymoney remains a happy memory for Florence and me and I am pleased that we had the opportunity to be at St. James’ Church and Kilraughts yesdterday and look forward to being back in First Ballymoney this coming Sunday morning and Bushvale that evening.
“The tour programme is well filled with a variety of engagements and social events. We are visiting Route during the Harvest Thanksgiving season, so we will be taking part in services in the farming community where harvest remains a significant occasion. The itinerary reflects the nature of the community as it includes visits to dairy and beef farms, a salmon fishery, a farmers’ forum and a potato festival.”
During the week Dr. McNeely will also be taking part in services and events at another six churches across the Presbytery. He will visit a number of local schools. “As I preach at a number of services and speak at other events I will be concentrating on promoting the theme ‘Everyday Disciples’. The members of Route Presbytery face all the challenges of increasing secularism and I trust that my preaching may encourage them as they seek to witness to Christ in their community. I hope also to discover from the congregations the bigger issues they are engaging with and explore as disciples how we can address the obstacles that affect local mission.
“Our tour of Route will, however, primarily be to experience the faithful work of Presbyterians advancing God’s kingdom and taking up the cross daily as disciples of Jesus in North Antrim,” the Moderator said.
Rev. Noel McClean, minister of First Kilraughts Presbyterian Church and Clerk of Route Presbytery, said that he and his colleagues were very much looking forward to welcoming the Moderator for his first Presbytery Tour. “We are looking forward to Noble making a return to North Antrim where he will renew old friendships, make new ones and see how church life has progressed since he left in 1997.”