Presbytery tour – ‘A busy but a good week’

10.10.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Church Life, Presbytery Tour, Presbytery News, Education

With the last hymn sung at Legacurry Presbyterian Church on Sunday evening, one of the 22 congregations that make up the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) Presbytery of Dromore, PCI’s Moderator, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, wrapped up his weeklong tour of the Presbytery.

Accompanied by his wife Joan, it was a busy week for Dr Kirkpatrick which saw him undertake over 20 engagements across the Presbytery, which covers the central belt of County Down taking in Dromara, Drumbo, Moira, Royal Hillsborough, and Lisburn. This was the first of four such tours the Moderator will make of the denomination’s 19 regional presbyteries during his year in office. Each one is an opportunity to acknowledge and encourage the work of congregations and the difference that they make in their local communities, while visiting a number of organisations supported by local churches.

“It was a busy week, but a good week. I preached in Ballinderry Presbyterian Church, Maze Presbyterian and Banbridge Road Presbyterian on the first Sunday and then Hillsborough Presbyterian and Legacurry last Sunday, having led devotions at the Presbytery meeting and met with a number of my colleagues and their families throughout the week.

“Having said that, the Presbytery did give us Saturday off, but after a week of 14 hour days, I have to say I am still as fresh today as I was when we started the tour - and that is a miracle! I was so conscious of being upheld in prayer. Prayers really make a difference.”

Dr Kirkpatrick started his year as Moderator in June, so this was his first presbytery tour, admitting that he wasn’t quite sure of what to expect. “I came to see, but more importantly I came with a willingness to listen. My overriding impression is that it has been a really positive experience. The life of the church is more vibrant that you would think.

“But like PCI as whole, local congregations are still very much in recovery mode after the pandemic and the lockdowns. I found resilience, especially in my colleagues in ministry who have been on the frontline, often looking at new and creative ways to meet peoples’ needs. I am glad to say that I found the Church in good heart and I was really encouraged by what I saw. It was very evident to me that congregational life across the Presbytery did not stop at the Church door on a Sunday, as I saw so many examples of service in the community and civic life.” Dr Kirkpatrick said.

There were strong civic and community elements to the tour, which included lunch with the Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council at its Lagan Valley Island Civic Headquarters. Dr Kirkpatrick also met PCI’s Forces Chaplains at Thiepval Barracks, visited the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland at Maze where two cheques were presented – the collection from the retiring offering at PCI’s General Assembly Evening Celebration and another from Legacurry Presbyterian Church. Dr Kirkpatrick also took time to visit the Boys’ Brigade HQ in Culcavy and the Ulster Aviation Museum. He also saw the work of charities like Via Wings in Dromore and Christians Against Poverty in Lisburn, while hearing about the community outreach of Ballymacash FC on a visit to the club.

Throughout the week education played an important part of the tour, seeing Dr Kirkpatrick visit three schools in the Presbytery. At Wallace High School he spent time with Sixth Formers as they studied ethical world views, talking with them and answering questions. He also had an opportunity to meet members of the school’s Scripture Union. At Pond Park Primary School, Dr Kirkpatrick spoke during assembly, taking and answering questions afterwards from a class of P7s. He also spent time with senior staff and students on a visit to Dromore High School where he spoke at the Year 8 Assemlby.

“Schools are integral to the life of families and local communities, and have also been through a lot in responding to, and dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic. It was important to take this opportunity to express our thanks to all those who contribute to school life, including teachers and governors, for all that they do. As they face multiple challenges it was also an opportunity to reaffirm PCI’s commitment to schools and encourage their non-denominational Christian ethos, which enables children and young people to flourish. I also wanted to listen, especially to the pupils themselves and I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with them,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.

With this tour completed, the Moderator’s thoughts turn to his second presbytery tour when he will visit Route Presbytery in November. The Presbytery covers much of the north coast from Bushmills to Ballycastle, extending in land to Ballymoney and across much of north County Antrim. This weekend, however, will see Dr Kirkpatrick begin his overseas tour of Hungary. Here he will see the work of the Reformed Church in Hungary, one of PCI’s partner churches, and their support for Ukrainian refugees.

Photo captions: From top right (1) Dr and Mrs Kirkpatrick with Very Rev Dr William Henry, the minister in charge of  Ballinderry Presbyterian after the Moderator preached at the morning service (2) the Moderator with Councillor Scott Carson Mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council (3) presenting Legacurry’s cheque to the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (4) Dr Kirkpatrick with Ballymacash FC Chaplain Rev Andrew Thompson (5) and with members of the team at the Boys’ Brigade Northern Ireland Headquarters, Clucavy (6) the Moderator speaking at Dromore High School’s Year 8 Assembly and (7) and with Six Formers at Wallace High (8) Dr Kirkpatrick with some of Pond Park Primary’s P7s and Rev Andrew Thompson, chair of the Board of Governors (9) Dr and Mrs Kirkpatrick enjoying the hospitality of Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church, after the Dromore congregation’s Praise & Prayer Night.

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