With a strong focus on education, with visits to a number of schools, Dr Kirkpatrick will also see how local congregations and church members are supporting people through the economic crisis. Visits to see the work of Christians Against Poverty and the charity Via Wings, along with food banks and school clothes schemes are also scheduled.
The Church’s 500-plus congregations across Ireland are divided into 19 regional presbyteries and 22 of them make up the Presbytery of Dromore. The Presbytery covers the north eastern corner of County Down, extending along the Lagan Valley from Lisburn, then westwards towards Moira and the south eastern shore of Lough Neagh, reaching beyond Hillsborough and on towards the Dromara Hills, then eastwards to Anahilt.
It will be a busy week of over 20 engagements for the Moderator and his wife Joan that will see Dr Kirkpatrick preach in a number of local churches, starting with the first three services this Sunday: Ballinderry Presbyterian Church and Maze Presbyterian in the morning, followed by Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church in Dromore in the evening. The Presbytery tour will conclude next Sunday, 9 October, when he preaches in Hillsborough Presbyterian in the morning and Legacurry Presbyterian in the evening. Two of them will be Harvest Thanksgiving Services.
Very Rev Dr William Henry, Clerk of Dromore Presbytery and minister of Maze Presbyterian helped organise the visit and is looking forward to welcoming Dr and Mrs Kirkpatrick to his congregation this Sunday. He will also accompany them on the tour. “Having been involved in four presbytery tours in my own year as Moderator, I know how important the encouragement such visits can make to those in leadership in local congregations, but also to everyone in the local churches,” he said.
“Presbytery tours are busy, but a wonderful opportunity for a Moderator to get ‘out and about’ and get to know the church they are leading, if only for a year. A tour like this is also an important opportunity to acknowledge the often overlooked quiet witness of God’s people serving their local community. Inevitably there can only be so many places to call in, so Dr Kirkpatrick will only get to see a small part of what the church is doing in this area, but it will be a very welcome visit.”
This visit to the Presbytery of Dromore will be the first to be undertaken by a Moderator in seven years, with a number of opportunities to meet with and encourage ministers and their spouses from across the Presbytery. It will also be a time to acknowledge the work of local elders, youth workers and deaconesses who work in local congregations, which the Moderator will do at another meeting during the week.
There are also a strong civic and community elements to each tour and the visit to Dromore Presbytery is no exception. Next week Dr Kirkpatrick will have an opportunity to listen to and talk with Sixth Formers at Wallace High School and spend time with members of the school’s Scripture Union. He will also take assembly and meet students and teachers at Dromore High School and Pond Park Primary School in Lisburn.
“While this will all be very new to me, I am very much looking forward to my first presbytery tour,” the minister of Portrush Presbyterian said, who became Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at the denomination’s June General Assembly.
“People often forget that the church isn’t just for Sundays and what we often don’t see is the endless and tireless amount of work done out in the community to help others. In these hard-pressed times we want to be available to people, as we are a Church where the Grace of God is at work in us, and though us, so that we might be a blessing to others in serving the community where we can make Jesus known,” Dr Kirkpatrick continued.
The Moderator also said that the contribution churches were making, especially in these uncertain days would also feature, especially the work of local food banks and school clothes schemes, which a number of churches have facilitated. Dr Kirkpatrick will see the outworking of this care and compassion first-hand in Dromore and Lisburn. He will also get a handle on the work of charities Christians Against Poverty, at Sloan Street Presbyterian in Lisburn, and Via Wings in Dromore.
“Acknowledging and encouraging the work that our congregations are doing, and their members, is an important part of my job. With a focus on leadership, each tour also has a strong pastoral element to it. I am very much looking forward to meeting with many of my colleagues in ministry for prayer and fellowship, as well as those employed by the church, particularly after the challenges faced during Covid, as I want to encourage those leaders and reaffirm their calling to serve God and their community,” he said.
During the week the Moderator will also visit the Air Ambulance Service. At June’s the General Assembly’s the leaving offering at the Thursday Evening Celebration was for the charity. Legacurry Presbyterian will also make a presentation at its Sunday service, following a recent fundraising event.
At Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, Dr Kirkpatrick will also meet PCI’s Forces Chaplains and hear of the special ministry that they undertake. A visit the Boys’ Brigade HQ in Culcavy is on the schedule and he will pay a courtesy call on the Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.
Photos: (1) The Moderator and his wife Joan with Luna, the family Golden Retriever (credit David Cavan) (2) Very Rev Dr William Henry, Clerk of the Dromore Presbytery (credit Jamie Trimble) (3) Lisburn Civic Centre (credit Manfred Hugh via Wikimedia Commons)