Last month Presbyterian Moderator the Rev Dr Rob Craig became well practised in opening new and refurbished church property. In four weeks, he was involved in five such ceremonies with buildings having a combined value of over £6.2m.
“These celebrations have been great experiences both for the congregations involved and me as the guest invited to join them on their special occasion,” said Dr Craig.
“There is obviously an excitement, but there is also confidence and practicality being demonstrated; confidence in their ministry and message and practicality in that to carry on the activities that are important to the congregation’s witness they need good physical resources that support quality leadership.”
The most extensive rebuild was at First Ahoghill, where one of the oldest congregations in the General Assembly, dating back to 1654, moved to a green field site on the outskirts of the Co Antrim village.
“The buildings on the old site dated from 1857,” explains First Ahoghill’s minister the Rev Eddie Kirk.
“We knew we needed to upgrade them, but the restraints of a very confined site and the listed status of the original meeting house made any renovations or rebuild both expensive and complicated.”
The congregation owned a field nearby and it embarked on a £2.5m project to include a meeting house, suite of halls and car parking space. The following weekend, the Moderator travelled to Magherafelt, where the 130-family strong Union Road congregation has just completed a £1.3m refurbishment new build programme that has modernised worship space and added a new welcome area, creche facilities and meeting rooms.
“The original church building that we worship in dates back to the 19th century and now has been a good time to combine necessary refurbishment with some modernisation and providing some extra space,” says the Rev Jonathan Currie, minister of Union Road since 2005.
Next venue for Dr Craig was Enniskillen and an ambitious £1.6m project that took 16 months to complete.
The message is very much ‘Welcome – Come In’ and glass panelled doors invite passers-by from Enniskillen’s main thoroughfare into the welcoming atmosphere of ‘The Bridge Centre’, the name chosen for the new church and hall complex.
“Everyone devoted much thought and prayer to choosing this name and we are all agreed that it expresses our desire that the halls and church will be a bridge between us and the wider local community,” says Enniskillen minister the Rev David Cupples.
From Enniskillen it was on to Ballykelly for the Moderator where a £0.5m development has refurbished the main hall, both internally and externally and created a new hall extension with rooms for smaller groups including a worship room for prayer and Bible study and additional space for Sunday school and other meetings as well as refurbishing the youth suite.
The final venue was Newmills Presbyterian Church outside Dungannon in Co Tyrone, where a new hall has been built at a cost of £300,000 to replace the old one that had “served its time”.