A century ago, as the Great War raged around the world, the seeds of a now thriving evangelical outreach were sown in a rural village which straddles two of the counties which comprise the Ulster Bible Belt – Antrim and Armagh.
Although the staunchly Salvationist Elim Pentecostal movement has its initial founding roots in Monaghan, the Maghaberry community can boast one of Elim’s first three fellowships in Ireland.
The fellowship has worshipped in several locations around the village since 1915 before settling in its present church on the main street opposite the local primary school in 1992.
In spite of the strength of mainstream Protestant denominations in the wider Lagan Valley community, the dedication of a number of families over the decades saw the Maghaberry fellowship survive.
But since the arrival of Mr Brian Madden as its full-time pastor almost four years ago, the fellowship has gone and from strength to strength in numbers and outreach activities in what is now a thriving commuter village.
While Maghaberry is perhaps better known as host to one of Northern Ireland’s biggest prisons, the late 20th host of new developments.
Ideally located near the M1 motorway, Belfast and Lisburn cities, and Belfast International Airport, Maghaberry Elim found itself equally located for a spiritual revival in the community. After much prayer, the Lord answered with the appointment of Pastor Madden.
Such has been the growth in the fellowship and its evangelical activities, it is now in the process of expanding its premises. The core of the spiritual revival in the community has been the sound Christ-centred preaching of Pastor Madden and the professionalism of the church’s highly talented worship team.
The message that Jesus Saves is faithfully preached at the two Sunday services at 11.30 am and 6.30pm, along with the Wednesday night prayer and Bible study at 8pm. Indeed, the church has also developed the ethos of ‘The Caring Christians’, with a range of organisations and activities which take the wonderful Biblical message of Jesus Christ to the wider community. On Sundays, there is the enjoyable Sunday School – known as JAM (Jesus And Me) and senior Bible class in the morning; a crèche during the morning service, and a keen youth fellowship after the evening Gospel service.
Bringing the message of Christ’s Salvation to the youth of the Maghaberry community is central to the church’s outreach programme, with the junior youth club – known as Detonate – and the senior youth club on Friday evenings at 6.30pm and 8pm respectively, along with a very popular summer scheme and August Bible Week.
While many organisations take a break during the summer months, Maghaberry Elim shifts into top gear in evangelical outreach, with the high point being the annual Family Fun Day in the church grounds in late July, which takes place immediately after our successful summer scheme which is organised by Mrs Martine Madden and always fully booked on the first day of registration.
Given the hundreds of people of all ages who come to the Fun Day, it has established itself not just as one of the premier outreach activities in Maghaberry Elim’s calendar, but also one of the leading events in the entire village’s community.
Held in the church car park, there are stalls for the children including face painting and arts and crafts, with tray bakes and tea and coffee served in the main church hall. A number of Christian groups have stalls, emphasising the church’s missionary work. There is also a BBQ serving hot dogs and burgers. The PSNI car and Fire Engine also prove popular will everyone.
The Christian message of the Risen Saviour is not merely limited to encouraging people to come to the actual church itself. Under Pastor Madden’s ministry, Maghaberry Elim enjoys the challenge of regularly taking this message into the community itself.
On Friday evenings, members of the church’s street outreach team, The Soldiers of God – complete with their distinctive red jackets – engage in door to door work and have even completed evangelical work in Lisburn and Belfast city centres.
In 2013, when the annual Twelfth demonstration for Lagan Valley was hosted at the nearby Magheragall area, an outreach team from Maghaberry Elim distributed nearly 1,000 New Testaments to Orangemen, bandsmen and the public at the main demonstration field.
Catering for the spiritual needs of people of all ages is also a central theme of Maghaberry Elim’s ‘Caring Christian’ ethos. There are challenging activities run at the monthly meetings of the successfully established and popular Men’s Fellowship, Ladies’ Fellowship as well as the recently formed 20 to 40 Group.
Given the church’s close proximity to the village primary school with its extensive car park, Maghaberry Elim has also launched a Wednesday afternoon outreach for parents, relatives and friends collecting the pupils. Praise and music form a major part of the church’s activities, and the fellowship regularly plays host to an extensive array of Gospel singers, musicians and groups. The church has been so blessed with the talent in its worship team, that it was able to recently
record its own CD of popular Gospel songs and distribute a complimentary copy to every home in the village. The CD has also been featured on radio Gospel music programmes.
Also unique to Maghaberry Elim is that the men’s fellowship has formed its own male voice choir, which was formally launched as part of the Christmas 2013 festivities. Another unique group is the Ladies’ Fellowship led by Mrs Martine Madden, Pastor Brian’s wife. It has witnessed tremendous growth and times of fellowship over the past few years. On the social front, the church’s annual Christmas dinner is one of its most popular events, along with the annual outings for the young people and adults. The church not only focuses on Christian praise and in depth Biblical teaching, there is also a strong emphasis on prayer, particularly in the area of divine healing. Church members and worshippers devote much time not just to individual prayer, but special meetings and services
are held to pray for those who require healing from illnesses and challenges.
Pastor Madden said: “While we have seen both our church and range of activities grow in recent years, we give all the glory to the Lord Himself for this success. The church leadership has devised both an expansion plan and programme of activities which will see us expand our opportunities to take the glorious message that Christ Saves to the community.”
Additional information about the church and its activities can be obtained online at www.maghaberryelim.com where it also operates a social media outlet as part of its campaign to spread the Gospel. This includes recordings of Pastor Madden’s challenging sermons on a range of Christian topics.