Newmills Presbyterian Church in Co Armagh has been at the heart of its community for more than two centuries and contines to thrive as a forward-thinking place of worship focusing on the spiritual needs of all
It’s a settled, semi-rural community, and yet the congregation has witnessed many changes over recent years.
I have been minister of Newmills for almost 19 years, and if we have proved anything, it’s that change can be embraced harmoniously in a church, if it’s managed and paced sensitively.
One of Newmills’ defining moments took place on June 5, 2001, when the vhurch building was completely destroyed in an arson attack.
I will never forget standing in the middle of the night watching the building engulfed in flames, wondering ‘Where do we go from here?’ It left our members deeply shocked, but it galvanised us together to rebuild and rethink what we were about as a church. Since then God has taken us on an exciting and eventful journey, on which He has been immeasurably faithful to us.
Our current worship building was opened in May 2003, and provides us with a welcoming, contemporary, yet dignified setting for worship. I was amazed how a change of building improved the dynamics of our fellowship, and allowed us to be more creative with our worship and ministries.
Newmills is a real family church, where we aim to be intergenerational in our approach. We have a very healthy number of younger families, but we remember that our grandparents and senior members still have a vital role to play and much wisdom to share.
We have a large number of organisations to cater for social and spiritual needs of all ages and stages of life, and admittedly, our already busy people sometimes struggle to maintain this programme.
Much of the vision of the congregation is driven by four working groups under the authority of the church elders.
The Mission Focus Group is responsible for directing local outreach into the community, and for the past few years has been responsible for organising community health fairs, Christianity Explored courses, and encouraging our members to take part in community events such as the annual Craigavon Lakes Fun Run.
Within our church programme, ‘Little Lights’, our Mums and Toddlers Group and NYPD (Newmills Young Peoples Den) are both designed primarily to help us as a church connect directly with many of our neighbours and friends who may have little or no other church affiliation.
We have established teams to call at many homes in our community over the years, to conduct district surveys to listen to the views of our neighbours, converse with them and offer them Christian literature.
We are however conscious that the Church is much bigger than our own congregation, and so our Missionary Committee oversees our congregation’s partnership with several organisations and personnel that are involved in mission in different parts of the world, as far apart as Nigeria, Eastern Europe and Canada.
The Pastoral Care Group ensures that people within the fellowship are cared for at times of illness, bereavement or crisis. This small working group is supplemented by a larger team of pastoral visitors, each of whom has been assigned an elderly member of the congregation to call with regularly.
It is encouraging to see the fellowship effectively practising the ministry of ‘bearing one another’s burdens’.
Underpinning all the work of the congregation is prayer! Our Prayer Action Team (PAT) seeks to mobilise our whole congregation in prayer and gives our people creative ways to pray. Along with our established times of prayer, the PAT organises prayer teams for major outreach events in our congregational life, co-ordinates the work of 13 prayer groups and oversees our student prayer scheme.
Recently the PAT facilitated a 24/7 prayer room and has organised the provision of prayer ministry after some of our Sunday services. The aim of the PAT is to encourage us to become a prayer-saturated church, and whilst we have a long way to go on this journey, we have been encouraged on our first few steps.
We meet at 11.30am and 6.30pm on Sundays and if you live conveniently to us and are not already part of another church fellowship, you would be very welcome to join us. All our church events are publicised on our website www.newmillspresbyterian.org