Opening of Churches for Easter in Northern Ireland 2021

To all Ministers, GPC, and Congregational Office bearers (whose emails I have).tulips 5064893 1920
19th March 2021

Dear Colleagues and Church Members,

As you may know several of the main denominations are reopening their church
doors for the Easter period.

We would encourage those of you, who feel it appropriate to open your church for
Easter to place a strong emphasis on the importance of wearing masks, social
distancing, hand washing and sanitising etc. — mindful of the risk that the rollout
of the vaccination programme could make people complacent about the very real
risks which remain.

We appreciate the sacrifices many of you have made by not holding ‘in person’
services and where possible going on line and communicating with church
members by telephone, mobile, email etc. over the past year.

The BBC are planning to host an interdenominational service for Easter Sunday
which we could all enjoy.

We encourage you especially at Easter, to remember and in your prayers and
reflections, to think about, what many people (including those of all faiths and
none) have been through as a result of Covid-19.

With every good wish,
Yours in the Lord,
Chris and Robert

(Moderator & Clerk of the NSPCI)

November Magazine

Dear Friends

The NOVEMBER edition of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Magazine is available.  The Table of Contents appears below. 

If you are interested in subscribing to receive the magazine, please be in contact with Rev. Heather Walker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Despite services being smaller in size at the moment, they are still filled with heart and spirit. Many of our Churches had beautiful harvest arrangements, including this autumn-themed centrepiece in Killinchy. 
Editorial    2
On Circumspection   3
Christian Aid Christmas Appeal   5
New of the Churches   7
Social services    10
-A selection of virtual worship and inspiration from our Churches' Social Media sites. 
Children's Corner     23
The Hymns We Sang Together    24
Obituaries     25
Online Ministry Links and Addresses    26

If nothing else, 2020 has been a good year for memories!  We have certainly made some new ones, and it will be interesting to see how the various country across the world will be remembered by future generations for their response to Covid-19 throughout the year.  We might, in future years, remember having to go back to the car to pick up a mask before entering a shop.  We might talk of the great ‘toilet-paper shortage’ or the ‘Rise of Deliveroo’.  We might have new reasons to laugh at ourselves as a species; or the memories might be sharper: painful and sorrow filled.  As we come through November, many families are facing their first Christmas without a familiar face within the home.  Perhaps Remembrance Day this year will be more poignant than most as we, like those on the first Armistice Day, struggle to comprehend the number of casualties and deaths, and are unaware of the lasting effects on global politics, economics and mental health.  As we stand to remember the fallen, will our minds turn also to the medical staff in the beleaguered hospitals and care homes?  The frontline workers trying to keep the supply chains running and prevent food poverty compounding the problems of isolation and vulnerability?  The grieving, the anxious, the despairing and hopeless; those who blame the government and those who blame God.  All those, in fact, that Jesus shared with throughout His life and ministry.  Is our society now so very different to the one into which Christ was born?  Are the people we interact with (masked and socially distanced, of course) totally removed from those who called for His crucifixion, or wept at His tomb?  I would be inclined to think not.  I remember His words of compassion to all: words of comfort, forgiveness and challenge.  I remember the lives He changed and the visions He inspired; the social norms He dispelled and the outcasts He touched.  I wonder how we can best honour that memory; and recognise that all we can try to do is continue walking within that legacy, reaching out to those who are broken and offering compassion to those exhausted by the trials of this year.

I loved viewing and receiving photographs of harvest food bank donations alongside the colourful displays of fruit and flowers this year; a reminder that we do look beyond the trappings of ‘church’ to the substance of the social gospel: making a positive difference in the lives of those it is within our power to help, in the Name of Jesus.  We remember those in need, not with pity but with practicality; not to degrade, but to dignify.  In doing this, we show love and fulfil the Lord requirement from Micah 6:8: ‘to do justice, and love merciful-kindness and to walk humbly with your God’.

Yours in Christ.



December issue of the Magazine

The DECEMBER edition of the Non-Subsribing Presbyterian Magazine is available.  The Table of Contents appears below. 

If you are interested in subscribing to receive the magazine, please be in contact with Rev. Heather Walker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

COVER PHOTO: Harvest Celebrations continued to take place in some of our churches, yeilding more beautiful and colourful displays. This joyful rainbow was created by Elizabeth Stevenson from Banbridge. I think it's the display of 2020!
I love Christmastide. 
This year, a much larger population than usual seems to have embraced the Christmas spirit early.  Trees have appeared earlier in homes, windows have been decorated with festive artwork; the darker nights are already aglow with neon stars and snowflakes.  I follow my own little traditions: the Christmas cups come down from the top shelf as soon as the ‘red cups’ arrive in certain large multi-national coffee stores, the red nose and antlers are attached to my long-suffering car, the summer Lego display is removed from the windowsill and replaced with a winter set, and my legion of Willowtree angels are assembled into a sizeable Nativity scene.  It brings me joy, and I suspect that search for joy is behind this year’s earlier immersion into festive decor.
It’s a theme running through the first Nativity narrative too - just like the characters in the Gnostic parable ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the gospel writers introduce us to a number of individuals who are searching for something which may, when distilled, be described simply as ‘joy’. 
Joseph sought a good wife, space to work as a carpenter and stay below the notice of the Romans.  For him, joy was following in the footsteps of tradition, yet still find the freedom to create, within those rules.  God led him to that place by a somewhat circuitous route, and we know he felt heartache and uncertainty on his journey.  He was not judged for this, but reassured by God’s own voice within His dreams; an ordinary man searching for ordinary joy trusting in the extraordinary God that not only hears, but speaks. 
Mary found joy in obedience to her Father’s will.  Her song of praise attests to this, as does her quiet contemplation of the things she witnesses; things we are told she ‘stores in her heart’.  She was aware that the quest to be obedient is not centred on a single event  - as a Nazirite vow would be - but is rather a lifelong journey of faith and determination; the recurring decision to obey, and the celebration of that.
The shepherds sought the joy proclaimed by the angels - peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, the glad tidings of good news - and they were invested in the search enough to leave the flocks and face derision in Bethlehem as they looked for God’s sign revealed. 
The magi sought the star, which in turn would lead them to the promised king.  When they saw the star, we are told, they rejoiced, and when they found the Child, they worshipped.
We think of Simeon and his quest for fulfilment: his joy on receiving it, and his humble acknowledgement that he could depart the world in peace, having been led to the source of joy - the Christ child.
I also think of Herod.  His joy was power.  He desired authority, the ability to influence a city - which we learn in the phrase ‘he was troubled, and all Jesusalem with him’.  We think of recent dictators and those reluctant to yield power, however they have come by it.  Their whims and moods form the basis for their policies and actions, and so those beneath their charge learn to fear the temperament of the ruler, rather than the laws of the land.  Herod’s joy was centred on his acquisition of position; the joy of the others in the Nativity are found in the acquisition of something that remains despite the positions they find themselves in.  Youthful or aged, revered or disgraced, they held the sights, sounds and symbols of that night within themselves, and they found joy.
Positions and situations have been in flux all year, and those who find their worth within them are struggling to find joy.  What a time to turn to the Christmas symbols and reassure ourselves of the joy that awaits!  I delight in God’s timing of the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which will blaze as a Christmas star in the sky this midwinter’s night.  It reminds me that His promises are still true, His Sovereignty undiminished, and despite the journeys, the quests, the seeking and strivings of 2020, His capacity to give peace, hope and joy remains undimmed.
Yours in Christ,
  • Editorial pg 2
  • The Road to Dundonald pg 4
  • News of the Churches pg 6
  • A Remembrance Day Prayer pg 10
  • The Hymns we sang together pg 11 
  • Social Services   pg 13
  • -A selection of virtual worship and inspiration from our Churches media sites
  • A Lockdown Prayer pg 16
  • Children's Corner  pg 17
  • Online Ministry Links and Addresses pg 18 

OCTOBER Magazine

Dear Friends

The OCTOBER edition of the Non-Subsribing Presbyterian Magazine is available.  The Table of Contents appears below. 

If you are interested in subscribing to receive the magazine, please be in contact with Rev. Heather Walker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

COVER PHOTO: The Banbridge Meeting-house was built in 1844 with a dramatic portico and iconic columns. As you can see, the unknown architect gave similar attention to the inside of the church, with colours and stylings designed to lift the hearts and minds of woshippers


False Goad
News of the Churches
The Hymns we sang together – No. 4
Social Services
A selection of virtual worship and inspiration from our Churches’ Social Media sites.
The Right to Roam – Revisted
Children’s Corner
Online Ministry Links and Addresses
I think October is my favourite month.  The autumnal colours hinted at in the last weeks of September burst forth in glorious vibrancy.  Fruits and nuts are full and round, ready to be enjoyed.  The ground is carpeted in crispy, scrunching leaves, and there is a scent in the air that can’t be described; fecund and rich and unique.
It’s the time of Harvest celebrations in many churches, and again, while these may look different this year, the feeling of gratitude towards a bountiful God and a skilled workforce of food producers remains the same.
Of course the scale of this production may vary: from the vast industrial farms to the small-holding or allotment, the community orchard to the polytunnel in the back garden.  But the pride in the harvest remains the same.  We rejoice when we see something meet - or even exceed - our expectation.  When the potential carried within a tiny seed is fulfilled there is a certain satisfaction felt by those who have had a hand in its husbandry.
It is no surprise then that God is often described to us as a farmer or gardener.  Not only does He oversee those who plant in our lives, watching as we are nurtured and watered, as we come through cold snaps and droughts, hurricane and pestilence; but as we continue to grow through these experiences He feels the pride of the gardener, acknowledging that the measures He had put it place to protect us and shore us up proved effective.  After all, are we not promised in His word that He, the Faithful God, ‘will not test us beyond what we can bear?’  Aren’t we promised that we can ‘dwell in the shelter of the Most High, in the Shadow of the Almighty’?
The Lord doesn’t tell us that He will take the storms away.  He reminds us that He will be with us throughout them.  Even Jesus’ final prayer for His disciples in John 17 does not ask for those He calls His own to be removed from the world, but that they would be kept safe whilst they were within it.  This protection allowed them to grow and reach their potential, despite the different fruits and crops they represented.  Admittedly, some might raise an eyebrow at this ‘protection’, as only one of the twelve is reported to have died a natural death, but again, this was not the shelter that was offered.  Each of the twelve died with their faith as strong as the night that prayer was offered.  Each, within the time of their service, fulfilled the potential referred to when Jesus first sent them out into ministry: that they would heal the sick, exorcise evil spirits, bring glory to the Name and the Authority of God.  That crop was protected, and the fruit brought forth re-seeded communities and countries despite of, or because of, the way their faith stood firm amid the storm - even if that storm was death.
This has been a trying year.  Has your faith remained strong? Praise God for the way He has protected and nurtured it!  Is it perhaps a little ragged?  Its growth stunted by unseasonable frost?  Why not check on your shelter?  Maybe a little of the polythene came loose from your tunnel.  A pane of glass cracked in your greenhouse.  Do you think that means it’s the end of your faith’s journey, or your potential to bear fruit?  Of course not.  These things can be repaired (or re-prayer-ed, if you’re in the mood for a ban pun) by spending time with our Head Gardener.  Prayer, scripture, praise and support from others can nurture that crop until it is strong and healthy once again. 
Our Farmer Father can give water even from a rock, and replenish the soul’s food like the widow’s flour and oil.  Trust Him.  Move further into His shelter and shadow if you feel the coming storms will be too much.  Love Him, and love His people; tending them with the same care He has lavished on you.  Then with strength and conviction we can speak the words of Psalm 73:26:
‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever.’  
We cannot know what seeds this fruit of our faith will plant in others, as the cycle of harvest continues.
Yours in Christ,