A Centenary Service held in St Colman’s Parish Church, Dunmurry, on Sunday April 27 concluded a weekend of special events to mark 100 years of worship in this beautiful church.
The preacher was Lord Eames, former Archbishop of Armagh. Mr John Williams (Parish Reader) and the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor, led the service assisted by the Very Rev Hamilton Leckey (former Dean of Down). .
Among the special guests were the Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor James Tinsley and his wife the Mayoress, Mrs Margaret Tinsley and a former rector, the Rev Canon Terry Rodgers.
In his address Lord Eames looked forward to a new chapter at Dunmurry Parish with the institution of the Rev Denise Acheson on Thursday May 1.
Speaking of a God who loves, cares and sustains, he said a parish should be ‘a place of reassurance,’ ‘a place where we find God,’ and ‘a place where hearts and minds are touched by God’.
During the service the Bishop dedicated a lighting system presented by Billy and Diane Mawhinney in memory of their parents – Sam and Margaret Mawhinney and John and Ethel McCormack; a sound system presented by Sheena Herron in memory of her husband Tom Herron; and a wall plaque presented by Dr Bob Common listing the clergy who have served in the parish over the past 100 years.
Alan Yarr presided at the organ and together with the church choir led the praise that included ‘Praise to the Lord,’ ‘Lord for the years’ and ‘We have a gospel to proclaim’. The anthems were ‘O come ye servants of the Lord’ and ‘The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost’.
The weekend of celebrations included a centenary dinner in the Beechlawn Hotel last Friday evening, and a three-day exhibition which featured photographs, letters and other memorabilia chronicling life in the parish over the last century.
Following the service on Sunday morning, light refreshments were served in the parochial hall.
A Centenary Booklet was published for the occasion, and this includes a foreword by Mr Williams, and a history of the church by Canon Terry Rodgers, based on an original article by former rector the Rev Cannon RC Ellis.
For those interested in statistics, Dr Bob Common delves into the records and makes some interesting observations on births, deaths, marriages and more.
The people of the hamlet of Dunmurry first worshipped in a building known as the Assembly Rooms, constructed in 1874 and in use today as the Parochial Hall.
But they wanted a Church of Ireland in the village. They secured a site on the main Belfast-Lisburn road, but as this may have affected the congregation of Upper Falls, they instead bought the current site which belonged to the Northern Bank.
The Bishop of the Diocese gave his consent, and building began. The consecration, by the Rt Rev John Baptist Crozier, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, took place on St Mark’s Day, April 25 1908.
The parish continued to be linked to Drumbeg Parish until 1932. Canon Ellis was appointed curate-in-charge and was made rector in 1945. Following his retirement he was succeeded by Canon Terry Rodgers, the Rev Mike McCann, and the Rev Tom Priestly.
In recent years there have been several changes within the community in Dunmurry. A movement of parishioners out of the village has led to a reduction in the numbers of young people, and the closure of the Girls’ Friendly Society and Church Lads’ Brigade.
Although the congregation is also smaller, the choir, Mothers’ Union, Sunday School and Bowling Club still flourish as do the new Luncheon Group and Working Group.
As there are always maintenance issues, a Centenary Fund was launched this year with the aim of raising £26,000 for renovations.
The incumbency of St Colman’s has been vacant since the death of Rev Priestly in August last year. On May 1, the Rev Denise Acheson, curate assistant at Ballyholme Parish, Bangor, will be instituted as rector.
Photos by John Kelly.