The United Parish of Ballymoney, Finvoy and Rasharkin has officially opened the newly restored Old School House in the grounds of St Patricks Church.
It was a significant day in the history of St Patrick’s Parish Church and the town of Ballymoney, and it was a nostalgic day, too, for many in the parish who remembered happy times spent there as they grew up and worshipped in St Patricks.
The dream of a few good men in the church, not least among them the late Billy Hunter, ensured the survival of the derelict building for such a time as this.
It is commendable that within one year the church gathered together the £700,000 required to commence and complete the project.
This was an amazing effort, made possible through the generosity of grants from funding organisations, direct giving from the church family and many fund raising events.
The church would like to record special thanks to The Heritage Lottery Fund, Ulster Garden Villages, Garfield and Weston Trust, All Churches Trust and The Pilgrims Trust. They all believed in the church’s vision, ‘to build bridges of hope into the community’.
Robinson Associates along with the main contractors, Martin and Hamilton, deserve much credit for completing such a magnificent restoration on time.
The Rev Andrew Sweeney, rector of the United Parish said: “In many ways the easy bit is done! Painting on this blank canvas will require endeavour and commitment to fulfil our vision to ‘build bridges of hope into our community.’
“The church is whole-heartedly committed to using the building to reach out to the most vulnerable, isolated and marginalised people in our communities. We want to collaborate with organisations that do just that.”
Ballymoney Parish’s debt counselling service, Christians Against Poverty, will now operate out of the Old School House and The Caring Association has been set up to ensure the parish vision becomes a reality.
The Parish Office, relocated to the Old School House, will welcome the local community through its doors so they can learn more about their local heritage and shared history.
Andrew said “It has been a wonderful journey of faith for all of us in the United Parish of Ballymoney, Finvoy and Rasharkin.”
The project was co-ordinated and managed by parish administrator George Field on behalf of the church, and the official opening took place on March 17.
“St Patrick’s Day was such an appropriate day for The Bishop of Connor, The Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, to dedicate the building. We pray that the saint who took a message of love and hope into communities around the north of Ireland will encourage us to do the same,” Andrew said.