Celebrations for the 150th anniversary of St Matthew’s Parish Church, Shankill are well underway.
A Daffodil Tea held in the Spectrum Centre on Saturday March 5 was attended by more than 60 people, and the Archbishop of Armagh was the guest preacher at a special anniversary service in St Matthew’s on Sunday afternoon.
Joining the rector, the Rev Tracey McRoberts, parishioners of St Matthews and Archbishop McDowell were other special guests including the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison; The Lord Lieutenant for Belfast, Fionnuala Jay O’Boyle; the Bishop of Down and Connor, the Most Rev Noel Treanor; the Rev Dr Sahr Yambusu, President of the Methodist Church; Michelle McIlveen, Minister of Education; William Humphrey MLA; Fr Martin Magill and representatives for other local churches; and previous rectors, the Very Rev Gregory Dunstan and Rev Robert Henderson.
Queen’s University and the Greater Shankill Partnership have been working with the St Matthew’s to mark this anniversary. To celebrate and showcase the evolving social history linked to the church and the community, Queen’s is facilitating an exhibition of photos, artefacts and displays.
On display for one day only at the launch on of the exhibition on Tuesday March 8 will be a bishop’s crozier dating back to the 9th century. This was discovered in the grounds of Shankill Graveyard 300 years ago and is kept in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
Rev Tracey said: “We are looking forward to welcoming children from local schools to view this priceless Shankill treasure alongside croziers used by our bishop today.
On Saturday March 12, we will be capturing some of the rich social history of the church and the Shankill area in a ‘History Harvest’ to gather stories, memories, old photos and memorabilia relating to the history of the church and wider area.”
Olwen Purdue, Professor of Social History at Queen’s, said: “This church, and the parish it serves, has an important history, dating back to pre-Christian times and closely connected to the wider history and growth of Belfast.
“The people of these streets have experienced wars and rebellions, industrialisation, urban change and conflict; they have also experienced work, play, loss, childhood, old age.
“This exciting collaboration between academics, public history students and local communities seeks to capture and tell the stories of these streets and the people who lived in them to explore the rich and diverse social history of this neighbourhood and community and develop new resources for learning and engaging with local history.”
Welcoming the exhibition, Jackie Redpath of the Greater Shankill Partnership, said: “We’re delighted that a partnership between St Matthew’s, Queen’s University and ourselves has come together to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church and the rich history of the Shankill. We are especially grateful to the National Museum Dublin for bringing the bishop’s crozier back to its origins on the Shankill to exhibit – truly an historical occasion.”
The event starts at 10am on Tuesday March 8, with the official launch at 12.30pm at St Matthew’s Church at the corner of Woodvale Road and Cambrai Street, Belfast.
Continuing the celebrations, on Friday March 11 at 7pm there will be a concert by a Brass Ensemble from the Ulster Orchestra.