‘It was a night to remember,’ commented Rev. Park, as the congregation of Hebron Free Presbyterian Church celebrated their 60th Anniversary.
A carvery dinner at the Lodge Hotel, Coleraine was enjoyed by all who attended the special night.
‘It is exactly 60 years ago to this very day,’ said the Rev. Park, ‘on 23rd June 1951, when the Church was constituted at Cabra.’ This took place after a six-week mission conducted by Rev. Ian Paisley in the Cabra Schoolhouse, and an all-night prayer meeting held in Sandy McAuley’s home.
Dr. and Mrs. Paisley were able to attend the special function, together with Dr. Ron Johnstone, moderator of the General Presbytery, and his wife, Mrs. Raema Johnstone. Special guests also included Dr. and Mrs. Alan Cairns, and Mrs. Elizabeth Menary. Dr. Cairns is a former minister of the church, and the late husband of Mrs. Menary was the student minister in 1951.
Mr. David Brown, the minister’s assistant, said grace, and a short programme followed the meal. Presentations were made by the Clerk of Session, Mr. Norman Hanna, to the special guests, acknowledging their invaluable contribution to the Lord’s work. A PowerPoint presentation, looking back over the history of these past six decades, was shown, which included some of the more humorous times. Members of the Hebron Choir and Youth Choir combined to sing a most suitable piece, ‘To God be the Glory.’
Dr. Paisley (Lord Bannside) spoke of the early days of the Free Presbyterian Church, and gave emphasis to the prayer meetings and to the Gospel Mission in the Schoolhouse. He looked back with fond memories to those days of prayer and preaching when many people professed faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour. He paid special tribute to Sandy McAuley, who, together with other men, had the vision to conduct the Mission and start a new Free Presbyterian Church.
Dr. Cairns, who was the minister from 1965 to 1980, spoke of special times when God moved during his ministry and many were led to a saving faith in Christ. In particular, he mentioned occasions when the presence of God was felt and the Holy Spirit moved with power. Paying tribute to the present minister, Rev. Park, he rejoiced in how the work had been blessed and consolidated.
Dr. Johnstone, moderator, praised the congregation for their faithful service during 60 years and how they had been an example to the entire denomination. He highlighted the evident friendship and fellowship which was among the members, and how that it was the key to God’s blessing in the work. He exhorted them to continue in the faith and trusted that God’s blessing would fall upon the congregation.
Rev. Park paid tribute to both Dr. Paisley and Dr. Cairns who had been an encouragement and inspiration to him personally. He thanked the Session, Committee and members for their godly example and support. He reminded the audience of the promise given to Mr. Sandy McAuley 60
years ago, ‘Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end shall greatly increase.’ ‘God has given the increase during these years of our history, and the congregation anticipates greater blessing in the future’ he said.
Many spoke afterwards of the great night they had together, rejoicing in the love and friendship felt among them. There was a true sense of joy and unity which knitted the people together in their service for Christ. Though the hour was getting late, many lingered on afterwards for a time of fellowship. No one wanted to go home as the evening had been such a tremendous blessing.
Rev. Park summed up by saying, ‘We thank Almighty God for our 60-year history. The Lord has been good and has done many wonderful works. We will continue doing what we have been doing in these last 60 years - preaching Christ and His glorious Gospel. The end is not yet and the best is yet to be, praise the Lord.’
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