Saturday 5th of April 2014 is set to be an historic day in the life of the congregation of Drumreagh Presbyterian Church on the outskirts of the village of Bendooragh near Ballymoney.
This is the day on which the ribbon will be cut at the opening of their new church building.
This marks the culmination of a journey which started back in September 2010, when the congregation at Drumreagh voted to build a new church.
Drumreagh Presbyterian Church can trace its beginnings to the 29th July 1834 when it was officially recognised as a congregation by the Route Presbytery.
The newly formed congregation met for worship in Bendooragh School House for a few years, while the meeting house at Drumreagh was under construction.
Reverend Thomas Beare was installed as the first minister on 20th February 1839.
During his ministry, revival broke out across the land, and many souls were swept into God’s kingdom in the Drumreagh congregation.
As a result, attendance increased to such an extent that a gallery was erected to accommodate the worshippers.
The Rev. Samuel Wallace was installed on 13th November 1883, and he went on to become the church’s longest serving minister, retiring on 31st December 1930.
He also fulfilled his role as Clerk of the Route Presbytery from 1904 until his death in 1945.
During the vacancy which arose in 1930, it was decided that Drumreagh would be linked with 1st Ballymoney Presbyterian Church, whose minister was Rev. A. H. Dill MA. He was assisted by Rev. Matthew Moore, who was much involved with Drumreagh congregation and proved to be a very popular pastor.
However, the link with 1st Ballymoney was brief, and soon Drumreagh was in a position to call its own minister.
Rev. John Barkley was ordained and installed in Drumreagh in 1935.
Changes came about in the 1930s with the introduction of an organ and hymn singing.
Previous to this, praise had consisted of psalms and paraphrases being sung unaccompanied. Also during this time, it was decided to build Drumreagh’s first manse.
The visionary work continued with the opening of the church hall in 1956, a move which greatly added to the life of the congregation.
Later, with increased attendance in the Sunday School and the formation of the Boys’ Brigade and the Girls’ Brigade, the hall became invaluable in progressing the work at Drumreagh.
In 1968, major renovation work began on the church building.
Work included replacing the front wall of the building as well as adding a new heating system.
In addition to this, an extension to the back of the building saw a choir room and a minister’s room added as a gift from the Fulton family.
The congregation continued to grow and serve God and it became apparent there was a need to modernise the church building.
This was undoubtedly a painful decision for many people, as they had worshipped there for many years, and often their fathers before them.
However, the existing church was in need of extensive renovations and the generous donation of a site from the Bellingham family gave the congregation the option of constructing a new church building which would be fully compliant with all current safety and equality legislation, and which would be equipped to take the congregation into the 21st century.
The late Trevor Fleming was employed as architect for the project, and this work was continued by Roy Greer of R.J. Studios Ballymena following Trevor’s death.
The congregation was very aware of the magnitude of the task before them, and of the importance of attention to detail.
The term ‘future proofing’ became one which was used whenever decisions had to be taken in relation to the congregation’s requirements, and what features and facilities they wanted to incorporate into the build.
Wallace Homes were given the contract of building the church and work commenced in late 2012.
The progress has been on schedule, and despite periods of sometimes difficult weather, the building has been completed in the 16 months set out for the task.
The stained glass windows from the existing church were given a home in the new building, and their inclusion has made a striking contribution to the overall beauty of the new build and affords a degree of continuity between the two buildings.
This was achieved by designing the building from the onset with windows which were appropriate in size to accommodate the stained glass windows, so that when the time came, all that was required was the removal of the glass from the windows and its insertion into the new frame.
The sanctuary of the new church building has a sloping floor and will seat approximately 500 people, although it does have facilities for overflow seating beyond this.
It was decided to commission pews for the seating and the unanimous desire was that they should be as comfortable as possible.
A fellowship room for the use of committee, choir and other organisations, a minister’s room and a prayer room are just some of the auxiliary rooms which have been incorporated into the build.
In addition to this – and perhaps one of the most exciting areas – is a large entrance lobby which incorporates a coffee bar area and casual seatingm which will provide a comfortable area for fellowship before and after services.
It is hoped that by providing this modern building which can accommodate the requirements and expectations of today’s society that Drumreagh will be a congregation which will be able and equipped to continue to serve and glorify God in this community and beyond, both now and in the future.
The closing service on Sunday 30th March 2014 will be a turning point in the history of this country churchm with praise and preaching under the current ministry of Rev. Hugh Mullan, an evangelist whose aim is to see God’s Kingdom extended, and His name glorified.
The opening service and dedication of the new church will take place at 1pm on Saturday 5th April with Drumreagh’s retired minister Rev. Tom Luke, preaching from God’s word and all will be most welcome.
A book written by S Alexander Blair to commemorate 150 years of Drumreagh described the church as ‘the meetinghouse near the cross’; this is a true description of the heart of this congregation, a people who attribute the ethos of their life as a church to their ‘nearness’ to the cross.
As the Psalmist reminds us “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it:” Psalm 127:1.