On Sunday 12 December, Ballycastle Presbyterian Church joined with its Minister Emeritus, the Very Rev Dr Godfery Brown, in a service to mark the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the Christian ministry.
The service was conducted by Dr Brown, and the lessons were read by his wife, Margaret, and his son Andrew. Also present were his daughter, Heather and her husband the Rev Peter Lyle, and his daughter Rosemary, and her husband Michael Dickie, together with Leah and Timothy Brown and Emily and James Dickie (grandchildren).
In his sermon, Dr Brown thanked the congregation for inviting him to preach. He spoke of his call to the ministry during his teenage years in Newcastle, and as a student at Queen's. Reflecting on half a century of ministry, much of it during the dreadful years of the Troubles, he spoke of his gratitude for his home and upbringing, and for the happy home he and Margaret had made at the Manse. He paid a warm tribute to her for her love and devotion and the wide-ranging gifts she had brought to their ministry together. Their children too had helped him to keep his feet firmly on the ground, and had been loyal members of 'the Team!'
Godfery Brown had been ordained on 9th December in Fitzroy Church, Belfast and he paid tribute to his happy years as Assistant there to the Rev RE Alexander, and the useful training he had received. He was installed in Ballycastle on 20 May, 1964, and he spoke with great affection of the many years he had spent in the congregation, of the friendships he had formed, and of the wide outreach afforded to him by its seaside location. He recalled in particular his life-long association with Portrush CSSM, and with the Lammas Mission team over many years.
He was grateful also for opportunities to serve the wider Church, and not least through convenorships of the Public Worship Committee, Memorial Record, the Overseas Board, the Church and Government Committee, the Board of Studies and Christian Training, and his present involvement as Joint Secretary of the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland. In 1988-89 he had the privilege of being Moderator of the General Assembly, the only serving minister of the Route Presbytery to have been elected to this position.
He spoke of the privilege of serving the Church in other ways, of the special pleasure of conducting missions in many congregations of the Church, and of still being able to serve the Church in his retirement years. 'If I had another lifetime ahead, and if God were to call me again, I would still jump at the idea of being a minister,' he said. He concluded by urging his congregation to be open to God's call, and to be ready and willing to do whatever tasks the Lord might lay upon them.
After the service tribute was paid to Godfery Brown in a witty speech by Dibbie McCaughan, Clerk of Session, who used PowerPoint to put fifty words on the screen briefly describing his life and work. Mrs Margaret Mawhinney presented Margaret with flowers, and Dibbie presented Godfrey with a gift cheque. Afterwards, Session and Committee entertained Godfrey and Margaret to lunch at the Rosspark Hotel, and the convenor of the vacancy, the Rev Dr Philip Wilson of Bushmills, paid his own warm tribute to them both, recalling his years as a former summer assistant in Ballycastle.
Later, the Browns travelled to Fitzroy Church where at evening worship the present minister, the Rev Steve Stockman and his wife interviewed them both about ministry fifty years ago, and some of the highlights of a half-century in the service of Christ. Many Fitzroy friends joined in this informal occasion, and afterwards at a light supper in the Alexander Hall.
All in all, this was a memorable day, and Godfrey and Margaret Brown would like to place on record their warmest thanks to all who contributed in any way to this special anniversary, and most of all to God for the privilege of serving him in the ministry for fifty happy years.