Ministers

 
History

Our beginnings stretch back to the coming of Scottish settlers to Ulster in the early 17th century. Most of these settlers were Presbyterians who were naturally sympathetic towards their co-religionists in Scotland, who drew up a National Covenant in 1638 in protest against the autocratic policies of Charles I and who, in 1643, entered into the Solemn League and Covenant with the English Parliament. One aim of this covenant was `to work for the reformation of religion in the three kingdoms' and it was warmly approved and signed by many of the Ulster Scots.

The Revolution Settlement of 1690 was welcomed by most Ulster Presbyterians as a vindication of their struggle for religious freedom. A minority, however, objected to the disregarding of the Covenants and the absence of any specific recognition of the kingship of Jesus Christ. These `Covenanters', ancestors of modern Reformed Presbyterians, stood apart from the Presbyterian Church and began to hold separate meetings for fellowship, called societies. These society people were dependent on visits from Scottish ministers from 1696 until 1757. In 1763 a `Reformed Presbytery' was formed and rapid growth led to the formation of a Synod in 1811.

The early history of Faughan is closely linked to that of Bready. The Glendermott valley was a strong centre of Scottish influence and visiting ministers from Scotland conducted services there from time to time. The earliest record of preaching by a Covenanting minister is that of Rev. John Thorburn at Cumber in 1759 and of Rev. John Fairley at Tirkeevney in 1761. Healthy and active Covenanting Societies kept the witness alive and by 1770 a congregation was established at Faughanbridge.

The first minister, Thomas Hamilton, was ordained in 1770. A native of Bovevagh, Co. Londonderry, he was a licentiate of the Derry Presbytery of the Presbyterian Synod of Ulster. After the death of Rev. William Hair, minister of First Glendermott Presbyterian Church, in 1766, the congregation was supplied by Mr. Hamilton. A minority of the congregation wanted to call him but a majority favoured another licentiate. When Presbytery ruled in favour of the majority, the minority seized the meeting house for a short period and refused to accept the ruling of Presbytery. Mr. Hamilton was deprived of his licence and applied to the Irish Reformed Presbytery and was accepted. The minority left the congregation and the Synod of Ulster and joined with the local Covenanting societies to form a new congregation. They called Mr. Hamilton and he accepted and was ordained. After a short pastorate of about three years, he resigned because of the sudden drop in Covenanting ministers from 6 to 3 and spent the next six years of his short life as an itinerant preacher for the Reformed Presbytery until his untimely death in 1779. He was buried at Derryvalley in Co. Monaghan.

Samuel Alexander was ordained as minister of Bready in 1783. His charge included Faughan. He was a local man, from Tirkeeveney, who had been educated at Glasgow University and was licensed by the Scottish Presbytery in 1781. It is likely that the Faughan Covenanters worshipped with the Bready congregation on Sabbaths. These were difficult days for Dissenters in general, and for Covenanters in particular. Oppression and poverty had driven many to seek a new life in the United States of America. For those who remained, it was well nigh impossible to get a site for a meeting house. Faughan was singularly blessed in this respect and secured in 1790 what many considered as one of the most beautiful sites in Ireland - beside the old bridge at Drumahoe on the banks of the Faughan River, some three miles from the centre of Londondeny. Originally, this was a rural setting, but by the 21ST century the Faughan meeting house lies at the heart of a major residential area as the nearby city expands and engulfs the village of Drumahoe. Mr. Alexander was much loved as a meek, generous man and was known as 'the Godly Alexander'. Always of delicate health, he died in 1793, aged 45.

Robert Young, after a short ministry to Covenanters in County Donegal, came to reside in the Waterside district of Londonderry. Mr. Young was never installed, but acted as stated supply from 1787 until his death in 1794. His name is perpetuated in a local charity, the Gwyn and Young Endowment, founded by one of his sons. It appears that Faughan was still united with Bready during this period.

The next minister was John Alexander, nephew of Rev. Samuel Alexander and brother of Rev. Josias Alexander. He too was educated in Scotland, and licensed in 1803. He was ordained and installed in Faughan on 19 May 1803, the first minister to be ordained in the meeting house. He also ministered at Bready until 1809. During his ministry a congregation was organised in Londonderry and a meeting house built in Fountain Street in 1810. Mr. Alexander looked after both congregations. Faughan was strengthened by the addition of members of the Desertone society between 1811 and 1822. However, from 1821, due to the fall in food prices at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the congregations in Londonderry and Faughan were unable to keep up the minister's stipend. Despite attempts to reach a settlement, Mr. Alexander accepted a call to Linenhall Street in Belfast in 1825.

Following Mr. Alexander's departure, the Faughan and Londonderry congregations requested that they be separated and this was granted by Presbytery on 13 July 1826.

In May 1827 James Peebles Sweeney was ordained and served the congregation with distinction and devotion for forty-seven years. Born at Desertone in 1795, brought up in the congregation, he received his education in Scotland and was licensed by the Western Presbytery on 7 July 1824. His long ministry saw vast changes in Ulster. Although the 11 societies that made up the congregation were affected by the disastrous Great Famine in the late 1840s, yet many were greatly blessed and increased through the revival of 1859. By the late 1860s, although the number of societies had fallen to nine, the membership of the congregation reached a peak of 270 (including 96 children). In 1874, Mr. Sweeney retired due to ill health. At the time of Mr. Sweeney's death on 4 May 1877, a new generation had arisen to carry on the work.

Matthew Neill, born in 1850, brought up in the Dervock congregation and educated Queen's College Belfast and the R.P. Hall, was a licentiate of the Northern Presbytery He was ordained on 17 February 1876. Due to emigration from the area, the congregation began to decline and had difficulty in meeting its obligations to Mr. Neill. As well, he began to have objections to certain principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. He resigned on 3 November 1880. He later served in the Irish Presbyterian Church.

In contrast, his successor, Samuel Ferguson, had a long and fruitful ministry in the congregation. Son of Rev. W. S. Ferguson of Grange, and great-grandson of the famous Rev. William Stavely, Mr. Ferguson was ordained on 15 December 1881. Born in 1854, brought up in the manse at Grange, he was educated at Queen's College Belfast and the R.P. Hall, and licensed in May 1881. A gifted preacher, a devoted pastor and a fine historian, his long ministry left its mark upon the people and older members recalled his work with affectionate gratitude for many years afterwards. During his ministry, despite continued emigration, the numbers of the congregation remained steady at about 55 families and 150 communicants. Mr. Ferguson died on 16 December 1928.

Rev. John McIlmoyle, then minister of Kellswater, was called to the congregation. He was to serve the Church in each of the four Presbyteries and as Professor of Systematic Theology for 25 years. He was installed on 31 October 1929. He was the first minister not to come to Faughan as his first charge. A gracious, godly and intellectual gentleman, his ministry was remembered with affection for a long time after his acceptance of a call from Dublin Road in May 1947.

Thomas Donnelly, a member of Grosvenor Road congregation and a licentiate of the Eastern Presbytery, began his ministry on 1 December 1949 and showed his fine talents, enthusiasm, kindness and good humour in a pastorate of seven years before moving to Ballyclabber in May 1956.

The congregation was well served and wisely led by Rev. William Norman McCune. Brought up in Trinity Street congregation and licensed by the Eastern Presbytery, Mr. McCune spent eight years in Convoy and Stranorlar before coming to Faughan on 13 December 1956. As well as attending diligently to the spiritual oversight of the Faughan congregation, Mr. McCune played a much wider role in the Western Presbytery, as Clerk and as Interim Moderator of every congregation within its bounds at one time or another, and as the organiser or conductor of several psalmody events. He retired from the active duties of the ministry on 5 February 1992.

On 2 September 1994, David Joseph McCullough, brought up in the Newry congregation and a licentiate of the Southern Presbytery, was ordained and installed as minister of the congregation. He quickly established himself in the congregation as a gifted preacher and attentive pastor with a tremendous enthusiasm for evangelistic work. The congregation was saddened in May 2003 when Mr. McCullough accepted the call to be organising pastor of the Dromore Society of Covenanters.

In June 2008, the congregation made a call to Steven Robinson, member of the Trinity congregation and a licentiate of the Eastern Presbytery and this was presented on 5 August 2008. The call was accepted and Mr. Robinson was ordained and installed on 18 October 2008.

There were four students for the Gospel ministry between 1800 and 1816: James Steen, James Sweeney, William Sweeney and Jacob Alexander.  Almost a century and a half passed before the next four students were in training. Between 1959 and 1973, Joseph Robinson Patterson, Harry Tadley, John Hawthorne and R. Blair McFarland entered the ministry and so, in these two short periods of time, Faughan has made a significant contribution to the wider Church.

The roll of ruling elders is a long and distinguished one. The following men were ordained in the late eighteenth century: James Marshall, Thomas Allen, Simon Robinson, John Mitchell, Thomas Marshall, John Guy, Andrew Henry, John McNaught. During the ministry of John Alexander (1803-1825) the congregation was well served by the following elders: Joseph Clarke, James Glenn, James Hunter, Samuel Long, Samuel Marshall, Robert Marshall, James Orr and James Steele. They were joined in Mr. Sweeney's time (1827-1876) by Samuel Alexander, James Mitchell, Robert Boyce, George Kennedy. James Adams, James Hunter, William Long, William Steele, James Glenn, William Philips, George Sweeney, Moses Tate, Joseph Clarke (Jn.), John Donaghy, Andrew Buchanan, John Mathers, Thomas Allen, Joseph Orr, James Glenn, Daniel McFarland, John Longwell, William Phillips, William Steele. Mr. Ferguson was supported by a succession of worthy elders, some of whom have descendants in the congregation today. They were James MacDonald, William Rankin, John Marshall, Joseph McEldowney, William John Mooney, David, Robert and James Longwell, Alan Phillips, John Orr, Robert McFarland, Jack Longwell and John Patterson. During Mr. McIlmoyle's ministry Hugh Adair Steele and W.S. Ferguson joined the Session. It was further strengthened in 1950 by John Longwell, Andrew Young, Harry Tadley, Robert W. McFarland and Samuel McClay. During Mr. McCune's ministry David Porter, Jack Buchanan, John J. Mitchell and J. Don McFarland were elected to serve the congregation. Other elders appointed since have been Samuel Buchanan, Robert T. Steele, James Snodgrass, Graham Fallows and Fergus Marshall.

The meeting house, built in 1790, was first renovated in the early 1830s, with a new roof, ceiling and side wall. In 1855 the session room was built, the church re-seated and the floor altered. Major renovations took place during 1898-1899. Central heating was installed, new rafters, ceiling and windows were put in place and inside and outside walls re-plastered. Electric lighting and heating was installed in 1951 and 1953.

In 1959 the old stables were converted into a Church Hall, which was extended in 1975. This Hall was demolished and a new one built in 1984 which in turn was considerably enlarged and refurbished in 2005.

The congregation first acquired a manse in 1883 - 4 Ebrington Terrace, in the Waterside, Londonderry. In 1898 Mr. Ferguson bought his own home at  'Sunnymede' on the Limavady Road. In 1930, during the ministry of Professor Mcllmoyle, the manse was in Victoria Park. Another manse was obtained in Hinton Park during the ministry of Mr. Donnelly. This was sold to finance the present manse near the church at 30 Drumahoe Road of which Mr. McCullough and his family were the first occupants.

With such improvements, the congregation is well equipped to continue its witness in a lovely setting beside the River Faughan and to serve a rapidly expanding community in the immediate neighbourhood. In 2009 the congregation was composed of 42 families. It is missionary minded and actively involved in reaching out to the local community. This takes various forms: a Parents and Toddler group, a Friday Night Club and Go teams. A 'Christianity Explained' course has proved to be very beneficial. As well, a Ladies Fellowship Meeting and a C.Y. comprised of Arrows, Junior, Intermediate and Senior Groups, exists for members of the congregation.

Today the congregation is comprised of 47 families. At morning worship there are approximately 90 people present, with an average of 45 in the evening. Over the past few years we are thankful to the Lord for the numerical growth we have experienced. And so we look to Jesus Christ the King of the Church to continue to build His church amongst us.

Like our forefathers we have one desire - that King Jesus will be given His rightful place in church and nation. As long as the Lord tarries we will seek to fly the banner of our church declaring Christ's Crown and Covenant.


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