ARTICLE BY MR HORACE REID
A new Minister was inducted at Ballynahinch Congregational Church on Saturday 3rd December. The church was filled to capacity with local members, and visitors and clergy from other churches in the town and much farther afield. Rev. Victor Neill was born and reared near Ballynahinch, so this new pulpit was a kind of homecoming for him.
Fellow members of the Congregational Union participated. Mr Sydney Johnston chaired proceedings and performed the Act of Induction. Rev Philip Campbell read a portion of Scripture, and Rev Norman Fox led the Induction Prayer.
Rev Robert McCullough (Woodburn Presbyterian Church, Carrickfergus) delivered the Charge to the Church, and Pastor Mark Patterson (Newcastle Baptist Church) closed the meeting with Prayer and the Benediction.
Three Deacons from Ballynahinch Congregational welcomed their new Minister. Trevor Crothers related a detailed History of the Call. In September 2013 a majority of the congregation began to worship in the Church Hall. In September 2015 an Interim Committee was set up, and began to seek a new Minister. A special Congregational Meeting was called on 31st August 2016, with the approval of the Trustees. The meeting unanimously issued a call to Rev Victor Neill and his wife Barbara, which was accepted.
During the Induction Jimmy McClenaghan and Sammy Graham extended the Right Hand of Fellowship to Rev. Neill and his wife Barbara. Rachael Broome then presented a bouquet to Mrs. Neill.
The choir sang the Anthem “There’s a Work for Jesus”, under choir-mistress and pianist Mrs Emily Douglas. Mrs Sadie Carson was organist.
Towards the close of proceedings a number of visiting clergy rose to express their good wishes to the congregation and its new Minister. They included the Rev Scott Woodburn (Edengrove Presbyterian); Pastor Rodney Stout (Ballynahinch Baptist); Pastor Jim Armour (a Shankill Road man); Bob Porter (member of Albertbridge Congregational, and one time WW2 evacuee to Ballynahinch); Rodney Scott, Secretary, Ballymena Congregational; Calvin Coulter, Greenisland; Rev Billy Hoey, retired Church of Ireland Rector; Rev Jim Lemon, now retired from Carrickfergus Methodist; and Pastor Mark Patterson, Newcastle Baptist Church. These greetings were heartfelt and good humoured, and at times the congregation was moved to applause.
The Rev. Jim Lemon, a Methodist himself, caused some mirth. He observed that Rev. Victor Neil was “the right size for the job”. At five-foot-four, he was the same height as the great John Wesley!
Other Clergy who could not be present sent greetings and wishes for every blessing: the Reverends Tom Boyle, Caldwell Darragh, David English, William Harper, John Hayes, Nigel Kissick, Colin McFarland, Colin Meneely, and William Smylie.
Speakers who had assisted the church during the vacancy also sent apologies and greetings: Messrs Tommy Anderson, Cecil Andrews, Martin Dickey, Keith Lindsay, and Derek McAlister.
The number and breadth of these well-wishers (they included Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Congregational) was most gratifying, and is testament to the esteem the Rev. Victor Neill enjoys with his peers.
A number of church stalwarts, absent through illness, also sent best wishes – Audrey Anderson, Elsie Crothers, Peggy Girvan, and Lil McNamara.
Afterwards the ladies of the congregation provided their usual generous hospitality, seating their guests at individual tables in the adjoining Memorial Hall.