Archive for the ‘The Mission Halls of Ireland’ Category

Lurganearly Mission Hall, County Monaghan

March 28, 2019

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With all the current discussion and fierce debate regarding “Brexit,” I found a recent trip through Irish border areas very interesting. The narrow country roads I traversed that day meandered, sometimes north of the border and sometimes south. In fact I kept driving from one country into another without even realising it! Driving through areas which would previously have been seriously troubled, sadly I believe that today, in a sense, they still are; suspicion of strangers is still very much the order of the day in some places…

I remember a large family my parents used to visit when I was a child. This family lived on a farm close to the border and I can still see in my mind’s eye the old kitchen, with a table by a window where the sun shone in on the mother of the house who stood making bread. I have been told that the farmhouse now lies uninhabited. It is not unusual to find abandoned houses in rural areas of Ireland with all the bedding, old furniture and crockery still sitting there!

It is fascinating to realise that the Irish border is not easily defined. Some people’s land or farms straddle the border, while there are those who claim that some rooms of their houses are in the Republic of Ireland while others are in Northern Ireland. I sincerely hope that they’ll never require a passport to walk from their living room into their kitchen! It is many years ago now since we visited that family but as I reminisce on youthful days, I realise that spiritually speaking the need of mankind remains the same and the people of Ireland, whatever their political views, need to come to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if they have not already done so.

Still nestling amongst the peaceful emerald drumlins of County Monaghan (which is south of the Irish border) are some non-denominational little mission halls and Lurganearly is one of these. Lurganearly is a small townland, lying just 10km (around 6.5 miles) south east of Castleblayney. There is good car parking space across from the little hall, which is ran by a Mr J. Smyth who lives halfway between Castleblayney and the hall. Every Sunday at 12noon a Sunday morning worship service is held here and I know that anyone desiring to go would be made most welcome.

Every Wednesday night there is a prayer meeting at 8pm and a Sunday evening service is held on the first Sunday of each month at 8pm. The visiting speaker at this first Sunday evening meeting normally also speaks at the morning service. Unlike many mission halls, this one continues to operate during the summer months, except on rare occasions for a very good reason. There are sometimes other special mid-week meetings arranged, with visiting speakers and organisations invited to the hall.

This year (2019) it will be 63 years ago since Stanley Conn (see previous blog https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/the-testimony-of-stanley-conn-1928-2007/ ) put his trust in the risen Saviour in this very place and I thank the Lord for the existence still, of such places of worship where there are no denominational barriers. In the sparsely populated rural areas of Ireland and indeed in the towns and cities, I pray that souls will still repent and listen humbly to that “still small voice” which continues to whisper in this the Day of Grace… not only in places of worship but in city streets, villages, country lanes, mountains and valleys.

Political regimes and leaders may come and go, terrifying events will surely happen and this old world is changing fast “but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1Peter 1v25) and “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8)

Praise God for the text on Lurganearly’s wall which may even speak to weary travellers on that narrow country road… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16v31)

 

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“History of Mission Halls throughout Northern Ireland” by Judith Cole

November 22, 2018

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Some time ago I received a gift of this beautiful, large hardcover book in the post from the author, Judith Cole. Thank you so much Judith! This arrived on a morning when I was feeling particularly “down” under present circumstances – but delighted when the smiling postman handed me the parcel.

Judith initially made contact with me back in August 2014, when I first wrote about the “Mission Halls of Ireland” in my blog, having discovered a little mission hall in the Mourne Mountains. I was subsequently really interested when Judith told me that she was working on the book about mission halls in Northern Ireland. Published in 2017, this full colour volume, with its lovely evocative photographs of mission halls throughout the province would make an excellent seasonal, birthday or indeed a gift for any occasion.

For me, personally, the images in the book bring back nostalgic and fond memories of attending old mission halls over the years and I pray that mission halls will continue to be used in widespread communities, as I feel that they still very much serve as an essential witness to God’s redeeming love.

As I have said in my previous blog: “above all the mission hall has a tradition of transcending denominationalism and bringing souls together in a spirit of love and unity. They were once a ‘reservoir’ in the spiritual sense; many having had their roots in the 1859 Revival.” Indeed, I pray that they will continue to be this spiritual reservoir.

One such “reservoir” was “Sleepy Valley Mission Hall” near the village of Richhill in Northern Ireland. I remember giving my testimony many years ago in this little hall and I also remember the Lord speaking to me as a child here when I attended Sunday afternoon meetings for children. How well I recall that picture of Jesus knocking on a door which spoke to my young heart! Please see my blog: “Memories of Sleepy Valley Mission Hall – & Reflections on My Unchanging Saviour,” which was adapted from an article that I wrote about the history of this mission hall for the Ulster Gazette in 2003.

However, a new housing development around 15 years ago meant that there has been absolutely no trace of the little hall since then and of course, from a photographic point of view, nothing but a private housing complex on view! Eventually there were no meetings held in this mission hall but a little weekly prayer meeting continued and I can vouch for the fact that the very last prayer meeting to be held there was on Tuesday 11th March, 2003 and I know that the Woodhouse family, my father and others were in attendance. The meetings ceased in “Sleepy Valley” as the mission hall was demolished by those who had purchased the land for new houses. However, prayer continued in an old cottage adjoining the home of Mr and Mrs Harold Irwin until some years ago; the couple are now elderly and no longer living at home.

We recently called at the nursing home where they now live and it was a joy to pray with them and to hear Mr Irwin (at 96) suddenly burst out singing one of the familiar old hymns. My husband and I joined in and the fellowship was good! Times have changed and some of the old Mission Halls photographed in Judith’s lovely book have been abandoned but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8) Old familiar faces have indeed left this scene of time and sometimes we may feel that sincere places of worship are on the decrease… but my Saviour never changes and the need of mankind remains the same.

Judith has sensitively documented and portrayed over 100 mission halls, their history, the people connected with them and the well-loved familiar images associated with them in a very artistic way. This is truly a book to treasure, an heirloom of historical significance but also, I feel, something deeper lies within its pages…

Here, I feel, is a challenge in many ways to professing Christians, to “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…” (Revelation 3v2) As the old hymn goes…

“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day:

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away,

Change and decay in all around I see:

O thou who changest not, abide with me!”

I would have no hesitation in recommending this lovely full colour volume, “History of Mission Halls throughout Northern Ireland” (362 pages, published by Ambassador Books & Media) to anyone thinking of purchasing it.

 

The Mission Halls of Ireland

August 12, 2014

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On a recent visit to the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland, I discovered a little mission hall on a quiet country road, not far from the Silent Valley Reservoir. Somehow this brought back to mind thoughts that I previously had about discovering the mission halls of Ireland.

From time to time I hope to research and accumulate information about mission halls throughout Ireland, inserting this into a new category in my blog. I hope to discover how often they are used and include details of the times of meetings, as well as historical information on how each mission hall had its beginning and, if possible, the contact details of those who are currently responsible for the meetings.

In the past many of these small non-denominational places of worship have been a wonderful blessing to local Christians and, at the same time, an essential local lifeline to the unsaved. Mission halls fulfilled a great need in the communities in which they started up; it cannot be denied that many of those who occupied the pulpits of mainstream churches had not been faithful in their proclamation of the gospel, often because they too were unsaved! Unfortunately, although nothing has changed in this regard, the mission halls are used much less frequently in these days.

Above all the mission hall has a tradition of transcending denominationalism and bringing souls together in a spirit of love and unity. They were once a ‘reservoir’ in the spiritual sense; many having had their roots in the 1859 Revival.

Sadly the mission hall would appear to be a dying phenomenon, even though the faithful witness which once emanated from within their humble walls is as essential today as it was in bygone days. My personal memories of mission halls are very positive ones; it was within mission halls rather than churches that I would have felt convicted, challenged and experienced that great sense of the Lord’s Presence. And it was within mission halls that I would have heard many stirring and challenging testimonies.

Mission halls exist mostly in Northern Ireland but there are some, too, in the border counties as well as in the midlands of Ireland. If anyone reading this has information about a Mission Hall they know well, I would be delighted to hear from them!