Posts Tagged ‘judith cole’

“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.