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History

In the autumn of 1898 the Presbytery of Ballymena decided to have a licentiate appointed to work with a view to the organisation of a congregation in the Harryville district.   In due course Mr. W. J. Currie, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Route, was appointed and began his work in Harryville on 01 January 1899.   The Ballymena Presbytery was greatly facilitated in its enterprise by the kind offices of the late Mr Caulfield Wilson who placed a little hall at its disposal.   The services were always well attended.

Mr Currie in 1902

In June 1899, the General Assembly granted this little meeting the status of a congregation.   Consequently, on 01 August, Harryville Presbyterian Church officially came into being with 70 families on the roll and 53 children in the Sunday School.   Several months later, Mr Currie was presented with a unanimous call which he accepted.   He was ordained on 15 March 1900.

The newly formed congregation was most enthusiastic in all its work.   The task of raising funds for the erection of a church building was tackled with spirit and determination.   On Tuesday, 21 May 1901, four foundation stones were laid on ground in Casement Street. The new Church building was opened for worship in October 1902 with special services being held on five successive Sundays.   Such was the commitment of Minister and people that, at the end of that year, the congregation was free of debt.

Rev. W. H.  Sloane

In 1907, the congregation undertook the building of a Manse on the Grange Road. In the same year, Mr Currie was called to Berry Street congregation in Belfast.

His successor in Harryville was the            Rev. W. H. Sloane, BA., who was installed on 11 May 1907 and was the first minister to reside in the Manse which was completed in 1908.   For 25 years he laboured with a diligence, earnestness and enthusiasm, which few could equal, until his death on 28 February 1933.

A church hall was erected in 1924 to meet the growing necessity of youth work.

The Manse 1908

Sloane Memorial Hall

The Rev. Matthew Moore, MA., a licentiate from Strabane Presbytery, was ordained on 13 June 1933 and given oversight of the congregation. During his ministry great work was done for the Kingdom of God.   He was a fine preacher and a diligent worker.   Under his leadership the Sloane Memorial Hall was built and opened, free of debt, on 31 May 1939.   In that year the Rev. Moore was called to Agnes Street Congregation in Belfast where he laboured with fidelity until his early death in 1946.

Rev. Matthew Moore

Rev. J. E. P.  Boyd

Rev. J. Edgar P. Boyd, BA., a licentiate of Belfast Presbytery, was selected to succeed the Rev. Moore and was ordained on 20 March 1940.   Mr. Boyd provided wise and capable leadership, both to the congregation and in the community, at a difficult time in the nation's history.   His warmth of personality and untiring zeal ensured that the congregation prospered spiritually and materially and produced 'fruit that would remain'. Many who were nurtured in the faith at that time were to make a significant contribution to the spiritual life and work of the church in years to come.

A new pipe organ was dedicated on the 19 December 1948 and remained in use until being refurbished in 2005.

When, in September 1954, the Rev. Boyd accepted a call from the congregation of Terrace Row in Coleraine, he left Harryville as one who was highly respected and much loved.

The Rev. Richard S. Ross, BA. was installed in 1955.   A dignified preacher and diligent pastor he was to make a lasting impression on the life of the congregation.

Mr Ross recalls, "When I first arrived in Ballymena in 1955 it was still very much a Victorian town.   Factory horns called people to work in the Braid Water Spinning Co. and Phoenix Weaving Company and also marked the lunch break.   Many streets of small terrace houses provided homes for the mill workers and the corner shops kept open twelve hours per day."

During the fifties and sixties major housing development in the surrounding area contributed to Harryville becoming a congregation of over 700 families.   This numerical growth, along with the needs of an excellent Sunday School and vibrant youth organisations, necessitated the building of additional accommodation.

Rev. R. S.  Ross

Ground was purchased off Casement Street and a new Church Hall was built and opened in 1975.

Through its work and witness the congregation made a significant impact on the immediate area and contributed to the work of the Kingdom of God further afield.

Changing social trends and the establishment of the congregations of Ballykeel and Ballee subsequently led to a reduction in the number of families who claimed membership.   Nevertheless a love for the cause of Christ and a loyalty to the church in Harryville ensured that the congregation never lost its unique identity.

The Rev. Ross resigned in 1981 after 26 years of faithful ministry.   It is his name, perhaps, more than any other, which has become synonymous with that of Harryville during the second half of the century.

The Rev. John M. Finlay, BA, BD., was installed as minister of the congregation on 20 April 1982.   He could only be described as 'unique' in his inimitable and inspired preaching of the gospel and teaching of scripture.   Many came to faith in Christ and the spiritual lives of others deepened during twenty-eight years of faithful and dedicated ministry.  

Warmth of fellowship, sacrificial generosity and a willingness to serve have been distinctive hallmarks of the congregation's life.   Many have entered Christian service in obedience to the call of God and are ministering either at home with the Presbyterian Church or abroad in association with other mission agencies.

Rev. J. M. Finlay

With its centenary approaching, the congregation decided to embark on an ambitious scheme to renovate all its property.   A new hall was built and opened in February 1997. The following year extensive work was carried out at the Manse.

Church Hall   -   opened in 1997

In March 1999, a major refurbishment of the Church was completed.   This involved the extension and modernisation of the vestibule, the improvement of the rooms and facilities at the rear of the church and provision of a car park in place of the Sloane Hall.   Through the blessing of God and the generous giving of the congregation this work was completed without the incurring of debt.

It was a great honour for the Rev. John M Finlay, and the congregation, when he was elected Moderator in 2007, bearing testimony to the high esteem in which he is held in the wider Church.

Dr. John M Finlay retired at the end of July 2010.

Again an extensive refurbishment was carried out to the Manse during the vacancy.

Rev. W. E. Chestnutt

 

The Rev. William Edwin Chestnutt, BA  PGCE  M Ed M Sc  M Div  Dip Min., on receiving a clear call from God and an unanimous call from the congregation, was ordained and installed as Minister on Friday, 10 June 2011.

 

While the area around Harryville has changed beyond recognition during the past century, and the world progressed more during that century than  any other, the work of the congregation continues in the awareness that the Word of God is still as relevant, and witness for Christ as necessary, as when it commenced over one hundred years ago.

   
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