Times of Public Worship: 12.00pm (noon)
Summer times: 11.00a.m., alternating with Knowhead (subject to annual Session decision)
Prayer : annual joint meeting for prayer in September
Sunday School & Children's Church Times: during service
Sunday – Sabbath worship; Sabbath School; Children's Church
Tuesday – Bowls, 7.30p.m.
Wednesday – Dancing Club, 1st & 3rd, 8.00p.m.;
P.W., last, 8.00p.m.
Thursday – Girls' Brigade, 7.15p.m.
Friday – informal Bible study at the manse, fortnightly, 8.15p.m.
Set Dates for special services Communion- 1st Sabbath, January; Last Sabbath, April; 1st Sabbath, November
Children’s Day – 3rd Sabbath, June
Harvest – 3rd Sabbath, October, & Monday evening following, 7.30p.m.
G.B. enrolment - 3rd Sabbath, November
P.W. service -4th Sabbath, November
Other special services: Good Friday Communion, 7.30p.m.
Evening Communion, 1st Sabbath, Nov., 6.45p.m. Christmas Morning, 10.30a.m.
Faith built on a sense of community
ARCHITECTURALLY, Ballyarnett Presbyterian Church is a very typical 'meeting house' in the 'barn' style, which derived from a plain way of ministering over the centuries.
A church of the Reformation, which provides unity with what went before with the Scriptures, the Presbyterian Church proper was a break away from what was perceived as an excessive form of worship. To that end, the pulpit is in the centre, and the whole focus of the building is one of the people sitting around the Word of God and the Communion Table.
In all, Ballyarnett has around 150 families attending services, and the Minister, Rev Alistair Rosborough is keen to stress that associations with the church are built on a strong sense of community.
“Since the late 1960s most of those 140 to 150 families are the Waterside of the river, but remain very loyal to the church despite the fact that they have migrated. I would hope that church and community go together because we have always tried to emphasise in the Presbyterian Church that church is never the building, it is the People of God, and without the People of God there, the building is just a shell.
“We are not there to run an Ecclesiastical museum for people to walk through, we are trying to be a living community of God, albeit the families that were historically connected to Ballyarnett, not exclusively, have moved away, but they still have that affinity with that community. That gives a sense of connectedness and there are many deep family connections as well. I have been there for 10 years and I am still discovering that people are connected to other people and to other rural congregations,” Rev Rosborough says.
Ballyarnett has been linked with Knowhead Presbyterian Church near Muff for three decades, but the two church communities would have interacted long before that, which includes joint services and festival services.
“More recently we have occasional combined services with our friends in the Church of Ireland which adds a sense of fellowship and goes back to the days when all the congregations go back to farming and harvest. Thanksgiving was a time for people to get together and give thanks. Much less so now, as very few families in Ballyarnett now have a connection with the countryside, but the pattern is there.”
The congregation of Ballyarnett dates from 1848, but, while the district around it became more urban, the folk memory remained, and this was particularly the case before Foyle Bridge was built.
“I would find from time to time people would say ‘We are country folk’. Now, for a visitor they might raise their eyebrows because they see all the houses, but the people were there before all the housing.”
Rev Rosborough was brought up in the congregation at Banagher, between Claudy and Feeney, and received his call to the Ministry when he was studying in Scotland. He trained in Belfast at the Theological College and served his assistance in Bangor, Co Down, before being eligible for a Call.
“So I have come back almost to where I came from, but in a round about fashion. I think it is a tremendous privilege to be a minister of God and there is so much variety. To enter into different individual and family situations which can be so different, and you can feel that you are intruding, but it is obvious that people want you there to provide them with some spiritual direction to those times.”
Asked what he thought Ballyarnett could offer young people living in a material world, he said: “Many congregations struggle today with the question of young people in terms of them finding their spiritual place. I would just say to them there is something more, because when we are young so much of what we think the world can offer is transitory - it passes away very quickly - and we believe we can offer them something permanent and enduring.”
On R238 from Derry to Buncrana at Tooban, Burnfoot
Republic of Ireland F93 XY65