The Presbyterian Moderator, Dr Charles McMullen, is currently on a tour of East Belfast Presbytery. It began with a church service on Sunday, 4th November 2018. Visits to schools, community groups, the police service and the Army have all been included, as have visits to hospital services, local congregations, their ministers and pastoral staff.
Each Moderator undertakes pastoral tours of the denomination’s 19 presbyteries during their year in office. This is principally to encourage the local church and see first hand their work in the community. The tour of the Presbytery of East Belfast is the second of 4 such tours. Dr McMullen began the tour when he preached in Belmont Presbyterian Church.
“I am very much looking forward to visiting the Presbytery of East Belfast,” Dr McMullen said. “On my visit to the Templepatrick Presbytery last month, I became very aware of so many good news stories in the wider community, where many of our Presbyterian members are making such a positive difference for good. I have no doubt that I will find that same sense of commitment to people and the outworking of the love of Christ and his gospel in East Belfast.”
“The visit will give me an opportunity to come alongside congregations and experience at first hand a wide range of innovative ministries that seek to advance Christ’s Kingdom. Barbara and I are always keen, if at all possible, to pray for manse families and to encourage them. We will also be meeting students, licentiates, pastoral workers, ministers in specialised areas and those who are retired.”
A major focus for the tour will be to meet local ministers, pastoral staff and church members, seeing their work on the ground and some of the services that the denomination provides centrally. This includes a visit to Aaron House in Dundonald, the church’s residential care home for people with a profound learning disability.
“As the church’s principal public representative I am also looking forward to interacting with the wider community, bringing greetings and offering support wherever possible. I am particularly excited at the prospect of visiting the East Belfast Network, the schools and engaging with the sixth formers, visiting the Ulster Hospital, Palace Barracks and the Police Service at Strandtown. It will be a busy week, but an enjoyable one and I am looking forward to it,” Dr McMullen said.
East Belfast Presbytery contains 23 churches, which includes just over 14,000 members.
Covering a swathe of the city east of the River Lagan to the Castlereagh Hills then out to Dundonald and on to Holywood, it doubles back down Belfast Lough and across to the Ravenhill Road.
The Clerk of Presbytery, Rev Albin Rankin, minister of Stormont Presbyterian Church, explained that the Presbytery was predominantly urban and socially and economically diverse. “We are very much looking forward to the visit and have structured it around meeting local Presbyterians serving the community, engaged in Christ’s mission and ministry within Presbytery,” he said.
The Moderator will visit several key public services in the East Belfast Presbytery.
“We will also be reaching out to some of the key public services within our area with visits to PSNI, the Ulster Hospital where Dr McMullen will meet with staff and our chaplaincy team. He will visit a number of schools which will include Gilnahirk Primary School and Our Lady of St Patrick’s College, where he will take both assemblies, and a visit to Campbell College.”
“He will also visit the East Belfast Network, which will allow him to meet a range of community groups active within Inner East Belfast. It will also provide an opportunity to share in a significant and poignant act of remembrance in the run up to the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War. The visit to Campbell College is also linked to the theme of remembrance. The Moderator will receive a warm welcome when he comes to this part of the city,” Mr Rankin said.
Traditionally each Presbytery Tour concludes with the Moderator speaking at the Sunday morning and evening services of two local congregations. Given Dr McMullen’s involvement in Remembrance Sunday commemorations, which also mark the centenary of the Armistice, on this occasion it hasn’t been possible.
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