Ballymena Elim celebrates 100 years of witness

This year, 2016, Ballymena Elim celebrates 100 years of witness in the town & the instigation of the Elim Pentecostal fellowship in Ballymena.
In the article which follows, local Elim Historian, Sam Montgomery looks back on the formation of a local fellowship, which is now a familiar site to everyone on Castle Street.

Sam writes:

‘In 1915 a young man from Maesteg in South Wales together with a group called the Elim Evangelistic Band were invited to Monaghan to hold a series of meetings. From this early beginning the Elim Movement spread throughout Ireland, the rest of the British Isles and across the world, in the meantime forming an assembly in Ballymena in 1916.

Ballymena Elim celebrates 100 years book
The front cover of the ‘100 Years Of Elim In Ballymena’ book by Sam Montgomery

The Elim Movement in Ballymena began in February 1916 when Pastor George Jeffreys and the Elim Evangelistic Band, comprising of Pastor Farlow, Miss Streight, Pastor Henderson, Pastor Jeffreys and Pastor Darragh were invited to conduct a mission in the old YMCA Building in Wellington Street by a group of prominent people among whom were James and Agnes Gault of Ballymarlow.

Shortly after the series of meetings in the Town Hall a fire destroyed it. Although the fire was totally unrelated to the meetings a local wag was heard to say ‘The holy rollers kept singing let the fire fall. Well their God answered them and burned the building as well’ Shortly after this a building was bought in Castle Street for the sum of £1380-15-0.

Ballymena Elim celebrates 100 years - old church
Ballymena Elim church in Ballymena which was demolished in 1974

The current Pastor, Mark Stone is the 28th person to hold this position since the first one Pastor Robert Mercer who was in charge from 1919 until 1925. The longest serving Pastors were: W J Martin who was the Pastor from 1950 until 1963 and Peter Smith who was the Pastor from 1994 until 2005. Under the ministry of Pastor Sandford who was Pastor from 1970 until 1978 the congregation increased so much that a new church building was required. This was completed in 1975. While Peter Smith was in charge the new halls were built in 1997 while the church was refurbished in 2004. Due to further substantial growth in numbers a gallery was added in 2009 while Jonathan Law was the Pastor. The church has organised many missions over the years but a Canadian couple, Mr and Mrs Richardson in 1955, conducted one that was remembered fondly by older members. Other notable missions were conducted by Rev Sam Workman in 1979, 1981 and 1995 while the most recent one was conducted in 2014 by a much loved former Pastor called Billy McCandless. Over the years a large number of members went on to serve God elsewhere as Pastors or missionaries and the current Irish Superintendent, Edwin Michael is a former member.

The church runs a successful Campaigners Clan and the leader of this in the assembly is also the N Ireland Chief of Campaigners, an evangelical youth movement.

Pastor James and Mrs Sofia McKeown who together went out as missionaries to Ghana in 1937 and formed the Church of Pentecost that now has over 11000 assemblies in Ghana as well as others in countries where people from Ghana moved to also worshipped in Ballymena assembly when home. When they eventually retired they became much-loved members of the assembly.’

Events planned as Ballymena Elim celebrates 100 years witness in the town.

• As the Elim Church in Ballymena celebrates 100 years of ministry in the town, the members are having a dinner to be followed by a social on Friday, 12th February while a very important service is planned to be held in the church on Saturday, 20th February when the speaker will be Maldwyn Jones, the official Elim Historian, and a book entitled: ‘100 Years of Elim in Ballymena 1916 – 2016’ will be launched. Written by Sam Montgomery, the publication, essentially a pictorial record of church life spanning 100 years, is a genuine piece of history to read now and treasure forever and as such will be of great interest to many past and present members and friends of the assembly. It will be a limited edition of about 300 copies and will have 220 pages that, as well as containing historical items of interest also includes nearly 800 pictures that cover all aspects of church life. Pictures of every Pastor are included as well as eyewitness accounts of events together with before and after pictures. The cost of the book will be £15 with postage and packing, if necessary, extra.

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