The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen, is about to begin a week-long tour of the Church’s Presbytery of Monaghan. He will start the tour in Corvally Presbyterian Church, Co Monaghan on Sunday, 3rd March 2019.
The tour, which will be his fourth and final presbytery tour, will include visits to local businesses, schools and a local hospital, but will focus primarily on encouraging members and ministers across the presbytery and seeing first-hand the mission and ministry of the Church in this part of the country.
While taking in more than just County Monaghan itself, the presbytery stretches from the Wild Atlantic Way across country to the shores of the Irish Sea. Made up of 34 congregations consisting of approximately 1,000 families, its extends to Dundalk in Co Louth in the east, to Ballina in Co Mayo to the west and from Sligo City in the northern part of the presbytery to Kells in Co Meath in the south. Most of the congregations, however, are situated in counties Monaghan and Cavan.
Accompanied by his wife Barbara, the Moderator will take part in two significant celebrations, the first being the 300th anniversary of First Castleblayney Presbyterian Church. Monaghan County Council will also host a civic reception for the senior office bearer and principal public representative of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, who will also attend a performance of ‘The importance of being Ernest’ at the Castleblayney Drama Festival.
Looking forward to the tour, Dr McMullen said, “My previous three presbytery tours have been outstanding opportunities to get an overview of the witness and outreach of our denomination in local areas. It has been a privilege to visit congregations, spend time with and hopefully encourage manse families as well as to engaging with many Presbyterians in their varying places of work. For these reasons I am looking forward immensely to a week full of engagements in the Monaghan Presbytery.
On a personal note, my father-in-law hails from Co Monaghan and there has been a family joke that all roads somehow lead back to Ballybay! Barbara and I have been amazed over the years by the number of people we have met who have roots in the area, and know that we ourselves will be blessed as we discover something of the wider region’s innate beauty and charm.”
Throughout the week there will be opportunities to offer pastoral support for ministers and elders at the Annual Elders’ fellowship dinner that will be held in Cootehill Presbyterian Church Hall, Co Cavan and a breakfast for ministers, which is also in Cootehill. A presbytery rally, which is a time of worship and teaching that is open to everyone from all over the region, will be held in Braddox Presbyterian Church. He will also spend time with senior members from congregations in the border area around Clones.
The Clerk of the Presbytery of Monaghan, Rev Daryl Edwards, who is the minister of Cootehill, Drum and Kilmount Presbyterian Churches, said that they had arranged a busy week for Dr McMullen. “We are excited for the Moderator’s visit, as it not only reminds us of our links with the wider church family but also gives us an opportunity to come together within the Presbytery for times of fellowship and refreshment, something that isn’t always easy given our geographical spread.
In this tour, we have deliberately included every group of congregations, to both bring encouragement and to illustrate how spread out we really are. However, Dr McMullen will attend events in counties Sligo and Mayo at the end of the month when he undertakes separate engagements there, a time we are also looking forward to. His agenda this week also encompasses time with people of all ages from nursing homes, to work places, to schools.”
Mr Edwards said that many within the region are dependent on the rural agricultural economy and local engineering and entrepreneurial enterprises. “Dr McMullen will take time to visit local employers, including Combilift in Monaghan, Lakeland dairies in Bailieborough and Carleton Cakes in Cootehill. He will also visit St Mary’s Hospital Castleblayney and a number of schools under the patronage of the Presbytery of Monaghan, Castleblayney Central, Ballybay Central, Drumcorrin School and Dun Dealgan National School.”
In the Presbyterian system of church government each presbytery consists of ministers and elders who are drawn from local congregations in a particular area. As a court of the church each presbytery is responsible for overseeing those congregations in its local area while undertaking other important tasks, which includes the annual selection of the Moderator which takes place each February. Dr McMullen will also attend the March meeting of the Presbytery, which will be held at Glennan Presbyterian Church.
“This is my final Presbytery tour and I am particularly delighted to be south of the border. While our denomination is an all-Ireland church, it isn’t as big as others in the Republic of Ireland, but nonetheless Presbyterians play their full part in the life of the nation on various levels and I have heard many stories of vibrant faith communities, some of which, after years of decline, are now growing again. It will also be good to discover in greater detail some of the issues in the local area, particularly as Brexit fast approaches,” Dr McMullen said.
The Moderator will conclude his presbytery tour on Sunday 10th March in Kells Presbyterian Church. Celebrating its 150th anniversary, worshipers will be joined at the service by the Romanian congregation that also uses the church.
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