New Minister at First Ballymena Presbyterian Church – Rev Emerson McDowell

Rev Emerson McDowell is settling well into First Ballymena Presbyterian Church having recently entered the pulpit there as the congregation’s new Minister.

Emerson had previously served at Ballylinney, a fellowship situated just outside Ballyclare.  The new man at Meetinghouse Lane is married to Paula and the couple have two grown-up children, Madeleine, and Lewis.

Revealing a little about his early life, Emerson told The Church Page: “I grew up in the Castlereagh Hills of East Belfast; I am a farmer’s son. I was 13 when I gave my life to the Lord.  My commitment followed quite a long process of growing up in a Christian home as part of Castlereagh Presbyterian Church.  There was a mission going on up in Carryduff with an evangelist called Hedley Murphy.  I didn’t actually go to it but my family did and they came back and told me all about it.  The Lord had been working in my heart for quite some time before that and I subsequently gave my life to Him as a young teenager.”

Unsurprisingly, Emerson grew up with a keen interest in Agriculture and went on to study the subject at Queens’ before becoming a Crops Advisor at what was then known as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, (D.A.R.D.)

Although he ‘loved’ this work, Emerson knew that the Lord was calling him into ministry though he took a little time to respond:

“The minister of Castlereagh Presbyterian at that time was Rev. Ricky Montgomery and I went for lunch with him just before going to Queens and he said: ‘Emerson, do you know something?  I believe that the Lord is calling you into Ministry.’  That shocked me because it was not my preferred pathway at all.  However, Ricky’s words never left me and the sense of conviction that he had been right grew and grew about this call into ministry, so I eventually entered Union Theological College in 2002.”

New Minister at First Ballymena Presbyterian Church – Rev Emerson McDowell
Rev Emerson McDowell and Madeleine (left), his wife Paula & Lewis

An Assistantship at what was Wellington Street Presbyterian Church, Ballymena followed. Looking back on ‘great days’ there, Emerson has fond memories of his ‘friend, mentor and encourager’, Rev Norman Brown.

He went on to say: “After I had served my time as the Assistant, the opportunity came to work as the Associate Minister with Norman for three years and I learned so much from him.  This was during the time of the congregation’s move from its original site at Wellington Street in Ballymena town centre to their current location at Sourhill.  That was an exciting and busy time. I had the privilege of being with the people of Wellington for most of their first year on that new site.”

Following his time at Wellington, Emerson had a ‘wonderful experience’ as Minister of Ballylinney.

Remembering this with a smile, he said: “The Lord did many great things. There were lots of new members joining and people accepting Jesus as their Saviour. It was a difficult decision to leave Ballylinney after 13 great years.

Having said that, Emerson is ‘excited’ about his ministry in First Ballymena.  Looking ahead, he told us: “I am starting to realise the scale of the Church; there are so many things going on.  Their outreach to the community is exciting and with the facilities that they have, everything is in place now to build a people to reach out for the Lord and see what He wants to do amongst us all, calling people to faith and growing disciples so it is all very exciting.  I am working along with Rev Matthew Boyd who is the Associate Minister and the Session, Committee, and everyone have made me, and my family feel so welcome.”

He is keen to acknowledge the work of his predecessor, Rev William Sinclair, who has laid excellent foundations for the new era.

New Minister at First Ballymena Presbyterian Church – Rev Emerson McDowell
L-R – Mr Tom Heaney (Clerk of Session), Rev Emerson McDowell, Rev Matthew Boyd (Associate Minister) & Mr Colin Russell (Deputy Clerk of Session)

“I hope that the Lord would call many people to faith and that we would grow together and walk together in our journey with the Lord and maybe along the way to pick people up who at the minute have no interest in Church, whom the Lord is going to call and save and bring them up in the faith.  I want to grow the sense of a family Church that is welcoming and where people can see and experience the joy of the Lord and all the plans that He has for His people.

“The verses on which I base my ministry are taken from Proverbs 3:5-6, which says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ (New International Version.)

Sharing a little about his interests outside Church, Emerson added: “Quite controversially, I am a long-standing supporter of Coleraine FC as well as being a West Ham fan.  I am pleased to hear that there are some West Ham fans in First Ballymena as well.  I also retain an interest in Agriculture and like keeping active as much as I can.”

New Minister at First Ballymena Presbyterian Church – Rev Emerson McDowell

You can find out more about First Ballymena Presbyterian Church on their website as Rev Emerson McDowell takes up the position of lead minister in the congregation.