Rev Marty McNeely vacates Ballykeel Presbyterian Church, Ballymena

Rev Marty McNeely will preach his last sermon as Minister of Ballykeel Presbyterian Church on Sunday 7th January 2024.

53-year-old Marty has become one of the most recognisable faces in the area during his 16 years in Ballymena and has played his part in creating a positive atmosphere on the mainly loyalist housing estate.

He says: “When I arrived, Ballykeel had been condemned by a lot of people, but I never let myself be burdened by that fact. I achieved this by affirming the culture there where I could. Whenever I found something positive in the area such as boxing, football or even the Flute Band I would support it. I really rejoiced in doing that and I hope I have played a part in people recognising that Ballykeel is a good place to live. There are a lot of problems but there is huge positivity now. One of the ways that I have been able to reinforce that is through the local primary school; I think that the staff there are doing a brilliant work. We, as a Church have always been very closely linked with the school and that has been very beneficial too.”

Reflecting on the highpoints of his ministry, Marty went on to say: “I have a particular passion for seeing men come to faith and men grow in faith; so probably the most rewarding aspect of my time in Ballykeel has been to see quite a lot of fellas emerge through the Church into leadership. That will be my overwhelming memory – the men that I have seen raised up. Some guys have been through desperate tragedies including lost loved ones and other immense challenges and yet have come through as solid Christians. That has been a real inspiration for me so I will never forget that. I think just generally worshipping on a Sunday morning with my own children and seeing people grow in faith and praise the Lord is a real privilege. Every Sunday is a memory in and of itself.”

Interestingly, the Church at Ballykeel has witnessed steady numerical growth during Marty’s tenure. Of the 94 people who signed his ‘call sheet’ 40 people have passed on or located elsewhere. Despite this, 120-130 people attend Sunday Morning worship. The number of children present on a regular basis has increased from significantly during that same period.

Marty continued: “Any growing Church will always have prayer, good praise, solid teaching, and warm fellowship at the heart of who they want to be. I don’t think we are any different from any other Church in that regard. I do think that personally observing ministry over the last 16 years one thing that I inherited and that I kept pushing was good leadership. Working in a team environment with my elders and committee men has been productive in terms of seeing people use their gifts and setting people free to use their gifts. That has been a very prominent part of my ministry and I think that it has borne fruit.”

An interesting dual role awaits Marty once he steps aside from Ballykeel, in addition to being Minister of Fahan Presbyterian Church in Donegal he will also be involved in a new ‘Church Plant’ in Buncrana.
Looking ahead, Marty said: “My new call will bring the blessing of Donegal as a surfer and a rural native I will enjoy being there. I think the challenge is you are in the Republic of Ireland, which is significantly different from Ballykeel both culturally, demographically, and politically. It’s a rural place and one which is next to some nationalist areas so I have to show and share the good news of Jesus within that context. It is also a setting in which many younger people are facing challenges that many young people face coupled with a rejection of the traditional Church.”

Rev Marty McNeely vacates Ballykeel Presbyterian Church, Ballymena
Rev Marty McNeely, minister of Ballykeel Presbyterian Church, Ballymena for the last 16 years has answered the call and is moving to Fahan Presbyterian Church in Donegal

Exciting times are ahead for the Marty who will never forget the bond he has formed with the people of Ballykeel. He reflects: “I have learnt so much there, and I have seen God working in so many ways there that it is hard for me to think otherwise now, I really do feel that I am a ‘keeler’ with everybody else.”

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