The Covenanters of the Lagan Valley district (Lisburn, Bailiesmills, Dromore and Dromara) are hosting a series of events on Saturday 14th March exploring the history of the Covenanting movement in this area. Everyone in the whole community is invited.
Saturday morning & afternoon:
Covenanter Exhibition and Covenanters’ drama in the Linen Centre
From 9.30am to 4.30pm, there will be a Covenanter Exhibition in the Linen Centre. Stands depicting the history of the Covenanters will be on display. Computer terminals with an interactive timeline will be available for adults and children. Covenanter Heritage Trails will be available, free of charge. Three performances of the ‘Covenanters’ drama, which is currently touring primary and secondary schools across the province, will be held at 10.00am, 12.00noon and 2.00pm. This 35 minute drama will bring to life Robert Blair (one of the first Presbyterian ministers to arrive in Ulster with the Scottish settlers in the early 1600s); Daniel and Sarah, a young fictional couple who sailed with him on board the famous emigrant ship Eagle Wing; Alexander Peden, the Covenanter from near Stranraer who sought refuge in Ulster, David Houston, the Covenanter who spent much of his life in Ulster, including the Siege of Derry. This Covenanter drama explains the arrival of Scottish settlers to Ulster in the early 1600s, and how their faith and historical events shaped their lives. The drama was written by Jonathan Burgess, whose ‘Fair Fa’ Ye’ play about Ulster-Scots history has been performed in almost 450 schools in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and is soon to travel to the USA.
Evening of Psalm-singing in the Island Centre
On Saturday night there will be an ‘Evening of Psalm-singing’ in the Island Centre. The choirs of the Eastern and Northern Presbyteries of the Reformed Presbyterian Church will lead the praise unaccompanied similar to the worship pattern of most Christian churches throughout the centuries. The theme of the evening will be “Christ and his Suffering Church” and the Psalms chosen were widely used by Christians during the period of Reformation. These metrical Psalms sustained the Covenanters especially through dark days of persecution, known as “The Killing Times” (1660-1688) - they were among the most persecuted Christians at any time in history.
During the evening of Psalm-singing the covenanter story will be told: The covenanter begins in the 17th century. It was a turbulent time in the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. At one point in 1643, when civil war was raging in England, the Parliamentarians joined with the Scots in a religious Covenant (Solemn League and Covenant). This Covenant (solemn promise to God) pledged among other things to: preserve the reformed religion in the Church of Scotland (Presbyterianism), in doctrine, worship, discipline and government, against our common enemies; reform religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland, in doctrine, worship, discipline and government, according to the Word of God and the example of the best reformed Churches. The Covenant was brought over to the North of Ireland in 1644 and was signed enthusiastically by thousands, particularly by the Scottish Presbyterian settlers. Towards the end of the 17th century Presbyterians were pressurised by the State to relinquish their allegiance to the Solemn League and Covenant. A minority doggedly continued to adhere to the Covenant and its principles, and were for ever after known as Covenanters. They formed themselves into Societies for mutual encouragement, spiritual enrichment and Christian fellowship.
Some of these Societies were formed in the Lagan Valley district. When John Wesley visited Lisburn in 1756 he reported in his Journal coming into contact with some ‘Cameronians’, as the Covenanters were sometimes called. It is likely that these Covenanters were among those who, residing between Dromore and Donaghadee, had issued a call to William Staveley in 1772. The Societies of Carr, Creevy and Bailiesmills were under the supervision of Knockbracken Session and enjoyed the ministry of Mr Staveley for about 30 years. It is recorded that there was a Society at Hillhall and Magheragall. However, it was in Bailiesmills and not Lisburn, that a Covenanter congregation was organised in 1807. The Lisburn congregation was organised in 1982 and presently worships in its church building on the Nettlehill Road.
Visit the Linen Centre on Saturday 14th March and you will experience a wealth of local information about the history of the Covenanting movement in this area and further a field. For more information please contact Sarah Lockhart at the Ulster-Scots Agency on 028 9089 1780 or Prof Robert McCollum email firstname.lastname@example.org.