THE Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Rev Alan Harper, will preach in St Mark's, Ballymacash, this Sunday at a Service of Re-hallowing in the church which has undergone extensive renovations in recent months.
The £450,000 scheme is largely funded by the generosity of parishioners, who have to date raised more than half the total cost. Indeed they donated an incredible £55,000 on a Gift Day in March last year, which the rector, Canon George Irwin, said was the confidence boost needed to allow the project to go ahead.
"It was a very courageous decision and matter of faith, "he said." "The decision to do the renovations was taken three years after we completed a major extension and renovation project at the rectory which have just paid off."
Work began in July 2010 and over a six month period the church, parochial hall, side chapel and ancillary rooms were re roofed and redecorated and new gas-fired heating system installed throughout the suite of buildings.
The renovation scheme has provided the opportunity to make changes to the interior design of the church itself with the removal of a low-level ceiling. Canon Irwin said the new design had greatly improved the acoustics and enhanced the worship area in terms of appearance and atmosphere.
He described the re-hallowing as a 'significant milestone' in the life of the parish. The first church building was a Chapel of Ease dedicated in 1892. In 1902 the building was designed the Church of St Mark and served the people of Ballymacash until 1975 when the present church was opened to accommodate the growing congregation.
"The successful competition of the renovation project in 2010 reflects credit on the personnel involved and serves as a fitting tribute to those who laboured down through the years to maintain this church as a place where we and future generations may have the privilege of worshipping God," said Canon Irwin.
He paid tribute to 'the vision, expertise and unstinting commitment' of the
architect Paul Blamphin, and thanked main contractors William Dowling
Limited and all the firms who worked on the project.
Canon Irwin continued: "A great debt of gratitude is due to the Church wardens, Glebewardens, Select Vestry and members of the Church Renovation Committee for their dedication and generous sacrifice of time and talents and to all parishioners for their wholehearthed, concerted and prayerful support.
"We thank the Sexton, Mrs Sylvia Belshaw and her husband Brian for undertaking the extra responsibilities associated with the renovation work and the members of Ballymacash LOL 317 for their kindness in lending chairs for our use whilst we worshipped in the Canon Jones Hall during the summer and autumn of 2010.
The Re-hallowing Service takes place at 11am on January 23. At 3pm that afternoon there will be a special Youth Service when the preacher will be the Rev Simon Genoe, Curate Assistant at Lisburn Cathedral.