Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church Forty Years On S. & B. Wallace











The Church Building

When the word "church" is used most of us are inclined to think at once of a prominent building situated at some vantage point. Our church buildings are indeed well situated at the fork between the Moss Road and Harmony Hill on an elevated position overlooking the main Lisburn-Belfast Road.

The church itself has been aptly described as a tent, a description that takes us back to the tabernacle - the very first structure in which the people of God in Old Testament time gathered to worship. To the outside world the embracing
walls of the church - apart from the new main hall which was erected later - disclose only two additional elements - the "tented" roof and the courtyard entrance through the base of the Campanile.

Within the church itself the use of modest and unadorned materials - painted brick walls, pine boarded ceiling (hyperbolic parabolid in design), and polished concrete floor - parallels the clarity of the external form. In contrast, the pulpit and screen - the latter modelled in concrete and finished with a bronze polish - together with the font and table make a significant grouping and emphasise the Word and Sacraments as should be the case in Presbyterian worship.

The central position of the table allows the congregation as a family to gather round it for worship. This family aspect has been a strong emphasis in our congregation since the beginning and reflects to some degree the old practice
of "coming forward" to communion when long tables were erected in the aisles. To this day this practice is still maintained in Glascar Church in Co. Down.

Another link with the past is our bell. It bears the date 1874. On it there is a crown, a harp and a shamrock; and it came from Clogher Presbyterian Church in Co. Mayo. The building there was demolished in 1931 and the congregation no longer exists.

Our own building was opened and dedicated by the Very Rev. Dr. James Dunlop, then Moderator of the General Assembly. One feature of the Opening was the switching on of the lights, which were the gift of the "Live Wires" Scheme a project engaged in by the children and young people of the Presbyterian Church to raise the cost of providing the lighting in new Church Extension buildings.

The People

Important though the building is the people are more important. The first tiny nucleus - a mere handful - met for worship in February, 1954. For some years the small but growing congregation worshipped and carried on its activities in the
upstairs hall of an old building in Lambeg Village across the main road from our present church and beyond the railway line. The site of that building now forms part of the new Housing Executive Scheme of small bungalow-type dwellings for older people. To this day we have in our congregation people who look back to those early times in the old hall, known as the Upper Room, with affection, gratitude and nostalgia.

The following figures taken from the Minutes of the General Assembly give some idea of how the congregation has developed

    Persons of    

Sunday School

Year Families all Ages Baptisms Communicants Pupils Teachers
1956 57 150  4  33 30 6
1960 180 516 15 141 180 11
1965 244 687 29 177 188 21
1970 390 1143 57 271 199 26
1975 370 1308 43 381 232 27
1978 450 1400 34 382 262 32

These figures represent people, Some, of course, have moved away to other places because of marriage and work and for other reasons. However, for years now the district has steadily grown. New houses have gone up and new families
moved in. Many have come from other parts of Northern Ireland, from the South and from outside Ireland. We have members whose roots are in Derry, Coleraine, Ballymena, Newry, Portadown, Lurgan, Belfast itself, the remoter parts of Co. Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Dublin. The fact that our membership has grown as a result of people settling here from such places is a very real justification of Church Extension - our Presbyterian people all over have benefited.

The First Years

Three names figure in these years - those of the late Mr. J. Nelson, a well-known Belfast layman, the Very Rev. Dr. R. J. Wilson and the Rev. V. B. Molgaard. Mr. Nelson and Dr. Wilson did visiting in the area and Mr. Molgaard was appointed Stated Supply and took the first service on 21st February, 1954. It was he who organised worship and work in the Lambeg Hall.

Another Church Extension cause was getting under way about the same time two miles away at Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, Just as our cause lay within the parish of First Lisburn so the Seymour Hill cause lay within the congregational area of Dunmurry. Eventually the Dunmurry Minister and Session concurred in the suggestion that the two causes be linked and a minister appointed to serve for a period in both places jointly until such times as one or other place (or both) might become an independent cause.

That minister was the Rev. D. H. A. Watson, B.A., B.D., who was ordained on the 20th September, 1956, the Service taking place in 1st Lisburn. For some years Mr. Watson laboured to great effect in both places and the tolerant spirit, the breadth of outlook, the caring attitude and the active participation of so many members which characterise both congregations are due in no small measure to Mr. Watson's influence.

One of Mr. Watson's colleagues in the work was the Rev. John Morrow, who was eventually to be installed as Minister of the Church at Seymour Hill, Dr. Morrow, as he is now, is Presbyterian Dean of Residence at Queen's University.

In 1957 steps were taken to purchase the hall in Lambeg from First Lisburn Congregation, from whom it had been held for some years free of rent. First Lisburn's generosity in the matter of the hall symbolises the wonderful way in which that congregation and its then minister, the Very Rev. Dr. William Boyd, did all in their power to facilitate the new cause.

Harmony Hill, Lambeg, ceased to be a Church Extension Charge at the end of the year 1967, when it was erected, as we say, into a congregation with full status and all the privileges and responsibilities that go with that status.

The Years Since

Once the congregation ceased to be a Church Extension Charge looked after by the Minister and an Interim Kirk Session the way was clear for the appointment of a Kirk Session of our own. An election was held and on Sunday, 17th November,
1968, the following elders were ordained and installed:- Mrs. M. Kirkwood; Mr. J. Blackburn; Mr. R. J. C. Boyd; Mr. W. Castles; Mr. G. Daley; Mr. C. Gillett; Mr. A. Rankin; Mr. S. Wallace. In addition the following, who had served elsewhere, were installed:-Mr. C. Bothwell; Mr. N. McKnight; Mr. A. MacLurg.

There have been other elections and ordinations since, but those mentioned by name constituted the Session at the outset.

Since then the congregation has been cared for by a band of conscientious elders each with his or her appointed district and its affairs administered by a capable and business-like committee.

A new main hall has been built and this has been a great boon to the uniformed and non-uniformed organisations. The Sunday School has also benefited and all are fortunate in being staffed by capable, conscientious people.

A number of radio and television transmissions have taken place. At the time many letters of appreciation and commendation were received, an indication that the congregation's influence has not been limited to the immediate parish.

The summer of 1975 was marked by the departure of the Rev. D. H. A. Watson on receiving a Call to become Minister of the Burns and Old Parish Church in Kilsyth in Scotland. For over 18 years he ministered in Harmony Hill and his successor, the Rev. H. Gray, would be the first to acknowledge that the happy, active fellowship he found on coming to Harmony Hill has been the result of Mr. Watson's long, distinguished, energetic, wholesome and well-balanced ministry . . . and the responsiveness of the congregation to it.

The history of this congregation is comparatively short in time and this account of it must of necessity be brief. It is our hope and prayer, nevertheless, that it will serve to spur us on into our second quarter of a century and that the
life and work of Harmony Hill even as we face the 21st century will mean for many fulness of life in Commitment to Christ, Membership of the Church and Service to the World.


O God, may the door of this house be wide enough to include all who need divine love and human fellowship, yet narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. May its threshold be smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children or to straying feet, yet rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter's power. O God may the door of this house be the very gateway to Your everlasting Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.