Maze Presbyterian Church

A Short History
Rev. Thomas Dunn B.A. 1949



Part 2


  From the first, Mr. Stevenson set about making the most of his opportunities and consolidating his successes. He recognised that the congregation's future depended on the careful shepherding of the young, and in 1857 he established a Sabbath School in which, after seven years, twelve teachers week after week, imparted heavenly lore to some fifty children. Them was no evening diet of worship, and the Sabbath School which met 'in the afternoon was interdenominational and some of the teachers came from the Episcopal and Methodist camps. A feature was the library of good and useful volumes. It was Dr. Alex Whyte of Edinburgh who said "I have a great faith myself in the proper books. I shall owe my own soul, if it is saved at last, to the proper books." Mr. Stevenson shared that faith in the power of good literature and he rendered the community a service when he amassed and made available a collection of wholesome and inspiring books.

  He was concerned too for the Church praise and a singing class was formed. A precentor was appointed and the first to fill this office was Samuel Barr.

  The first baptism recorded was that of Margaret Carlisle on the 15th April, 1856.

  The Communion roll of Maze dates back to the same year and gives the number at the first observance as twenty-two, among whom were Wm. and Margaret Kernohan, Mary A. O'Neil, Jane Convery, Hugh Robin�son, Wm. Carlisle, Robert Culbert, John Shaw, Robert Howey,

  A minute of the Committee dated 15th March, 1860, informs us that Trevor Phenix was appointed "sexon" and collector of Stipend at the annual remuneration of �3.

  The Presbyterian Church has always been in the van of Educational advance. It has stood for the en�lightenment of the people. It has never feared the light but has regarded darkness and ignorance as two of the chief obstacles to progress and enemies of the Kingdom. And Mr. Stevenson was deeply imbued with this charac�teristic Presbyterian attribute. He felt that a Sabbath School was not enough. He set himself to secure a day school also. The National Education Act had been passed forty years previously, but there was no national school in the immediate vicinity, and there seems to have been a great prejudice against such a system. There was a school at Newport, and the Maze No. 2 School was an Erasmus Smith foundation. When the talk started about one for alongside Maze Church, feeling became high. As. soon as the project was mooted, forces of opposition began to mobilise and many were prepared to fight against the scheme and foil it all costs! Bands promenaded and in lieu of better arguments the dominion of din was invoked by the opposition. There was even intimidation and those known to be stalwart supporters of the new scheme were in danger of violence! The infant mortality rate among good ideas has always been too high, but the idea of the school was not allowed to fade out. The movement was virile and triumphed over drawbacks. The General Assembly in 1872 made a grant of �60 from one of its funds for the erection of a School House, which took shape next year, and in September 1875 classes began. Recognition of the new seminary as a national school came in the following month. The people rallied round. The opposition had resulted in closing the ranks of the champions of learning and in making them all the keener. And soon the school became the best and largest in the district.

  In the very year that the School was erected, Mr. Stevenson secured from the General Assembly a grant of �100 to build a new Manse. At the end of 1873 or the beginning of 1874 the sum of �400 was borrowed under the Glebe Loan Act, so probably the Manse was put up in 1874. Church, School, Manse, these three construc�tions are enduring monuments to Mr. Stevenson's perseverance and unceasing activity. Of course they were not as they are now. The outside of all three was - as the School continues to be - of brick and mortar. In the case of the Church the pulpit was elevated above the present one and was entered from the room above the vestry. The heating apparatus was introduced later. None the less Mr. Stevenson's work was a noble one. From the green sod rose these three buildings, and to meet the expense of them he collected far and wide� quite a number of times visiting Scotland, and, wonderful to relate! - returning with large sums. The Scots are said to be canny, but perhaps their reputation in this respect is more a fiction than a fact. Or it may be that the Mother Church felt an oblation to assist this her youngest offspring in the Emerald Isle. Or perhaps Mr. Stevenson's charm of personality and persuasive advoc�acy of his cause were the main influences in loosening purse strings and unsealing fountains of liberality. At any rate he amassed the " sinews of war" and the finan�ces were forthcoming. The local people did their part valiantly. On 25th September 1887, a supreme effort, was made to liquidate the amount still against the congregation by reason of the loan aforementioned and the purchase of the ground. Dr. Hanna of Belfast was special preacher, and the offering brought in the necessary sum.

  It will be interesting to some to know that at one time Mr. Stevenson wore a gown presented to him by the ladies of the congregation.

  Mr. Stevenson took to wife Miss Phoebe Simpson of Boardmills.

  The anxious arduous years began to take toll of Mr. Stevenson's health. While he had been instrumental in raising the buildings, he had also been assiduous in the discharge of his pastoral duties, ministering faithfully to the spiritual needs of those over whom be had the oversight. His kindness of heart and sympathy and diligence left their impress for good in many quarters. He showed forth his Master's praises and pressed His claims. "He allured to brighter worlds and led the way." But after a-time failing health vetoed too strenu�ous activity and he was forced to slacken the pace. Eglantine too had been built by the Mulholland family and its sittings, which were free to all, drew a-number of Presbyterian families into the Episcopal fold, to the considerable depletion of Maze. Feeling himself unable to contend adequately with the duties of his office by reason of failing vigour, Mr. Stevenson obtained leave of the Presbytery to retire. This was on 9th April 1889, and on 2nd July of that year he relinquished active duties. Some seventeen months later Mr. Stevenson left these earthly scenes and passed and to the realm beyond.

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The following items from the transactions of the Presbytery will give some indication of Mr. Stephenson's work and worth.

  At a Meeting of the Dromore Presbytery in Second Lisburn Congregation on August 12th 1879, Rev. Edward Stevenson presided, as Moderator.

  Rev. Mr. Dobbin announced the next visitation to take place at the Maze and that Messrs. Greer, Boal and Nelson were appointed to represent the Session, and Messrs. Wm. Gardner and Stockman to represent the Committee. The following is an account of the finding of the Visitation of the Maze Church-

  " This Presbytery desires to express its great satis�faction with the answers given to the various questions, and their thankfulness to God for the marked success that has attended the labours of their brother Mr. Stevenson in originating and maintaining a congregation at the Maze, building such an elegant and commodious Church, Manse, and Schoolhouse, and clearing off such a large proportion of the debt which amounted to about �2000. They rejoice to tears that so many of the people attend with regularity to the the services of the sanctuary ; that there is such a large and flourishing Sabbath School ; and that the hands of the Minister are strengthened by the elders, and some of the younger members of the congregation, in Sabbath School instruction. Whilst, however, they commend the liberality of the people as seen by their contributions to the Sustentation Fund, and the Missions of the Church, they would strongly urge that the claims of the pastor to a more generous support should be encouraged, and that an effort should be made at once to have the stipend materially increased, and that their minister should as soon as possible be relieved from the payment of the interest on �400 due on the Manse under the Globe Loan Act.

  They recommend that a treasurer and Secretary should be appointed who should collect and keep up the various accounts. They further recommended that family worship should be observed. Upon the whole, however, and considering how many difficulties the congregation and their minister have had to contend with, the Presbytery desire to speak in terms of high commendation of both office bearers and people, and especially of the zeal and energy of the Minister to where whole efforts, and self‑denying labours much of the property of the congre�gation, under God, is due."

  Rev. Mr. Browne was appointed to exchange pulpit, with Mr. Stevenson and read the finding and address the people on the subjects which it contains.

  The Presbytery of Dromore at a Meeting in Second Lisburn on December 23rd 1890, received from the commission appointed to draw up a minute in reference to the death of Mr. Stevenson.

  The following is the Minute which wag to be inserted on the minutes (of Presbytery) and a copy to be sent to the Children, viz :

  "The Presbytery of Dromore, at this first meeting after the death of the Rev. Edward Stevenson, desire to express and place permanently on their records their high appreciation of his Christian character and worth. From his earliest years in a quiet and unobtrusive manner he served the Master Whom he loved, and to Whom his life was consecrated. He did good as he had opportunity. By his efforts a congregation was organised at the Maze over which he was ordained about, thirty-six years ago. He was the means of building, and almost freeing of debt, a beautiful Church, a Schoolhouse, and a Manse.

  He lived the Gospel which he preached. He was honest and sincere in all his dealings, and whilst ever true to Presbyterian principles, was so catholic in his views that all evangelical denominations appreciated and loved him. He respected the rich, and honoured the noble of the land, but he always encouraged them, and that successfully, to give of their means to promote God's Cause. He loved the poor, and by his own generous benefactions made them feel that the Gospel of Christ, of which he was a preacher and exponent, was intended for their temporal as well as their eternal well-being. In the Meeting of Presbytery, his honest and outspoken opinions were always respected and appreciated. He lived and died an humble, persevering, and successful labourer in the Master's vineyard.

He leaves behind a family of three promising children, and whilst the Presbytery commend them to the God of Orphans, they also would commend them to the sympathy and prayers of God's people. Mr. Steven�son is gone, but his work and his influence remain. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from hence�forth - for they rest from their labours, and their works do tollow them.' "

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Rev. H. A. Mackenzie was ordained on November 16th, 1889 as assistant and successor, but Mr. Stevenson only remained Senior Minister one month and died on 11th December, 1890.

The following is a report from the Newsletter dated Saturday November 16th, 1889.

  "The Rev. H. A. Mackenzie, a licentiate of the Route Presbytery, was yesterday ordained to the pastorate of Maze Presbyterian Church, and there was a large congregation consisting of all the members of the Church and their friends.

A most eloquent sermon was preached by Rev. Charles Donaldson, while the Rev. Mr. Hamill expounded and defended the Presbyterian form of Church Govern�ment, and Rev. Mr. Moorhead delivered We charge to the Minister and people, and pronounced the benediction.

  At 3 o'clock a large company sat down to dinner under the presidency of Rev. J. Meeke - Toasts were given:-

(1) Lord Lieutenant and Prosperity to Ireland' -responded to by Rev. A. Dobbin.

(2) "General Assembly" - by Rev. Wm. Park.

(3) "Newly ordained Minister" - by Rev. H. A. Mackenzie.

(4) "Our Colleges" - by Professor Robinson.

Mr. Mackenzie entered on the work with great energy and enthusiasm. He found the Church and Manse in great need of repairs, and set about raising the necessary sum. The Congregation subscribed �43 10 0. �29 were raised by collecting‑boxes. Special Services raised almost �60, and �189 from friends outside the Congregation. In all about �327 were raised. The Church was completely renovated inside and outside, a new floor was put in, and a new pupit erected. Heating apparatus was instal�led; and the outside of the Church and Manse was cemented, and stone‑finished. Some repairs were done to the Manse and the Manse grounds were drained.

  Mr. Mackenzie's active and enthusiastic efforts not only bore fruit in renovated buildings, but the congre�gation increased.

But his stay in Maze was brief. On 24th March he accepted a call to Balteagh - and was succeeded by the Rev. Robert Whan, who was ordained on September 16th 1891,

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"Yesterday, 16th September 1891, the Presbytery of Dromore ordained Mr. Robert Whan, licentiate of the Dungannon Presbytery to the pastoral oversight of Maze Presbyterian Church, vacant for some time past owing to removal of the former minister (Rev. Mr. Mackenzie) to Balteagh, Co. Derry.

  Several ministers from other Presbyteries joined their brethren of the Dromore Presbytery, and the con�gregation turned out in considerable numbers. After praise and prayer, the Rev. W. C. Steele, the recently ordained minister of the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church preached from the text 1 Kings 20:40, "And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone."

  Rev. Wm. Browne of Legacurry defended Presby�terianism. The questions of the Code having been put to Mr. When, and duly answered he subscribed the Westminster Confession of Faith, and was solemnly set apart to the Ministerial office by the laying on of hands; the Rev. Mr. Wilson of Dungannon offering the ordination prayer.

  The Rev. Samuel Graham of Moira delivered the Charge to the Minister and Congregation. It was full of point and power, and was all through earnest in tone.

  The Benediction having been pronounced, the Service concluded. At 3 o'clock the members of the Dromore and other Presbyteries, as well as a number of licentiates and friends sat down in the adjoining schoolroom to an excellent dinner. Rev. T. M. Hamill, Moderator of the Dromore (Presbytery presided, The usual Ordination Toasts were given."

  Since 1874 the debt of  �400 received on lean under the Glebe Loan Act had been  a very heavy burden upon the Congregation. �20 per year had to be paid.

  This sum, Mr. Whan set himself to meet. But in addition a great storm in December 1894 unroofed the Manse offices, and did great damage to the property., In the appeal Mr. Whan put afterwards before the public, it was estimated that �140 would be required to make the repairs.

  The congregation contributed �80. Collecting Cards were issued. A Quilt scheme was got up, and the neces�sary sum was raised. �400 was invested, the interest of which paid the annual premium to the Board of Works.

  The offices were re-roofed. The Manse was stone�-finished with cement. But this was a small part of Mr. When's work. -

  His genial personality and kindly disposition, won for Christ and His Church a kindly place in many hearts. His brief ministry was cut short by his greatly lamented death on 14th November, 1899.

  Shortly before Mr. Whan's death he went to the United States of America to collect funds towards the debt on the Church buildings. He had only arrived there when he had to return home ill, and passed away shortly afterwards to the sorrow of all.

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