| © Violet Best 2000 Published by
Ballinderry Moravian Church Lower Ballinderry Co Antrim to mark 250 years
of Moravian work.
A HISTORY OF
The Ballinderry Moravian Church has a special place in our affections, having ministered there for 19 years, so we welcome Violet Best's history of the congregation.
Here is a record of joys and setbacks during 250 years, from the arrival of the evangelist John Cennick in 1750 until the present day. Violet records the building of the first church, its accidental destruction by fire on Easter Sunday 1835 and its rebuilding and dedication by May of the following year. She tells of the poverty of some of the population during the famine years and the support offered to fishermen around Lough Neagh.
We are happy to commend this book. We hope it will interest all readers and be an inspiration to the present members of the congregation.
Joe and Edna Cooper.
Artist's impression of the Moravian Church e1825. It was built in 1751 by John Cennick, altered and added to in 1821 and rebuilt in 1835 after it was destroyed by fire. The plan shows that the entrances to the earlier church and house were from the burial ground side.
BALLINDERRY MORAVIAN CHURCH
The Moravian Church and old manse occupy a site in the centre of the village of Lower Ballinderry. The building has roughcast cream walls with three roundheaded Georgian-glazed windows on each side; the gable of the church has a small bell-cote and porch. To find out what a church with a foreign sounding name is doing in this village in County Antrim we need to take a brief look at the history of the Moravian Church.
WHO ARE THE MORAVIANS?
Within the British Isles there are only 35 congregations and 6 societies. In Northern Ireland there are 5 congregations, so it is not surprising that many people have never heard of the Moravians, or been inside one of our churches.
The Moravian Church is an ancient Protestant Episcopal Church founded in 1457 in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) by the followers of John Hus, the religious reformer and martyr. Hus became a celebrated preacher in the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague and attracted large crowds as he read the Bible and preached in the Czech language (all services in those days were conducted by priests in Latin, which few could understand). Although the Church excommunicated John Hus, the people loved him. When he refused to yield to those in power and stood firm on the teachings of the Bible, he was burned at the stake on the 6th July 1415, his 46th birthday, and his ashes scattered on the river Rhine.
Following the death of Hus fierce conflict ensued in Moravia, but in 1457 some of the more earnest followers of his teaching, realising that reform had failed, withdrew to a village called Kunwald. There, 60 years before Martin Luther's Reformation in Germany, they established a community living in brotherly fellowship, and in 1467 made a decision to separate from Rome and to establish their own ministry. This new Church, known as the Unitas Fratrum (a unity of brethren), grew rapidly and established congregations in many parts of Bohemia and Moravia. It produced the first Protestant hymnbook in Prague in 1501, and then in 1579 printed the Kralitz Bible which is a translation from the original Hebrew and Greek into the Czech language. There was also great emphasis put on Christian education and many schools and colleges were founded.
However, troubled times lay ahead, persecution following the Counter Reformation resulted in the Unitas Fratrum being almost wiped out in the land of its birth. In 1628 a Moravian Bishop, John Amos Comenius, who in the midst of this terrible persecution, when its leaders were being executed, its churches burnt, and its members imprisoned and tortured, led a party of Moravian refugees across the deep snow of the Giant Mountains to safety in Poland. It was his hope that eventually these refugees might act as a `hidden seed' from which the ancient Unitas Fratrum might revive again. Comenius was a man of international renown, particularly in the field of education, and was the first to use pictures as a teaching aid. In time he became known as the `father of modern education'.
The hope and faith of Comenius that a hidden seed would survive were vindicated when in 1722 some Brethren descendants left their native Moravia, made their way to Saxony and found refuge on the estates of a young Lutheran nobleman, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf After a time Zinzendorf became their leader and under his influence the Church found renewal. Others seeking refuge augmented this small group until the population numbered about 300, and because many came from Moravia in time they were called Moravians. The settlement was named HERRNHUT, which meant `a place the Lord watches over'. Members were divided into `choirs' according to their age, sex and marital status. Each group lived in their own choir house and this formed the pattern for settlements such as those in Fulneck, Fairfield and Ockbrook in England and Gracehill in Northern Ireland.
HOW THE MORAVIANS CAME TO THE BRITISH ISLES
The renewed Church in. Herrnhut felt the call of God to take the Gospel into the world and was soon sending out missionaries to the remote places of the earth. In the early days, Moravian Church policy was to evangelise in places where the Christian message had not been preached, or to which they had been invited. Some missionaries, on their way to Georgia in America, broke their journey in London and this began their expansion into the British Isles. At the time it was not the intention to set up a separate Church but to organise people in societies to deepen their spiritual life and encourage their return to their churches.
HOW THE MORAVIANS CAME TO IRELAND AND LOWER BALLINDERRY
The Moravian work in Ireland owes its origins to the Moravian evangelist and hymn writer John Cennick who was born in Reading on 12th December 1718 and baptised in St Lawrence Church of England. In his 39 Village Discourses he tells that his family became Quakers when George Fox and William Penn began preaching. When John was 17 his life was dramatically changed whilst attending a service in the Anglican Church at Reading where he had been brought up. He met George Whitefield and John Wesley in 1739 and became a member of the Fetter Lane Society (which was not yet Moravian). John Wesley invited him to be a teacher in his school for the children of coal miners at Kingswood, Bristol. Doctrinal differences separated Cennick from the Wesleys in 1740, but he continued evangelistic work in the West of England and at the end of 1745 the societies he formed agreed to be put under the care of the Moravians. Cennick visited Moravian centres on the Continent and in 1746 joined the Moravian Church. He was a dynamic preacher and visitors from Dublin, who heard him preach in London, were so impressed that they invited him to visit their city. After much persuasion, he eventually complied and landed in Dublin on Tuesday the 3rd June 1746 and on the next day preached to a congregation of about 150 people in a Baptist meeting house in Skinners Alley. So, at the age of 27 the main work of this young man's life began.
In August 1746 John Cennick first visited Ballymena at the invitation of a Mr Deane. Crowds welcomed his preaching, but his reception by some church elders and Captain Adair, the Lord of the Manor, was hostile, so he returned to Dublin. He came to Ballymena again at the invitation of Mr Deane in June 1748 and after initial difficulties Moravian work began.
Cennick and his helpers evangelised in Counties Antrim, Londonderry, Tyrone, Down, Cavan, Monaghan and Armagh. In the autumn of 1750 Cennick visited Glenavy for the first time, then preached at Ballyclan, south of Ardmore Point on Lough Neagh, and Crosshill. In his journal he records:
October 16th -1750 accompanied with Brn: Syms, Caries, and Patrick Spence, at the invitation of Mr. James Brady, who wrote in the name of many of the inhabitants, I went to Ballinderry, where I preached the first time in a large cockpit. In the first meeting our Saviour gave us a sure conviction of his blessing, and before we left Mr. J. Whyte desired me to come again, which I promised at my return from Dublin.
On Monday 19th I and Br. Caries left the North and walked to Dublin, and returned to Ballinderry according to appointment on Thursday 29th and now I preached the 2nd time at Mr. Whyte's, in a court before the door with a blessed effusion of grace from the Lord Christ.
The Dublin diaries reveal that Cennick frequently made the journey north from Dublin, and after a preaching tour returned south again. Such a journey of 100 miles each way in those days would probably have been made on foot or horseback and on rough roads. We can appreciate that it probably affected his health as he was out in all weathers. The Dublin diary states that the journey took 2 days each way.
On the 1st December Mr. Moore, who resided at the Manor House of Lord Conway (Earl of Hertford) at Portmore, showed Cennick, after hospitable entertainment: a large hall 90' long and 20' wide which would hold 800 people, another, larger still, capable of containing nearly 2000 persons, also a third, all of which he placed at his disposal. (Portmore Castle was famed for its ivory tables and marble halls, and even the extensive stables had marble fittings). Here he preached on the 2nd December, and the throng was so great that fears were entertained about the was giving way. He remarks: I never remember such a thirst for the Word of Life, though the country is not very populous yet we have astonishingly large congregations, people crowding in from Moira and beyond.
1751: On the 7th February Cennick preached in Portmore stables to about 1000 people in spite of the dreadful snow. On the 7th March, a Sunday, there was preaching at Crumlin and in the afternoon at Portmore, where about 500 had assembled. Cennick would gladly have remained there, but he had promised to go to Lord Conway's Parks (Deerparks) to hold a meeting with the gamekeeper's family and servants. He crossed by boat over Portmore Lough (Lough Beg) in spite of the terrible weather, and got in before dark. He wrote on his return the next day:
We sang hymns all the way from land to land, and were so happy and cheerful that we scarcely noticed how the time slipped away. Our friends had made a great fire to warm us, and welcomed us cordially as we landed near the little island where Jeremy Taylor used to sit and write his "Holy Living and Dying"*. It is no small pleasure to me that I often sleep in what was once his chamber. (*Other sources state that Bishop Jeremy Taylor wrote these whilst in Wales and not in his cabin on Sallagh Island).
March 25th. A meeting was held at Portmore, in which the nature of a society in connection with the Brethren's Church was explained, and our sole aim in labouring as we are doing in the north of Ireland set forth.
March 26th. The Ballinderry Society was :settled' and the first society meeting was held in the great room of the Manor House at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when about 230 names were taken down, whilst about 200 more were present as spectators, many of them Quakers. Mary, the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Hill of the Crew was baptised. This was the first baptism performed by the Brethren in this neighbourhood. After separating for an hour, the people met again for the preaching which lasted until 8 in the evening.
On 28th March a large company met at Portmore and the society increased to 900.
Those who had been inspired by Cennick expressed the wish to establish a Moravian Church in the village. In May, a waste piece of land, on Lord Conway's estate near the cockpit previously mentioned, was sub-let by Mr. Benjamin Haddock. The original lease speaks of That spot of ground called the Bleaching Green, being about an English acre, to Rev. John Cennick and the Brethren's Church, except the water course, mill race, and minerals, for a preaching house for 40 years from the 1st of May past, and for two lives or the longest, at the clear rent of 10/- half yearly. (The paperwork for the land was completed on August 10th).
The Brn. Syms and Caries were informed by Mr. Moore on the 8th June that Lord Conway's steward had sent word from Lisburn that the Moravians were not to preach any more at the Manor House at Portmore, until his Lordship's pleasure was known. This caused great concern, but Mr. Haddock promised to call on the agent and ask his reason.
Maybe it was this setback that prompted the following entry in Cennick's Journal: Monday August 2nd. After I had been persuaded to it by our Brethren at Gloonen, I began to receive subscriptions for a chapel in Ballinderry. The same evening was a time never to be forgotten at Mr. Hope's barn where was certainly an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit and presence of our Saviour.
On the 3rd August the people began clearing the ground for the foundation of the chapel, as many as fifty men and about 40 horses at times working at the task. On 6th September John Cennick and Peter Syms laid the foundation stone, in the presence of 150 society members and a large crowd of visitors: During the singing of some verses, many tears of joy were shed. Kneeling on the stone Cennick dedicated the building to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, and in a fervent prayer commended the work to the care and blessing of the Almighty.
Bishop Johannes von Watteville (son-in-law of Count Zinzendorf) visited Ballinderry on the 16th October and delivered short addresses, first to the single sisters of the society and then to the single brethren in the old malt kiln. This indicates that the society was already organised on a Moravian pattern, with choirs (groups) for the single members. Von Watteville noted in his diary that the chapel, which he saw in process of construction, was to be 63' long and 22' broad.
On the 24th October Peter Syms was ordained in Dublin by Bishop Johannes von Watteville assisted by William Horne and John Cennick.
John Cennick, along with his colleague Peter Syms, helped as much as possible with the building of the chapel in order to speed up the work, and was able to announce to the other Moravian societies in the North that the new chapel would be opened on Christmas Day 1751. Many of the country people supplied the straw for thatching the building.
An entry on Christmas Eve reads: December 24th. Br. Cennick rose at 5 a.m. and continued yesterday's occupation, viz. superintending the glaziers, who were putting in the window frames of the chapel, as also in other respects preparing for the morrow...
Members from the Irish societies began to assemble in the village on Christmas Eve and were heartily welcomed in the houses of members and friends so that at the morning service there was a large attendance. A diary extract reads:
December 25th (old style) Being Christmas Day we solemnly opened our new chapel at Ballinderry. Already before five o'clock the church was prettily lighted up with candles. We sang different hymns with a particular joy, and filled with thankfulness to our Incarnate God. Br. Cennick preached and many persons from different denominations were melted into tears. After the sermon, Br Cennick poured out his soul in fervent prayer... At eight o'clock he held the first general lovefeast for all the congregations, and at two in the afternoon preached in a powerful manner on the second man, the Lord from heaven. After which, in a meeting of the society members, he baptised Ann Gawley, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Gawley of Aghalee...
1752: At the beginning of the year, problems arose when a message was received from Lord Conway's bailiff forbidding the Moravians to preach on any part of his estate, and in February bailiffs were stationed at the chapel door to take the names of those who attended the services. John Cennick appealed to the Primate of Armagh and, in his name, to the Bishop of Down and Connor, in whose diocese Ballinderry was situated, and found not only a friendly hearing, but was earnestly invited to preach in the south and west of Ireland. Br. Brampton, (one of Cennick's preachers) calmly continued his regular work, claiming liberty of conscience and preaching, and he was quite ready to defend the work. By the 24th March the storm had blown over and a message was received that the bailiff had received orders to permit the Moravians to preach where they liked on his Lordship's property.
The Moravian Bishop, Peter Bohler, who was revered alike by Methodists and Moravians, for he had as great an influence on John Wesley as he had on John Cennick, visited Ballinderry in November and a note in his diary reads:
What properly goes under the name of Ballinderry is a tract of land 6 or 8 miles long, the whole the property of the Earl of Hertford. The land is very carefully cultivated, the houses are after the English fashion, and most of the people followers of the Churches of England or Rome, but all thoroughly our friends and hearers. On this place Cennick has built a chapel, 63ft. long by 22ft. broad with a pulpit. On each side he has joined a house, in the taste of that which is joined to Sharon's Hill near the burial ground at Chelsea [London], which however are not finished yet. This chapel is about ¼ mile distant from Portmore Stables which Br. Cennick had once a mind to hire, as it would be a very fitting place for creating a manufactory and a single brethren's establishment.
Here is about the greatest awakening in the North worth the while to preach the Gospel because there is so great an affluence of people that the chapel, though the largest in the North, and not much smaller than that at Gracehall (Fulneck, Yorkshire), is too little to contain the people; the auditories number 500 and fill the adjoining rooms.
Members were encouraged to record the main events and spiritual experiences in their lives, which were later used in their funeral addresses. The following is an extract from the diaries at Gracehill from the memoir of a William Walkington:
I was born in the year 1727 near Lisburn in the County of Antrim. My father, who was a Surveyor of the Excise, left me an orphan before I was three years old. When Brother Cennick came to this part of the country 1 was among his hearers. I was soon convinced that I lived in sin, for my chief pleasure had hitherto consisted of attending cockfights, horse races, and card tables, and in spending the earnings of the week in the next public house on Sundays. I therefore resolved to reform, and, to do this more effectually, to leave my native country and go to England. But being twice disappointed, not being able to find a vessel for England when I came to the shore, I began to reflect, and it struck me forcibly that this was the Lord's doing. With this idea I returned home, gave up my plan of leaving Ballinderry, and thought of leading a more steady life.
In the year 1752 I entered into the married state with Margaret Thompson. Though I now lived soberly, and frequently went to hear the brethren preach, yet I felt little or no uneasiness on account of my condition till I heard of the sudden death of one of my neighbours. This awful event made a deep impression upon me, and I could not help thinking that if 1 should now die so suddenly I should inevitably be lost. But now a heavy conflict ensued, the enemy of souls on the one hand suggesting to me that I need not make myself uneasy, that I was in no danger, and that I stood the same chance of going to heaven as all my ancestors had done. Whilst on the other hand, a voice spoke louder and louder within me, telling me that I was in a perishing state... Six weeks anguish of soul..haunted with frightful images, I could not rest. One day I ran to the garden, throwing myself on the ground, lifting my hands to heaven prayed fervently to the Saviour... to save my soul. 1 did not cry in vain, for the Lord in mercy drew near to me so that I could rejoice in him as Saviour. ..I now hastened to Br. Syms and told him what had happened, who joined me in praising the Lord for his great condecension to me.
It is worth noting that not only was William Walkington saved by hearing Br. Cennick, but that his descendants provided a number of ministers and bishops for the Moravian Church!
On the 27th August a lovefeast was held in the chapel with about 500 members of the three societies of Ballinderry, Glenavy and Crosshill and again on the 30th Br. Cennick preached to about 1200 in Ballinderry.
1753: John Cennick was absent from the North the whole of this year, and on the 6th March Br. & Sr. Peter Syms with little Renatus arrived to reside in Ballinderry. Brn. Syms and Cooke assisted by 15 or 20 single men were employed in clearing the ground in front of the chapel to prepare it for a garden.
1755: On Good Friday, the 28th March, some members of the societies of Kilwarlin, Glenavy and Ballinderry were formed into a congregation and Peter Syms was appointed as the full time minister. The service to recognise Ballinderry as an official congregation was conducted by Bishop Johannes von Watteville, who is remembered at Christmas for his introduction of the Christingle which is used by Moravians around the world and by other denominations in Britain today. It began at a Moravian Christmas service in Marienborn, Germarry, in 1747, when the Bishop spoke of Christ kindling a little blood-red flame in each believing heart and gave a lighted candle tied with a red ribbon to each child.
It was noted that at the time of the establishment of this congregation there were 58 communicant members at Ballinderry, and 37 at Kilwarlin, but there is no record of the numbers at Glenavy. Br. Syms, who lived at Ballinderry, served the three places.
The occupations of the first members of the congregation in 1755 were: weavers, labourers, farmers, a tailor, miller, shoemaker, hosier, reed maker, wigmaker, turner, shopkeeper, wheelwright, dyer, glazier and bleacher. The congregation was organised on settlement lines (like Gracehill) although a settlement was never built. Thirteen single sisters [unmarried women] occupied two small houses near the church.
On the 11th July John Toeltschig brought the sad news of the death of John Cennick on the 4th in London at the age of 36. He was buried in the Moravian burial ground in Chelsea. During this visit a request was made for an adjoining piece of land from Mr. Benjamin Haddock for a burial ground.
On the 6th August, Kilwarlin, where the society, which up to now had been counted as part of Ballinderry, was declared an independent society.
On the 31st December the first `Watchnight Service' was held.
1756: On the 1 st January the single sisters got their own house near the chapel, which was dedicated with great rejoicing on the 12th January by Sr. Sally Cennick (sister of John) and was occupied by 13 single women. They celebrated their first choir festival in their new house on the 4th May.
On the 18th April the congregation celebrated Easter Sunday with a gathering before sunrise with Communion. This was first held on Easter Sunday in Herrnhut in 1732 with a singing meeting in the burial ground at sunrise to celebrate the resurrection, followed by singing and prayer in the church. This tradition continues in Ballinderry, not at sunrise but at 10.00 a.m. and after the first part of the Easter Liturgy in the church, providing the weather is favourable, the congregation moves to the burial ground for the remainder of the Easter celebration.
1758: The negotiations for the burial ground were protracted and it was not until early this year that the purchase was completed. On the 3rd February the remains of little Maria (Mary Ann) Syms (daughter of the minister and his wife) were buried there and the burial ground was consecrated.
On the 27th May the single sisters set up a school for little girls in their house. At the end of September Mary Vogelsang arrived to visit the single sisters in the north. She brought Srs. Ripley and Healey with her to take charge of the sisters' house in Ballinderry, which freed Sally Cennick to return to England. At the end of the year the congregation was especially thankful for the protection of their Heavenly Father which they had enjoyed during various attacks by antagonistic people. The number of members was now 205.
1759: On his last visit to Ballinderry, Bishop Johannes von Watteville wrote in his diary: I held a children's service, and I must admit that since my last visit the workers have become more involved with the children and they also have their children's hours and general meetings, so that things seem quite different...
There were now twenty single sisters living in the house who were involved in lace making, embroidery etc. Nineteen single brethren were settled in a house about a quarter of a mile away. They had a room for weaving, but unfortunately the premises were not large enough to start a school for boys.
1768: In the months of October and November the members of Ballinderry were repeatedly exposed to personal danger through the ill will of some of their neighbours. On several successive nights a mob collected and attacked houses, breaking doors and windows, throwing large stones and even firing at them. The congregation was alarmed on more than one occasion while meeting in the chapel. The minister in particular was the object of their hatred and it was ascribed to God that neither he nor anyone else lost their life.
1771: On the 5th July John Wesley paid the first of three visits to Ballinderry. On this occasion, after dining at Ballinderry House, which is situated just a short distance from our chapel and can actually be seen from it, he preached from an upstairs window to a large crowd that had gathered around the house.
1776: At this time, families included, the congregation still numbered 205. There was also a Moravian society in Upper Ballinderry, with separate services, for many years.
Due to lease problems the single brethren moved to Gracehill. When the lease expired on the house occupied by the single sisters they moved to Gracefield, near Ballyronan on the other side of the Lough, and thereby hangs a story. The journey by land was long and expensive, especially as they were taking all their goods and furniture with them, so they decided to cross Lough Neagh by boat, a distance of about 10 miles. On the 10th October they boarded a barge, but when about half way across it was discovered that it had sprung a leak and was sinking so fast that neither they nor the boatmen considered it possible to escape from a watery grave. However, favoured with calm weather, and lightening the vessel by throwing the heaviest luggage overboard, they succeeded with the help of God and constant bailing to reach the nearest shore in safety.
1805: The Jubilee of the congregation was celebrated by crowded services and the chapel was newly done up. In May it was recorded: School in Ballinderry be now begun, and Sr. Mary Brownlees be the teacher.....that the parlour be the schoolroom in summer, also the chapel. The weekly school money for reading, knitting, sewing and marking be 6.½d, and if writing, arithmetic, grammar, ornamental sewing and lace making, an additional 6.½d That the school money be paid by each child weekly, and brought on Monday morning to school, if not brought the child to be sent home for it. That the salary of the schoolmistress be at first 5/5 per week; that turf and candles be found for her, and in winter application be made to the parents for contributions towards firing. That the rent of the schoolroom be paid out of the school money, the amount to be fixed when we see how the school shall succeed, for the benefit of congregation cash. That Sr. Brownlees keeps regular accounts and that the direction of the school be in the Conference of Gracehill. If boarders come in term Br. & Sr. Schirmer have them and 12 guineas a year be paid for board besides the money paid for schooling. That Sr. Brownlees at first board herself till the progress of the school be seen.
1814: It is recorded the boarding school continued and that various improvements were made in subsequent years, not the least of which was a new Sunday school which could be used for a day school also.
1817: On the 7th June Br. John Willey, who was serving in Dublin, accepted a call to Ballinderry. In those days you didn't necessarily get to marry the person of your choice as can be seen by these extracts from the Elders Conference Minutes:
26th July - Br. John Willey, having been informed that the question about his marriage to Ann Linfoot had been negatived by 'the lot', writes that he has another proposal to make. He leaves it entirely to the Conference to choose for him, being confident our Saviour will direct us to find a suitable person. After some consideration the name of Rachel Spence was submitted to the lot, but negative No. 2 was drawn. We then put Sr. Susanna Hutton's name and the affirmative was drawn.
On the 16th August Br. Holmes informs us that Br. John Willey and Sr. Susanna Hutton (at Cootehill) had both declared their free acceptance of the marriage proposal made to them, and would soon after the betrothing proceed to Gracehill to be married there. In consequence of Br. John Willey's and Sr. Hutton's arrival at Gracehill on the 20th August, it was settled that the marriage is to take place tomorrow at 11 in the forenoon. Br. Benade will accompany them to Ballinderry at the beginning of next week. (No worries about making wedding arrangements!)
In the 18th century, Moravians made frequent use of the lot in an effort to determine the course of action that the Lord desired them to follow. Three slips of paper were placed in a box, with one marked yes, one no and the third left blank. After praying about the situation someone was appointed to draw one slip. If, as happened on some occasions, the blank slip was drawn this meant that no decision was made, but it could be taken up again at a later date. In 1769 the rule was that no minister could marry unless the lot approved his choice. Over the years its use gradually lessened and finally disappeared in the 19th century.
On the 16th July William Francis, Anthony William and Henry Hope who had bought an organ, collected it and put it in the gallery which was built through special collections. The following day it was noted: The day was concluded with the singing hour and Mr. Shillington, who had lent great assistance to the organ, played on it for the first time.
For the previous few years the numbers attending the school seem to have dwindled and it must have been closed for a short time as the Elders Conference minutes record on the 6th December: Read a letter from Br. Willey in Ballinderry, chiefly relating to the school which they propose beginning again next spring. Besides the day school they wish to take a limited number of boarders on higher terms than usual. The Conference is glad to find that the day school is to be renewed and is also convinced of the propriety of a number of boarders being taken, to be under the immediate tuition of Br. & Sr. Willey, but is apprehensive that parents who can afford to pay high terms for the education of their children would not like them to be in any connection with day scholars, some of whom must necessarily be of the lower class.
1819: On the 5th January the Elders Conference Minutes record: As the roof of Ballinderry chapel is much out of repair, and both ends of the chapel likewise require some improvement, it was resolved that a subscription list for it should be instituted. A letter was drafted to be sent to the English congregations requesting their assistance.
1820: On the 19th May, the Elders Conference resolved not to send any brother from Gracehill to officiate at services in Ballinderry unless the people there would pay for both the hire and keep of the horse. In reply to this Br. John Willey informed Elders Conference on the 30th June that: Tho' the brethren in Ballinderry have not yet agreed to pay the horse hire from Gracehill when a brother goes to officiate there, yet they promise always to take care of the horse. It was felt that this expense should have been home by Kilwarlin as it occurred when Br. Willey had to go there to officiate at Communion services.
1821: A field was added to the property early this year and noted in Conference Minutes: Br. and Sr. (John) Willey on a visit from Ballinderry informed us of the purchase of 3 acres and some perches of excellent land, conveniently situated for the grazing of a cow and raising a crop of potatoes and corn.
The chapel was renovated and slates replaced the thatch. The cost of the organ and improvements was covered by subscriptions from the Marquis of Hertford and clergymen and gentlemen in the neighbourhood, as well as members of the Moravian Churches and other denominations. Mrs. Bates, an English lady who was a liberal benefactor of the Moravian Church, gave a generous amount. The building was admired for its style and cleanliness. A school for young ladies was attached, similar to that at Gracehill.
1823: The problem regarding the hire and keep of the horse was resolved in October when it was agreed that the expense incurred by going to preach in Ballinderry and elsewhere would be borne by the Academy.
1830: On the 2nd July it was agreed to allow Br. Shawe £3 per annum for entertainment of visiting ministers at Ballinderry.
1835: Unfortunately the church and the adjoining dwelling houses were destroyed by fire. Gracehill Diary records the event: On Easter Sunday 19th April 1835, Ballinderry chapel and the old and new adjoining houses were burnt. The servant who slept in the old house discovered the fire and it spread rapidly along the roof of the chapel to the minister's new house. Nothing was rescued from the old house and chapel but a few benches, the organ was entirely consumed At the new end various articles of furniture, books and clothing were saved, and by 6 o'clock nothing remained but the bare walls.
A subscription list was opened and enough money was raised to start re-building. The present church with one adjoining dwelling house was erected.
1836: It is recorded in Elders Conference Minutes that the chapel was solemnly set apart as a place of worship on the 19th May and at the 11.00 a.m. service Br. Beck preached from Ps. 89 verses 15-16. After a short interval there was a lovefeast when Br. Beck mentioned that the foundation stone had been laid on the 14th July 1835 by Br. Chambers. He gave a brief account of the history of Ballinderry. Br. Sutcliffe was the preacher at the 5.00p.m. service.
The generosity of Moravians at home and abroad and many friends of other denominations is recorded, also that the new chapel and minister's house form a handsome building. Three large arch windows on the west lighted the interior of the chapel and a handsome chandelier was suspended from the ceiling. The walls were of stone and lime and the floor of lime and sand. There were 33 benches for seating. The very comfortable house had a front and back kitchen and 6 rooms, one of which served as a schoolroom where Sr. Chambers started a day school.
It was also noted that there were 40 members and the average attendance at the services was 30-40 including strangers (visitors). The minister, Br. Chambers, received an annual income from various sources of about £40, a house and the benefit of 2 good gardens.
1839: On the 20th December the minister, Br. Wm. Ellis, mentioned to Elders Conference his intention of having windows put in the back of the chapel and of erecting a small gallery. He suggested that the expense would be defrayed by subscriptions.
1840: On the 17th January Br. Reichel warned Br. Ellis about involving the congregation in great expense with the above improvements, which would put it in debt. He was reminded that grants from the Mrs Bates Trust Deed would not be forthcoming, so the funds should be raised before beginning. Br. Ellis collected £52 during his visit to England in September towards the improvements. He informed Elders Conference that instead of erecting a gallery he intended to board the chapel and put a porch on the inside on account of the cold.
On the 4th December, Br. Ellis told the Elders Conference that he was going to England to be married to the widow Sr. Lees of Leominster and had made arrangements for supplying his place for the two Sundays that he would be away.
1847: June 18th C.S. Davis arrived as a Scripture Reader, but July 31 he suddenly returned to Bristol without telling anyone: He wrote it was because his heart was almost broken by witnessing the distress of the poor Irish; he could obtain no comfort or rest day nor night and felt unequal to the task. It appears that he had not counted the cost before he came, though the difficulties of the situation, and the self-denial he would have to exercise, were pointed out to him.
The potato famine took its toll of the population in parts of Ireland and during that period the population of Ballinderry appears to have declined - the numbers in the area are certainly less than when John Cennick first preached in the cock-pit. In December Br. Thompson (Scripture reader) received 10 barrels of Indian meal from the Central Relief Committee of Friends in Dublin for distribution among the poor fishermen and their families about Sandy Bay. He selected 26 of the most needy families to whom relief was given: Within these families there were 137 individuals, 60 of whom were Roman Catholics.
On the 12th December it was noted in the records: The stove which has just been erected was lit for the first time. It answers very well. The money for it was collected entirely from friends in England:
Stove £5-5-0. 36 ft piping @ 6d. 18.0. Fitting & painting 11.0. Total £6.14.0.
Br. Reichel informed the Treasurer's office of its erection and it was inserted in the policy. On Christmas Day collections were made after both services for the stove fuel which amounted to 12/- and this became an annual event.
1848: On the 7th January a further grant of £15 was received for the poor fishermen and with this 50 pollen nets and 1 drag net were purchased. The remainder of the money was spent in purchasing clothing, which was distributed among the most needy on the 29th January.
On the 14th March: By the liberality of Moravians in Dublin and Ockbrook we were enabled to procure a new mat, matting and oil cloth for the chapel, also a cover for the table and hangings for the pulpit.
1849: The following extract is taken from the diary of 23rd September: We began to use the form of prayer prepared by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the removal of the cholera. Through the great mercy of God there have not been any cases of this terrible disease in our neighbourhood since April. About that time five died of it in Upper Ballinderry, three in Lower.
1850: In July it was noted that the Sunday schools had increased to such an extent that they were scarcely able to superintend and manage them. There were 58 boys and 94 girls on the books.
1851: An extract from the diary on the 12th April: This morning we were greatly alarmed by our kitchen chimney taking fire. Fortunately helping hands were near, who under the blessing of God succeeded in extinguishing the flames before they could do any injury to the house itself. We spent two hours of intense anxiety and were thankful when all danger was removed. The next day at the public service we thanked the Lord for the help vouchsafed to us.
A commencement was made on the 17th May with the alterations of the small gallery and the fixing of a larger one for the organ about to be set up in the chapel. On the 1st July Br. G. Clemens, the minister, and a member of the congregation went to Belfast to fetch the organ, and on the 3rd Mr. William Brown, the organbuilder of Molesworth Street, Dublin, arrived and began setting it up. By evening the following day the work was complete and the first tune played on it. It is a classical chamber organ with five speaking stops. It is recorded: The sound of the organ, which combines sweetness of tone with great power, enlivened our services not a little. It was universally admired and acknowledged to be a very good instrument, well suited for our place of worship.
The cost of the organ, including Mr Brown's travelling expenses, was 50 guineas with a freight charge of £2.0.6. Br. & Sr. Clemens began collecting subscriptions towards the organ when they were first called to serve in Ballinderry; on their arrival the fund amounted to about £20 and was increased by collections among Moravians and friends in England, Germany, Holland and Ireland to £55.14.4.
Three special services were held on the 20th July for the opening of the organ when, according to the diary: The church was crowded with hearers from all classes of society and from among all denominations of Christians in this country. Music sung included a chorus from Mendelsohn's Oratorio, `St Paul', `The Heaven's are telling' from Haydn's Creation and `Worthy is the Lamb' from the Messiah. At the end of the service the congregation dispersed in the most orderly manner.
Collections amounted to £9.1.0, and were allocated towards the alterations and repairs both to the chapel and the minister's house. The details are as follows:
Putting up the new gallery and staircase, painting the chapel windows, gallery, doors, pulpit, etc. and all the windows and doors in the minister's house. Putting up sun-blinds on the chapel windows (the calico for these was a gift of Robert Benson, Esq. of Droylsden Mills, Manchester). The expenses for these alterations and repairs far exceed the sums already collected, but we trust we shall be enabled to pay all our debts through a donation we have applied for, and have been encouraged by Dean Stannus to expect, from the Marquis of Hertford. (A grant of £20 was subsequently received.)
On the 16th September it was noted in Elders Conference Minutes: Br. Clemens continues to be encouraged. The attendance on Sunday continues to increase, latterly from 70 - 92 hearers so that the chapel seems to be full. Perhaps this is to be attributed to the new organ. The attention however is very good.
Unfortunately on Christmas Eve, owing to dampness, the organ could not be used and the singing was accompanied by piano.
1852: It was decided to place an iron pan of clean turf-coal near the organ on weekdays during the winter in order to prevent dampness in the organ.
On the 12th August an extract from the diary reads: The married man William W... and his family can no longer be considered as members of our church, they attend the services neither at Ballinderry nor at Sandy Bay. It is very evident that they applied for church membership for the sake of the pecuniary aid and other gifts distributed among the fishermen at the Lough shore at Christmas time.
On the 12th September it was noted that the lease of the church property had run out about 30 years ago. Br. Miller applied to Sir R. Wallace who generously granted the land for 999 years free of charge, which Br. Miller hoped included the adjoining field.
1867: Br. & Sr. Scandrett started a weekly night school on Wednesdays for boys and girls and a library was also established where 30-40 families borrowed books.
1871: An extract from the Elders Conference Minutes of the 10th May states: The stove and belfry have had to be removed from the church and further repairs will be necessary. Some weeks ago the attendance was small owing to the arrival of a new curate, but as soon as the novelty wore off the attendance improved and is now pretty good. Several have come forward for confirmation and there is a prospect of some admission to church membership. The Sunday school, in spite of the endeavours of the curate to draw away some of the scholars, and only too successfully in some cases, prospers.
Again on the 20th September: A new belfry is to be put up at the cost of £5, towards which £3 has already been received. The congregation also proposes having the chapel panelled, the money required for which is partly in hand.
1872: On the 18th September it was stated that the women attended both the public services and communion better than the men, it was thought that the women had more suitable clothing.
1878: On the 3rd April it was noted that the field was not included in the grant to the congregation but the premises had been given by Sir R. Wallace to the congregation in perpetuity. (A field was purchased 16th November 1898 and part used for extending the burial ground).
1879: On the 19th May it was noted: Sir R. Wallace to Rev. C.E. Sutcliffe, Lease in fee at a peppercorn rent of land and buildings.
In December the first marriage in the chapel was solemnised between Catherine Totton, a communicant single sister, and Samuel Gibson, a young man from the neighbourhood. The congregation presented a family Bible to them.
1880: In January it was decided to have a soiree in March, to raise funds to pay for the whitewashing of the premises which was done the previous September. It was held on the 17th in the chapel: The attendance was pretty good but most of those present were farm servants and young people. They consumed provisions enough to have served double the number and threw pieces of cake about the chapel. The result was not encouraging and the pecuniary profit almost nil.
1884: The amount being paid to the caretaker for the duties of lamp lighter, organ blower, bell ringer and fire-lighter was 5/= every 3 months.
1887: The first occasion that the Communion table and windows were prettily dressed with fruits, vegetables, flowers and leaves for the harvest festival.
1888: At the close of this year there were 136 in church connection.
1897: A thank-offering received from Mr. Grey of Belfast in memory of his uncle, Nathan Grey, enabled the congregation to provide a new stove. The completion of the wall on the south side of the field adjoining the burial ground proved to be a great improvement.
1899: It was decided this year to hold the annual treat for the children of the Sunday school at Sandy Bay on the banks of Lough Neagh. On Friday 18th August the children assembled at the church and were joined by members of the Band of Hope and other friends. After a light lunch they were transported in 8 conveyances of various kinds and after enjoying the journey were delighted with the beautiful view of Rams Island and the Derry Mountains in the distance:
Rain came down about teatime but ample shelter was afforded by the large hall, which in Br. John Birtill's time was used as a Moravian Church, and is now used at stated times for services conducted by the Rector of Glenavy. Our party sat round the hall during tea on the very benches brought from Ballinderry on which Cennick's hearers had sat 150 years before, and which were amongst the few things saved when the church in Ballinderry was burnt down in 1835. We looked with interest at the pulpit, from which Robert Hall often addressed the students in Bristol. (Baptist minister b.1764, 41831).
The same year it is recorded that: A labourer's wage of 9/- and a weaver's from 5/- to 6/- weekly does not hold much inducement to dwellers in the country to remain. The migration to Belfast, which started 12 - 14 years ago, still continues and we are constantly losing the young. Our comfort is to know that those who move, for the most part, find a spiritual home in one or other of our congregations which, in great measure, have been built up of former members of our country congregations.
Permission was obtained from the Elders Conference to circulate an appeal to other Moravians for the renovation of the church and also to replace the old fashioned benches with modern seats - expenditure was likely to be between £50 and £60.
1901: After having been closed for repairs and alterations for nearly two months, during which time the national school was used for worship (kindly granted by Canon Sayers), the church was re-opened on Friday evening the 21st June. Three of the local ministers were present and spoke words of encouragement. They referred to the great improvement in the appearance of the church, the old benches having been replaced by modern seats. The former pulpit, which one speaker said was of "chum-like form", was done away with and the new one was a handsome platform structure. All the new woodwork was of pitch pine, and the old woodwork was painted to match.
Special services were held on the 23rd June and conducted by Bishop Sutcliffe of Gracehill. The day was wet and stormy but the attendances were good and included many friends from other churches. The collections were satisfactory, amounting to over £10, enabling the expenses of the renovations to be met but not sufficient to undertake the purchase of a new organ: As the old instrument is past repair, this effort must be in the near future.
1914: The diary for 25th May contains the following: At 11 p.m. a motor car with ammunition drew in front of the church gates to distribute guns etc. but when the driver found he had arrived at the wrong place, he quickly turned and went on the Antrim road. A few days before 2 large loads of guns and ammunition were brought to Portmore. Mr - had received orders to distribute them.
1920: The last resident minister at Ballinderry was Br. J. Stinton. During his ministry Kilwarlin and Ballinderry became a unit, he removed to Kilwarlin on 6th April and as a result the Ballinderry manse was rented out. There were now 40 members and 21 adherents at Ballinderry.
1923: The front of the church was cement faced, the interior and exterior (also the manse) were repaired and decorated. A cement path, new door, porch tiles, carpet for platform and pulpit stairs, a petrol lamp and also a lamp for the porch were added.
1926: In January it was agreed to pay the caretaker 8/= per month to attend to the lamps and fires, and the organ blower to be paid 5/= half yearly instead of yearly.
1935: After being closed for a few years the Sunday school restarted under Br. & Sr. W.J. McCoy.
1949: Kilwarlin congregation wished to sell the American organ which they had loaned to Ballinderry over 5 years before and offered it for £25 - the committee felt it was desirable to secure the organ but requested that the price should be reduced. Kilwarlin agreed to sell it for £20 and this was accepted.
In August electricity was brought to part of the village and enquiries were made as to when it would be available in our area. The Electricity Board confirmed that it would probably be early the following year.
1950: Now that electricity was available in the vicinity of the church it was agreed to replace the oil lamps. In May an estimate was received for installing it in the church and vestry:
7 lights and 3 plugs (15amp) £25. 0.0 and 7 light shades £12.10.0. The estimate was accepted and installation took place.
In June the church ceiling was found to be unsafe and needed immediate attention. A subscription list was opened, as there were not adequate funds in hand to meet the repairs, and approximately £90 was raised.
In December it was agreed that a service of thanksgiving should be held in January for the church renovation and the installation of electricity, and that the collection be devoted to the cost of the electricity. Thanks were expressed to the organist and her brother for the use of their home for services during the renovations. Both worshipped here though they belonged to the Church of Ireland.
1952: In August it was decided to have electricity installed in the old manse and agreed that the tenant should contribute to part of the cost. This was £21.10.0, half of which was met by the church and the balance by the tenant.
1954: Discussions took place in February regarding the church stove and the possible danger of fire. It was agreed to provide adequate safeguards and protection for the surrounding woodwork.
1955: Bi-centenary celebrations were held on the 24th and 25th July combined with the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the death of John Cennick. On the Sunday the church was filled with members and local people, the special preacher was a former minister, Br. R. S. Farrar. A public meeting was held on the Monday evening when the church was packed with friends from the other congregations in the district. Other speakers were the Rev. W.L. McCombe (local Presbyterian), Brn. F.H. Mellowes, and C.F. Smith (Moravian, Belfast) and Br. R.J. Burr the minister of the congregation.
1957: Until now the only means of heating was the stove at the back of the church, situated underneath the gallery, and in the winter everyone tried to sit as near it as possible. As it was getting beyond repair, arrangements were made in May to get quotations to install and maintain electric heating in the church. The Electricity Board quoted £220/£225 for tubular heating and £125/£140 for overhead heating. It was decided to leave the matter until some further quotations were received.
1959: The minister reported that after making numerous enquiries about various methods of heating, it seemed that the Electricity Board's recommendation was the most practicable and in August it was decided to go ahead with tubular heating around the walls.
1960: In April the heating was installed and a fund set up to cover the cost raised £214.00.
1966: In November a request was received from the Antrim County Council for the sale of a portion of our paddock in order to make road improvements at the crossroads. This also meant the cutting down of some lime trees bordering the Crumlin/Portmore roads and removing walls. It was felt that the compensation of £20 was inadequate and the committee requested that a replacement wall be erected on the Portmore road instead of the suggested fence.
1967: A further request was received from the Council in February. As the road alterations were being extended further along the Portmore road, this would involve cutting across the corner of the burial ground. The committee agreed that the burial ground should not be disturbed, but permission was granted to curve the wall at the comer of it as it was felt that this would improve the general appearance of the wall. After several negotiations the Council agreed to construct a replacement wall from the burial ground to the crossroads and in view of this it was agreed to accept the £20 compensation.
1968: On the first Sunday in November at the Communion service, Mrs. Jennie Glover (Church of Ireland) was welcomed as a communicant member after almost 70 years as a regular worshipper. She was also caretaker for most of this time.
1969: As the organ had lain dormant for some time due to serious damage to the soundboard, action and pipework caused by damp, enquiries were made as to the feasibility of having it repaired. A decision was made to have it restored by Peter Conacher of Huddersfield at a cost of £506 (10 times the original purchase price in1851). It is regarded as a prime example of mid 19th century chamber organs in Northern Ireland, with remarkable potentialities for all its slender resources.
On the 18th June there was a service of thanksgiving for the re-dedication of the organ and the offertory was in aid of the organ restoration fund. The preacher was a former minister, Br. G.A. Mitchell, and the congregation thoroughly enjoyed the organ recital of 'Ave Maria' (Burgmuller), `Air from Water Music' (Handel), `Minuet from Overture to Samson' (Handel) and 'Caro Mio Ben' (Giordani) played by the guest organist, Mrs. Anna Wilson.
An electric heater was installed in the back of the organ to try to prevent dampness, a bit of a change from the iron pan of clean turf-coals which was used in the mid 1800's.
1971: Due to a reduction of ministers in the Irish District, the Ballinderry/Kilwarlin unit was separated; Ballinderry was linked with Cliftonville on the Oldpark Road, Belfast, and Kilwarlin with University Road, Belfast.
1972: The very uneven surface in the older part of the burial ground next to the church caused great difficulty in mowing the grass and keeping it tidy. After making enquiries, there seemed to be no legal obstacle to removing the really old gravestones and placing them against the wall in the burial ground next to the church. In August, a group of young people from Cliftonville and University Road congregations in Belfast volunteered to arrange a youth camp to help the Ballinderry young people and adults clear the ground of stones, brambles and as many weeds as possible. They camped in the paddock under the supervision of Br. & Sr. Cooper and on the Saturday evening, after a hard day's work, a very welcome barbecue was held followed by a sing-song round a campfire. A youth service was held on the Sunday morning before the young people left for home.
Weedkiller was then sprayed on this part of the burial ground and after it had taken effect the ground was rotavated, raked and grass-seed sown in order to make the ground look tidier and hopefully more easily managed.
1975: The bi-centenary of the death of Bishop Peter Bohler was celebrated in Gracehill church on the 27th April when the large congregation included many Methodists. Bishop Bohler was a friend of John and Charles Wesley.
1987: Woodworm was discovered in parts of the church pews and floor, and immediate action was taken to have someone inspect it, with the result that it was recommended to have the whole building treated. Unfortunately, due to a colony of brown long eared bats (which are a protected species) in the roof space of the church this work could not be carried out until the bats had vacated the premises. Advice was sought from the D.O.E. (Countryside and Wildlife Branch) and after several checks the treatment was carried out in February 1988.
1988: In September a mahogany door was made to replace a window in the vestry in order to make another exit from the church to comply with safety regulations.
As the roadway in front of the church is narrow and a new private housing estate built opposite restricted parking space, it was decided in September to create a car park at the back entrance to the church. Over the last few years when special services were held it had proved very difficult to find parking space. (No problems like this when the church was originally established!) Donations of £300 were received for this project and the cost was £483.
1992: On the 28th March the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bishop John Amos Comenius was commemorated in Ballinderry when members from the other congregations in the Irish District joined with us. This was just one of many thanksgiving services held around the world to celebrate his birth. Comenius was one of the individuals responsible for saving the Moravian Church from extinction so it was appropriate that he should be remembered in this way.
1996: Again with further reductions in ministers in the Irish District, Ballinderry was linked as a unit with Gracehill.
1997: Due to severe damp in the church and manse, major repairs had to be undertaken, the exterior of the whole building was stripped back to the stonework and replastered, also the inside of the porch and the inside of the south-facing wall. Repairs had also to be carried out to the window frames in the church and manse, as some of the wood was rotten. This was done at a cost of £6348.22 for the church and £3524.88 for the manse. A grant of £500.00 was received from P.E.C. (our Governing Board in London) towards the repairs and also a grant of £2643.71 was received from N.I. Housing Executive towards the repairs to the manse. Through the generosity of members and friends and a number of fundraising efforts (these included table quiz, sales, auctions, and concerts) which were very successful, sufficient funds were available for this extensive work.
1998: What used to be the great "oak wood" is commemorated in the many local place names ending in "derry" which means "the land of the oak" but our property is surrounded by lime trees. Over the years due to road construction and improvements some of these trees were cut down with the result that there are now 26 in total bordering 2 sides of the property and a Tree Protection Order was granted a few years back. Due to severe storms over Christmas 1997/New Year 1998 there was some damage to local residents' property from fallen branches. To keep our insurance in order we were advised to have the 13 trees pruned which are adjacent to the houses, and the work had to be carried out by an approved tree surgeon. This tree maintenance proved very costly at £4277.00 but as on previous occasions generous donations were received from members and friends which amounted to £1120.00, and a grant of £1000.00 was received from P.E.C. The Lower Ballinderry Primary School children were involved and did a project on the pruning. In order to get information they were given talks by the tree surgeon and environmentalists as to why some branches were cut and others were not.
The late Bishop J.H.Foy commissioned a small round stained glass window with the Church crest for the porch. Bishop J.H.Cooper dedicated it on the 23rd of March.
1999: In June the interior and exterior of the church were re-decorated. This included the outside of the manse and also the burial ground walls, the railings and the gates at a cost of £7180.42. A plaster cornice was put up in the church with donations received from the Stevensons in memory of members of their family, and this has greatly enhanced the appearance.
2000: The new millennium has brought further changes. On the 1st September Ballinderry was linked with University Road and Kilwarlin and for the first time in the history of Ballinderry Moravian Church we have a woman minister.
Early in the year an enquiry form was received from our church governing board in London regarding the state of all church buildings. After viewing the premises, our builder stated that the church and manse roofs were reasonable at present, but would require extensive work within the next five years. After consideration, the committee agreed that as funds were available it would be wiser to go ahead with the necessary repairs rather than wait. Several estimates were received and it was agreed that the most suitable was that of the roofing specialists who worked mainly on repairing historical buildings, though not the cheapest. They powerwashed the slates and then removed the complete roof covering and repaired any damaged timbers. The following were supplied and fixed - nylon breathing felt, treated lathes and flashing, then the slates and ridge tiles were put back with the defective ones being replaced. This work was carried out in September at a cost of £11,000.
GOD'S ACRE or Moravian Burial Ground.
In God's Acre you will notice that some of the headstones are lying flat. These follow the old Moravian custom where the only inscription was name, date of birth and date of death. Headstones were the same size, emphasising that in death all are equal. Another interesting fact is that in some Moravian burial grounds there was an area for married women and widows, one for married men and widowers, one for single men and little boys and one for single women and little girls. Gracehill retains the custom of burial in single graves and men are interred in one half of the burial ground and women in the other.
The headstone (marked No 1) for Mary Ann Syms, born 7th April 1755, died 31 st January 1758, the little daughter of the minister and his wife and the first burial in Ballinderry, can still be seen.
THE CHURCH TODAY (2000) AND THE FUTURE
The five congregations in Northern Ireland, Ballinderry, Kilwarlin (near Hillsborough) Gracehill (Ballymena) Cliftonville and University Road (both Belfast) are currently served by two full time stipendiary ministers who cover (a) Gracehill and Cliftonville and (b) University Road, Kilwarlin and Ballinderry. One retired bishop and two retired ministers, along with a dedicated group of lay preachers, assist them. Lay preachers conduct services but do not officiate at the sacraments. A list of all the ministers who have served in Ballinderry from 1753 appears later in this booklet.
The Ballinderry Moravian Church is very active not only in the local community but also participates in assisting with international projects especially in Central Europe, which has involved all sectors of the church with donations varying from clothes to Christmas parcels for orphans. Assistance has been given to other denominations in the locality for their projects and also with repairs to a church after bomb damage. The church tries to keep alive the Moravian spirit of fellowship and mission awareness. We participate in the European Heritage Weekends, when buildings of historic importance are open to the public. History evenings are now a regular feature when anyone can come and hear about the beliefs, customs, traditions and history of the Moravian Church.
The church and property are fisted as a Grade 2 historic
site, and as such is protected BUT does not receive any assistance for
maintenance. The paddock was listed by the Ulster Wildlife Society as an
area of wildlife interest because of a number of rare plants and gasses.
OTHER EARLIER MORAVIAN WORK IN THE DISTRICT.
SANDY BAY - LOUGH NEAGH. It is not recorded when the first meetings took place in this area. The diary for 1848 records a lovefeast held there in the afternoon of Sunday the 24th September. It was a festal occasion and Moravians were present from many places including Gracehill, Dublin, Bristol and Cootehill, also Sr. Zula from Kilwarlin. The local people turned up in force, 30-40 children and 70-80 men and women. Br. John Birtill, the sixth speaker, spoke of his first visit to the Bay and the purchase of the Store House (described in one account as an unfinished mansion). Br. William Ellis of Ballinderry preached the first sermon in this building on July 22nd 1842. The pulpit came from the Baptist Academy in Bristol and the benches were those on which Cennick's hearers sat, having survived the fire in Ballinderry in 1835. Br. Birtill furnished the house, took up residence the next year and held regular services. A Sunday school was started with an average attendance of 50.
In 1845 Br. Birtill moved to Ballinderry and a Scripture Reader was appointed who held a Sunday school and evening service attended by fishermen and farmers who came in boats over the Lough and in carts from the country around. Various references appear in the diary:
Sept. 8th 1863: Lovefeast at Sandy Bay. In spite of a tremendous storm about 60 persons assembled and though our fare was only dry bread and indifferent tea we found attentive hearers and an open door for preaching the glad tidings, the meeting lasted from 6.15 till 8.00p.m.
May 14th 1867: The preaching place at the Bay has been discontinued since Br. Cousins has given up his connection with the society. The other preaching places are very encouraging.
March 8th 1870: Visited at Sandy Bay ... It is sad that after the long labours at this place there should now only remain one person connected with our Church.
When the work declined the Sandy Bay property was sold, however in 1884 there are records of cottage meetings being held.
GLENAVY: On the 27th September 1750 Cennick preached there for the first time to thousands in a large field. His preaching continued, sometimes in the fields but also in a large stable, a spacious barn and a cloth mill. On the 11th March 1751 work was started on converting a building, belonging to Mr. Gorman, to a chapel at a rent of £4.16.0 per annum. When completed it consisted of a chapel and a dwelling place with a small garden. When the building was dedicated the report says that more than 800 were present, many who could not get in being clustered around the windows and doors. Just over 100 joined the society, it prospered for a few years but when Cennick was no longer about, the work tailed off and was eventually incorporated with Ballinderry. Glenavy remained a preaching place for many years until the Church of Ireland commenced evangelistic work in the district in which a Moravian Scripture Reader joined. The Protestant Hall was built on the spot where the church originally stood.
CROSS HILLS: Cennick first preached here on the 5th October 1750 and services continued intermittently until a society was formed. On the 24th August 1752 the foundation stone of a chapel was laid but it was not opened for worship until the 2nd June 1754, as money was tight. Bishop Peter Bohler wrote in his diary after a visit in November 1752: We took a view of the new chapel, which is a building of stone, but not yet roofed, tho' they are busy at work. This chapel is in our hands for 5/= a year, tho' it hath an acre of land, and is let to us for 41 years.
When completed the property was described as consisting of a church, with a school on one side, a two-storied house on the other, and a burial ground. In 1797 Gracehill diary records that the attendance had fallen, and the place had gone into the hands of strangers. There was a slight revival during 1799 but it must have been short lived because a visitor in 1805 found that the roof had fallen in.
Other preaching places mentioned in the diaries were at Crew Hill and Tunny Point. Cottage meetings are recorded over many years at Derryarnish (Barnes family) Folly Hill (homes of Mrs Elliott and Charles Totten), Hillhead (James Green Sen.) and Legaterriff (Bell's). The ministers also took part in services in the Union Hall, Aghagallon, the National School at Legaterriff and in a barn belonging to Wm. Totten at Folly Hill.
MINISTERS OF THE BALLINDERRY CONGREGATION
Sources: There are no Ballinderry congregation diaries extant prior to 1842 so the following sources have been used: Extracts from the transcript of the Journals of John Cennick (edited J.H.Cooper 1996): A German manuscript of 1750 in Dublin archive: Diary extracts re Ballinderry 1750 - 1755, published in Fraternal Records Vol 1. (edited John Carey 1858). Gloonen, Gracehill and Dublin congregation diaries and Elders Conference Minutes in Gracehill archive (courtesy V. Launder). After 1842: Ballinderry congregation diaries and congregation reports from Moravian Messengers in Church House London.
N.B. Britain changed to the Gregorian calendar on September 3rd 1752, making a difference of 11 days. In Germany `new style' was already in use and early Moravian diaries used `old' or `new style', and sometimes both. The editor of the Fraternal Record altered the dates to `new style' but the Cennick Journal was written and edited in ,old style'.
Artist's impression of the Moravian Church c 1825. It was built in 1751 by
John Cennick. altered and added to in 1821 and rebuilt in 1835 after it
was destroyed by fire. The plan shows that the entrances to the earlier
church and house were from the burial ground side.