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The Rev. Howard Cromie, M.A., pictured in 1962, the year he was installed at Railway Street The Very Rev. Dr. Howard Cromie The Very Rev. Dr. Howard Cromie
The Rev. Howard Cromie, M.A., pictured in 1962, the year he was installed at Railway Street Presbyterian Church. The Very Rev. Dr. Howard Cromie The Very Rev. Dr. Howard Cromie pictured in 2004.

A SERVICE to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ordination of the Very Reverend Dr Howard Cromie will be held in Railway Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn, on Sunday June 20 at 10.30am.

Dr Cromie, who is currently Senior Minister at Railway Street, was born on April 19, 1928, to parents Joseph Thomas and Margaret Cromie. He was the youngest of a family of six and they lived on a farm at Ballydown, about 2 miles from Banbridge. The family worshipped at Scarva Street Presbyterian Church, Banbridge where the Minister was the Rev William Moore, who was later to become Dr Cromie's father-in-law.

His early education was gained at the Abercorn Primary School in Banbridge, and later at Banbridge Academy. It was while attending Banbridge Academy that he experienced a strong calling to the Christian ministry.

He became involved in the Student Christian Movement at the Academy and also became a Communicant Member and Sunday School teacher at his Church. After four years at Magee University College, Londonderry, he attended Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1950.

He then proceeded to New College, Edinburgh, the Theological Faculty of Edinburgh University, where he graduated Bachelor of Divinity. His final year was spent at The Presbyterian College, Belfast, now known as Union College.

Among his various prizes and achievements, he was awarded The Smiley Gold Medal Award for Oratory.

Two years as Student Assistant at Richmond Craigmiller Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, gave him his first experience of pastoral work. During this time he was also involved in work with young people and served as an Officer in the Boys' Brigade. After returning to Northern Ireland, he gained further pastoral experience as Licentiate Assistant at Great Victoria Street, Belfast, and a further year at St. Enoch's, Belfast.

His 50 years of service to the Presbyterian Church, commenced with his Ordination at Scots Presbyterian Church, Enniskillen, on Wednesday July 21, 1954. Little more than a month later he married Kathleen Moore on Tuesday August 31 1954 at Scarva Street Presbyterian Church, Banbridge. It was while living in Enniskillen that their two sons were born, Alan on March 21 1956 and David on October 22 1958.

In addition to his many duties as Minister of Scots Church, he was Chaplain to the recruits at the RUC Training Depot and the students at Portora Royal School. As well as serving on several school committees, he was Vice Chairman of the Hospital Board and President of the Enniskillen and Sligo District Christian Endeavour Union. He preached his farewell sermon at Scots Church, Enniskillen, on Sunday December 31 1961.

Dr Cromie was installed at Railway Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn, on January 10 1962. When they moved to the Railway Street Manse in January 1962 with their two little boys, Alan was five years old and David was three. Their daughter Gillian was born the following year on June 13 1963. Gillian was the first daughter of Railway Street Manse in the Congregation's history of 100 years. Fiona, their second daughter, was born on December 9 1965. Dr and Mrs Cromie now have nine grandchildren.

One of the first tasks that faced him at Railway Street was the complete refurbishment of the Lecture Hall. Two coke-burning stoves were replaced with a modern heating system and a stage, new kitchen, entrance hall and toilets were added.

Another major refurbishment was the redesign of the choir and pulpit area at the front of the Church. Three pews were removed and a raised platform area was erected for the choir. A Communion table and Minister's chair, lectern, baptismal font, wedding kneelers and choir chairs were installed and the whole area carpeted.

Some years later, two communion chairs were presented by the Allen family and the Boys' Brigade. The Church refurbishment was carried out as a memorial to Dr J K Elliott and Professor T H Robinson, both of whom were former ministers of the Congregation. A Re-opening and Dedication Service was held on Sunday May 5 1963.

On Sunday December 6 1987, Dr Cromie conducted a service to commemorate the dedication of new stained glass Church windows, which were donated by members of the congregation in memory of their families. The PWA also donated a memorial window.

As Minister, he put a strong emphasis on pastoral work among members of the Congregation in their particular needs. For most of his ministry, he was involved with people whose lives were shattered as the result of terrorism. He conducted and shared in many funerals and in the pastoral care of the injured and the bereaved, bringing to them the comfort and love of Jesus.

He enjoyed working with young people and, in 1963, formed the Fellowship of Youth that resulted in many young people being led to faith. The Sunday School format was also changed to cater for ages from Beginners Sunday School through to Bible Class. During this period, an Indoor Bowling Club, Midweek Bible Study Group, Nursery and Young Women's Group were also formed. Mrs Cromie served as President of The Young Women's Group and the PWA for many years.

During his Ministry at Railway Street Dr Cromie conducted missions in various congregations throughout the Presbyterian Church. He held several convener-ships with the General Assembly including The Irish Mission and Church Extension.

His involvement with Church Extension saw St. Columba's Presbyterian Church formed out of the Railway Street Parish because of the growth in numbers attending Railway Street. With the continuing expansion of Lisburn and housing development extending beyond the Antrim Road, there was need for further Church Extension and this resulted in the formation of Elmwood Presbyterian Church at Ballymacash in 1976, formed from the Railway Street Parish.

For 32 years he was Officiating Chaplain to the forces at Thiepval Barracks and for the past 42 years he has served as Chaplain to Thompson House, Lisburn, where he derives great satisfaction through his contacts with the patients and staff who always welcome his visits.

Dr Cromie is most grateful to the talented organists who led the praise during his Ministry at Railway Street. These included David Leinster, Stanley Woods and Peter Wilson. It was while Mr Woods was organist that the now familiar red choir robes were introduced. Over the years, he was grateful for the help and support from his successive

Assistant Ministers and willing band of dedicated workers including Kirk Session, Congregational Committee and the many teachers, leaders and choir members. Dr Cromie is appreciative for the work of the Church Officers who were very faithful in keeping the Church clean and tidy for worship.

Dr Cromie's service to the Church at large was recognised by his election in 1984 as Moderator of The General Assembly. This was a great honour, but it was also a very busy and challenging year involving representing the Presbyterian Church throughout the UK and as far afield as America, Germany, Singapore and Indonesia.

The theme for his Moderatorial year was "Forward together with Christ".

At an emotional service on Sunday May 9 1993, Dr Cromie preached his retirement sermon at Railway Street. The church was packed with over 1000 people, the vast majority of whom had become members during his ministry. Many of them he had baptised, later married and in turn baptised their children.

Dr Cromie and his wife Kathleen now live in Newcastle, where he has a pleasant view of the Mourne Mountains. He is still much in demand preaching at special services throughout the Church, and enjoys his frequent visits back to Railway Street.

Congratulations to Dr Cromie for over 31 years of devoted service to the Congregation of Railway Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn, and on the completion of 50 years' faithful service to Presbyterianism since his Ordination at Scots Presbyterian Church, Enniskillen, on Wednesday July 21 1954.