ST. Columba's church at Old Warren will celebrate its 40th anniversary this Sunday, June 5.
The congregation began life in a wooden hut, erected on a site on the Moira Road which is now occupied by Lidl, and the first service was held on Sunday June 6 1965.
The congregation also began life as a joint charge, being both Presbyterian and Methodist. Before long it was clear that a more permanent building would be needed, and so a sod cutting ceremony was held on September 20 1968, with the Rev. A. H. Graham, Joint Convenor of Church Extension, being the one to cut the sod.
The building progressed and on March 8 1969, the foundation stones were laid by the Very Rev William Boyd and Very Rev Howard Cromie of the Presbyterian Church, and by Rev R. D. E Gallagher and Rev. R. D. Morris of the Methodist Church. A few years later a new hall was also added.
St. Columba's is set in the Old Warren Estate, and draws membership from that estate, as well as from Knockmore, Tonagh and Manor Estates and other surrounding areas.
The Rev. Dr. Malcolm Scott was installed as the first minister of the congregation and remained as minister for some 33 years. The Rev John Honeyford was installed as minister in September 1999.
Since its beginnings, the congregation has increased in numbers, with some 310 families claiming connection.
In preparation for this special year of celebration, much work has been accomplished to bring the building into a state of repair.
The outside has been painted, and a new central heating system and kitchen installed. To help highlight this important milestone in the congregation's life, a number of visiting speakers have been invited to conduct the worship on Sunday mornings.
The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Very Rev Dr. Ken Newell conducted worship on Sunday March 13 and the Rev. Brian Anderson from Seymour Street Methodist Church conducted worship on Sunday April 17.
The Rev. Sam Castles, who grew up in the congregation, conducted worship at both the morning and evening services on Sunday May 15, and the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Scott, hopes to conduct worship this Sunday, exactly 40 years after he took the first service.
More recently St. Columba's has started the Iona Community Project as part of its social outreach.
The Project has a number of activities running, including the Parent and Toddlers Group, Bright Eyes, An Art and Craft Club, a Wednesday Afternoon Club for senior citizens, a Computer Awareness Club, a Men's Group, a Badminton Club, a Youth Drop-in Centre, and a Rambling Club.
While the services begin at 11.30 am and 6:30pm, a cup of tea or coffee is provided before the morning service from 11am onwards with the aim of helping visitors feel welcome, and providing an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better in this more relaxed and informal setting.