Rev. Gareth McFadden.
THIS year the congregation of Anahilt Presbyterian Church will be celebrating the 350th anniversary of its formation by staging numerous events aimed at reaching out to the community and getting people involved with the church.
Positioned in the rolling drumlins of rural County Down, the church is on the Windmill Road outside Hillsborough. The meeting place where the congregation first worshipped in 1662, only a generation after the Ulster Plantation settlers made the move from Scotland to Ireland, was situated a short distance from the present Church.
As one approaches the church vestibule, it's difficult not to notice the rich history of this congregation and its impact on the, local community throughout centuries. A stone tablet stands against the wall greeting members and visitors with a listing of 14 ministers having served this congregation since its formation. Another memorial is erected for those who proudly fought in the two world wars of the twentieth century.
A warm welcome quickly ensues by anyone you meet in the halls or pews, and none more so than by the Rev. Gareth McFadden. Gareth was installed as minister in September 2010 with united charge of both Anahilt and nearby Drumlough Presbyterian Church. He actively splits his time performing his ministerial duties, between the two congregations.
At Anahilt, he quickly made an impact on the congregation by getting to know and encouraging the members of the congregation. There have been considerable developments including the establishment of various groups and sub-committees aimed at promoting the "Vision 2012" project. His vision is for an effort by the current congregation to celebrate a key milestone in our community history, by putting in place the foundations for bringing the church into the next 350 years.
This is to be achieved by a significant renovation project for the building's interior and will equip the congregation with a new look to bring it in line with the twenty first century, while abiding by its traditional ethos. Plans are now well advanced for the carrying out of this renovation work which will create new toilet facilities, quiet rooms, improved disabled access and a musical stage.
Gareth commented: "This is an exciting time to be a part of a congregation with a long history that is looking forward to a bright future welcoming and involving everyone in Christ's name."
The costs associated with this undertaking will be considerable, and to help a number of events in 2012 will be held to raise funds for this project. A traditional Afternoon Tea Party will be held in Hillsborough Court House on Saturday March 31, a Hog Roast with Entertainment will be held in Castlewellan Forest Park on Friday April 27 and a Country Fair will be held at Spruce Meadows Open Farm on Saturday May 26.
However the first "Vision 2012" event will be a musical concert with the Bailles Mills Accordion Band in Hillsborough Village Centre on Friday February 10 at 7.45pm. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the Centre on 9268 3015.
While these events are being held, the weekly routines of the church are always on-going and any visitors are always welcome to attend any of the services. Sunday morning services are held at 10.45 while mid-week services are held on alternative months between Anahilt and Drumlough.