An Armagh city church, one of Ireland’s oldest congregations in continuous worship, is set to mark the 350th anniversary of its founding this May with a Festival celebrating the history of the congregation.
First Armagh Presbyterian Church will be holding ‘350 Years in Scripture, Stitches and Stone’, a Festival of Creative Displays, from Thursday May 4 to Sunday May 7.
At the festival, the history of the church will be celebrated through decorations created by members of the congregation and its associated organisations.
The festival will include illustrations of Bible verses created by congregants and associated organisations expressed through window displays, floral arrangements, patchwork quilts, banners and a range of stitched works. A 3D timeline tracing the history of the congregation will highlight the generations of Armagh Presbyterian worshippers within changing historic contexts over the three and a half centuries.
Co-organiser Elise Crean says the church reflects the shared history of Ulster and the contribution to society made by Presbyterians since the 17th century.
She said: “The original church was first established in 1673 in Armagh before moving to a new site in Abbey Street in the early 1700s and finally to this magnificent, Gothic revival edifice on the Mall in 1879.”
The church whose spire is 185ft high features unique assets including the 1905 pipe organ restored in 2019. One peculiar detail not seen on any other Irish Presbyterian Church is a monkey-faced chimera.
“The most common explanation is that a member of the congregation was pompously telling a stone mason how to do his job and this was the mason’s response,” says Elise.
The Armagh limestone church’s interior is a reflection of continually moving history: two marble tablets on which are written the names of those who served in WW1; regimental flags from 1920 after the disbandment of the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Royal Irish Fusiliers; a brass tablet commemorating those who served in WW2; and a light oak communion table and chairs by the pulpit installed in 1952.
The Festival will commence with a service on Thursday May 4 at 1.30pm, led by Rev Graham Mullan, with special music by the Armstrong Primary School Choir. The opening times are:
Thursday May 4, 1.30pm – 7.30pm
Friday May 5, 10am – 7.30pm
Saturday May 6, 1.30pm – 7.30pm
Sunday May 7, 12.30pm – 7pm
Refreshments will be available throughout the event with the exception of Sunday when they will be served from 2pm – 5pm.
The Morning Service on Sunday May 7 at 11:30am will be conducted by Rev Dr Tony Davidson, and the Festival will be brought to a close with an Evening Service at 7pm, led by Very Rev Dr David Bruce.