Ichabod! The glory has departed! Let that never be said of this church!
That was the thrust of Prof. Herman Hanko’s moving sermon at the official dedication of the new church building of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) in Northern Ireland (5 August, 2010).
The Ballymena congregation was joined on this special occasion by family and friends, neighbors, our building contractor and quantity surveyor, as well as saints from the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) in America and the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF), plus Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. In fact, this was the first CPRC service attended by Anganeta Dyck from Duisburg, Germany, since she moved to Northern Ireland to join the church.
The evening began with a tape-cutting ceremony, with Profs. Engelsma and Hanko cutting the red ribbon at the main entrance, thereby declaring the building officially open for the service of the triune God. Moving inside, our two honored guests unveiled the dedicatory plaque in the narthex or foyer. The cameraman from a local paper was on hand, along with others from the PRC and CPRC, to take the requisite photos of both opening ceremonies.
An eager crowd filled the sanctuary for the service, with even a few chairs being brought in. Rev. Angus Stewart explained that this new church was erected through faith, the believing perseverance of a body of saints through many trials and much opposition. Money was also required—money that was provided by the generous giving of the CPRC over many years and by the support of our sister church in North America (the PRC) and the Wellington Protestant Reformed Fellowship in New Zealand, as well as by the Lord’s people from all parts of the British Isles, continental Europe, Australia, etc. Of course, the building is also the product of a lot of work. Appreciation was expressed to all who helped in this regard, especially Tommy Hamill, the CPRC building project manager, as well as those who organized the evening.
Elder Peter VanDerSchaaf of Faith PRC, on his third visit to Northern Ireland, read a letter of greetings from the 2010 Synod of the PRC, and Prof. David Engelsma, who has been of immense support to the CPRC over many years, conveyed greetings from himself and his wife.
The program of the service is on-line (www.cprf. co.uk/audio/dedicationprogramme.htm), from which site one can link to video highlights, including the greetings, as well as the audio of Prof. Hanko’s stirring address on “Ichabod.”
After the meeting, the ladies provided tea, sandwiches, and slices of the special cakes decorated to mark the occasion. Knowing that the open space in the balcony would not be large enough, we also served some of the people downstairs in the Bible study room.
A great night was enjoyed by all. May there be many such blessed meetings in our new building in the years ahead!
Our own church building was over 22 years in coming. Some 12 years ago we bought a piece of land of approximately Â¾ acre at the west end of Clarence Street off the Cullybackey Road in Ballymena. First, we had to pay off the loan we had taken to purchase the land. Then we started saving to build on it.
The total area of our new building is 432m2 or 516 square yards. The downstairs consists of two main parts, both 12 meters by 12 meters or roughly 13 yards by 13 yards. One part is the sanctuary for public worship that will hold up to 130 people. The other part includes the Bible-study room, the kitchen (with cooker, fridge, dishwasher, etc.), three WCs (for males, females, and disabled, the last fitted with baby-changing facilities) with sensors for turning on the lights, the crÃ¨che, and the boiler room, with another room containing the oil tank. From the crÃ¨che, or cry room, one can see into the main hall through sound-proof glass. A speaker carries the audio from the worship service into the crÃ¨che.
Half of the downstairs is vaulted: the main auditorium or sanctuary. A lift or stairs takes one from the other half to the first floor, which includes the council room, the catechism room with a bathroom, and the gallery from which people can see down into the main hall through a double-glazed screen.
The main car park is tarmacked; the overflow car park is stoned. The disabled or elderly are well cared for, with special parking spaces, a toilet for the disabled, and a lift to the upstairs.
The sanctuary has very comfortable pews (through the good work of the building committee), in the back of which are the Psalm-books and the green, hardback book, The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches. The pews are fanned to face the pulpit, so that people don’t have to crane their necks during the service. Nobody wants a stiff-necked congregation!
An attractive, wooden bookcase adorns the narthex, displaying Reformed Free Publishing Association books, PRC pamphlets, and boxed sets of CPRC CDs and DVDs.
After we pay off the remaining bills, we hope to save up to install facilities on the balcony for live webcasting of our services. This would be of great help to our members who are sick on the Lord’s Day and to our friends in the British Isles and Europe, as well as providing a witness to the biblical and Reformed faith that we love.
So now, after almost a quarter of a century, our congregation has a church home—thanks to the goodness of our covenant God! Some had wondered if they would live to see the day, but Christ is faithful to us! As Prof. Hanko preached, may “Ichabod” never be written above our church’s doors!