On a Journey

In the late 1960s the Ballyhenry area of Newtownabbey was a place of rural quietness on the edge of Glengormley. But by the early 1970s things were beginning to change as green fields became building sites and quiet country roads became busy commuter routes.

It was in this context, of a new community growing up, that the Presbyterian Church in Ireland planted what was to become known as Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church in March 1972. With roots in a previous congregation, in the Cliftonville Road area of Belfast, Ballyhenry quickly became established as a new church set at the heart of a new community.  

Newtownabbey has changed in all kinds of ways over the years as has our wider society.  Recent census figures (published in 2011) paint a picture of our local context at the beginning of the twenty first century. The place that we call home is a diverse community, diverse in terms of age, diverse in terms of social background, diverse in terms of religious mix and political aspiration, and in a small but increasing way diverse in terms of ethnic identity.

It’s interesting to pick up a Bible and to discover that the first disciples of Jesus took the message of Jesus into what were similarly diverse community settings. As people responded to the message of who Jesus was, ordinary lives were changed, churches were born and churches grew.

Newtownabbey has changed, and Newtownabbey is changing. But the sense of calling that gave birth to Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church remains real to us as we journey on. An ongoing sense of calling summed up by one contemporary Christian leader (Don Carson) in the following words:

‘What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of the sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus Himself.’