Friday, December 19, 2008

Presbyterianism Through the Ages

It's funny how we (ie Ulster Protestant evangelical Ulster-Scots folk) have lost a lot of our creativity Cover.jpgover the past few generations. We're "tighter", more reserved, less imaginative, wary of doing something new in case we get criticised - and until very recently, had forgotten our wonderful history. It's a strange situation, but it was once very different...

Back in February 1948, as Northern Ireland emerged from the poverty and loss of World War 2, the Presbytery of Ards performed an 18 scene drama entitled "Presbyterianism Through the Ages - a Historical Pageant". It was played over two consecutive nights in Newtownards, and then again in Bangor shortly afterwards. The script was written by M Beatrice Lavery, the secretary to the Moderator.

In the foreword, the Moderator wrote of how the Pageant "...vividly represents our stirring history, and links us with Brice and Livingstone, Blair and Hamilton*, Knox and Calvin..." (* - my friend from Ballywalter - I'm glad previous generations recognised his importance!)

The Pageant was performed not by professional actors, but by members of local congregations within the Presbytery, as follows:


Prologue - The Burning Bush - Rev J C Ferguson BA BD

Scene I - The New Testament Church; the Eldership - presented by Millisle and Ballyfrenis

Scene II - St Columba in Iona - presented by Second Newtownards and Regent Street

Scene III - John Calvin - presented by Rev W A A Park MA

Scene IV - John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots - presented by Trinity, Bangor

Scene V - Andrew Melville and James VI at Falkland Castle - presented by Kirkcubbin and Portaferry

Scene VI - Janet Geddes in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh - presented by First Bangor and Conlig

Scene VII - The Signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh - presented by Hamilton Road, Bangor

Scene VIII - The Children's Bond - presented by Ballygilbert Guides and Brownies

Scene IX - A Conventicle (in the Pentland Hills) - presented by Ballywalter and Carrowdore

Scene X - The Killing Time - presented by Ballyblack Boys' Auxiliary

Scene X - The Last Martyr of the Covenant, James Renwick

Scene XI - Kirkbride (Scots language poem) - presented by Rev R J Laughlin BA, Mrs H Gilmore and Rev J Forbes BA

Scene XII - The First Presbytery in Ireland; the Army in Carrickfergus - presented by First Newtownards

Scene XIII - Closing of the Gates of Derry - presented by the Donaghadee Churches and Groomsport

Scene XIV - The Siege of Derry - presented by the Donaghadee Churches and Groomsport

Scene XV - King William III granting the Regium Donum at Hillsborough Castle - presented by Ballyholme and Helen's Bay

Scene XV - Rev Francis Mackemie; the Apostle of American Presbyterianism - presented by Miss Peggy Ferris

Scene XVI - Union of the Synods - presented by First Holywood and Ards Presbytery

Scene XVII - An Old-Time Service - presented by Greenwell Street, Newtownards

Scene XVIII - In Their Footsteps - presented by Trinity Bible Class


On the back cover is a message from Lord Tweedsmuir, which closes with the following statement:

"...You have heard and seen what Presbyterianism has been in the past; you know what it is today; its future - it depends on your realisation of your responsibility as an heir of such a magnificent heritage..."

Would a play like this happen today? Does the knowledge exist? Does the interest exist? The scripture text on the first page summarises it well:

"These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city... nor the memorial of them perish from their seed..." Esther 9 v 28