The History of the Presbyterian Church in Moira
The Presbyterian Church in Moira is an old congregation. It existed at the Revolution but it is not known who was the minister then. It was vacant in 1692, when the people called Rev. Matthew Hartridge, of Ahoghill, but the Presbytery would not let him move. Mr. Samuel Ferguson (lic. Antrim) was ordained towards the end of 1693 and died here on 21s tNovember 1703. In 1706 the congregation asked the Synod to strengthen it by adding some families adjacent to Lisburn and Glenavy. They were still vacant in 1708 but on 17th May 1709 Mr. James Blair (lic. Antrim) was ordained as their minister. He was called to Derry in June 1713 and was succeeded by Mr. Samuel Harpur (lic. Belfast) who was ordained on 13th March 1717.
Mr. Harpur appears to have had non-subscribing sympathies and in 1727 he joined the Presbytery of Antrim. In 1731 an application came to the General Synod asking for help to build a new church as they “had been deprived of their meeting-house”. What the cause of this was is not clear but it certainly did not strengthen the cause which was vacant until 27th May 1734, when Mr. Thomas Creighton (lic. Antrim) was ordained. Under Creighton the new meeting-house was erected in 1738, but when Creighton died on 29th December 1741, he left “a poor and indebted congregation”, which remained vacant for years.
The Seceders had come into the area and the majority of the congregation appeared to adhere to them. They therefore approached the Seceders for supply in April 1747 but were not able to obtain a minister until Mr. James Hume, a Scotsman from Aberdour, Fifeshire who was ordained in February 1752. He died on 12th October 1782. The Seceders, being in the majority, apparently took over the building and the Synod of Ulster section, having obtained a minister in Mr. Joseph Mitchell (lic. Route) on 29th October 1751, complained that their meeting-house was seized by the Seceders and that they had been at considerable expense in a law-suit for its recovery. Two congregations now existed side by side and apparently so continued until the problem solved itself in 1830.
After Rev. James Hume, who died in 1782, the Seceders called Mr. Adam Gilbert who was ordained on 16th June 1784 to the United Secession charge of Moira and Magheragall. He died on 15th September 1804 and was followed by Mr. William Moffett, a Scotsman, who was ordained on 19th June 1806.
After the Synod of Ulster minister, Mr. Mitchell, died on 5th October 1774, Mr. William Stitt (lic. Bangor) was ordained on 10th October 1775, and apparently “the seceders still had the house” (1760). Mr. Stitt moved to Dungannon in September 1777 to be followed by Mr. Andrew Craig (lic. Dromore), ordained on 30th June 1778. A succession of short ministries ensued. Mr. Craig, a non-evangelical, moved to Lisburn in 1782 and was ordained on 23rd June 1783. He resigned to go to Summerhill where he was installed on 1st October 1791.
Mr. John Cochrane Wightman (lic. Bangor) came next, ordained on 20th March 1798, and he removed in 1801 to 1stHolywood (O.C.). Mr. Hamilton Dobbin (lic. Bangor) was ordained on 10th June 1801, and resigned in 1802 when he was installed in Lurgan (1st) on 26th January 1802. Then came Mr. John Mulligan (lic. Armagh) who, ordained in November 1802, withdrew with his congregation from the General Synod and joined the Remonstrant Synod in 1830. He died on 12th October 1836.
The Secession congregation, already established, received those members of the “old congregation” who remained loyal to the General Synod, and the Rev. William Moffatt was the minister at the Union of the Synods in 1840. In 1841 he was given leave to have “an assistant and successor” and died on 25th October 1853. He was buried at Moira. His successor was Mr. Robert Moorhead, ordained on 7th November 1843. For some reason his stay was short; he resigned on 23rd September 1844 and he was followed by Mr. Robert Scott Ervine (lic. Down) who was ordained on 2nd April 1845. He did not stay long either, the congregation being “from various causes in a weak and declining state”. He accepted a call to Cargycreevy where he was installed on 7th June 1846, and was ultimately followed in Moira by Mr. Andrew Morrow (lic. Rathfriland 1846) who was ordained in 1847. The Rev. Andrew Morrow resigned from the ministry on 26th December 1848 “with a view to engaging in a secular occupation”. Then there followed Mr. Samuel Graham (lic. Down 1847), ordained on 2nd January 1850. He ended the short ministries, remaining here till his death on 21st January 1903, aged 79 years. The Rev. David Graham of 3rd Armagh was his son.
On 24th June 1903 Mr. Robert George McFarland (lic. Strabane) was settled in Moira and on 14th March 1929 he was installed in Ballinderry as an extra duty. He continued as minister of both charges until his death on 26th August 1937. The union of Moira and Ballinderry congregations took place in 1929 when the Rev. Robert George McFarland, minister of Moira, was also installed in Ballinderry on 14th March 1929. For twelve months prior to this he had oversight of Ballinderry with a view to such a union as that which later took place. Mr. McFarland died on 26th August 1937.
The second minister of this united charge Mr. William Leathem McCombe (lic. Glendermott) who was ordained in Moira and installed in Ballinderry on 24th March 1938. He served as Chaplain in World War II and was Presbytery Clerk from 1950-76. A new Church Hall was opened at Moira on 24th March 1973 to meet the needs of a growing community. Mr. McCombe retired on 31st July 1977. His successor, the Rev. Joseph Frederick Crawford, who had been a missionary in Jamaica, was installed on 11th January 1978. Rev Crawford died on 8th february 2014. The Rev. W. L. McCombe died on 2nd April 1982. Mr. Crawford resigned on 5th October 2000 when called to Newtown and Bowden, Scotland.
The present minister, the Rev. Howard Gilpin, previously in Redrock and Drumminnis, Co. Armagh, was installed in Moira on 7th September 2001.
A Brief history as recorded in a book ‘Lisburn’s Rich Church Heritage’ by John Kelly
This congregation existed at the Glorious Revolution of 1690 but it is not known who the minister was then. The first minister, Mr Samuel Ferguson, was ordained towards the end of 1693. Mr Harpur appears to have had non-subscribing sympathies and in 1727 he joined the Presbytery of Antrim. In 1731 an application came to the General Synod asking for help to build a new church as they “had been deprived of their meeting-house”. What the cause of this was is not clear but it certainly did not strengthen the cause, which was vacant until May 1734, when Mr Thomas Creighton was ordained. Under him the new Meeting House was erected in 1738 (now the Non-Subscribing Church), but when Mr Creighton died in December 1741, he left “a poor and indebted congregation”, which remained vacant for years. The Seceders had come into the area and being in the majority, apparently took over the building in 1747 and had possession of it until about 1770 when it is presumed a new Meeting House was built on the site of the present Presbyterian Church. The church was rebuilt in 1829 at a cost of £550. The Rev John Mulligan, who was ordained in November 1802, withdrew with his congregation from the General Synod and joined the Remonstrant Synod in 1830. The Secession congregation, already established, received those members of the “old congregation” who remained loyal to the General Synod, and the Rev William Moffatt was the minister at the Union of the Synods in 1840. The union of Moira and Ballinderry congregations took place in 1929 when the Rev Robert George McFarland, minister of Moira, was also installed in Ballinderry in March 1929. A new church hall was opened at Moira in March 1973. The union with Moira ended in October 2000 and the present minister, the Rev Howard Gilpin, was installed on 7th September 2001.