Former craft teacher is next moderator of Presbyterian Church in Ireland
A former craft and design teacher has been selected to become the next moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
Reverend Noble McNeely, 63, of First Holywood Presbyterian Church, Co Down, said he was "sincerely humbled" by the appointment.
The Church's 19 presbyteries met independently across Ireland on Tuesday night to select a successor to current moderator Frank Sellar.
Mr McNeely, who was one of four candidates, was selected by ten of the presbyteries.
"I am sincerely humbled," he said.
"I have served the wider church in a number of roles and I see my nomination as Moderator as another opportunity to serve Christ and His church.
"At the same time, I recognise the responsibility that has been entrusted to me and I pray that with God's help and the prayers of the Church, I will be able to fulfil expectations."
Now known as the Moderator-Designate, the married father of three will officially take up office as the Church's most senior office bearer and principal public representative when he is formally elected and installed as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at its Assembly in June.
Born in Belfast, Mr McNeely was brought up in Crossgar where his family worshipped at Lissara Presbyterian Church.
After graduating from Stranmillis teacher training college, he taught craft and design at Deramore High School (now Balmoral High) in Belfast for two years before starting his studies at the Church's Union Theological College in 1978, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1981.
After completing his training he began work in his home church of Lissara and was ordained as Assistant Minister in Belfast's Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in 1982. He then spent 13 years as minister at First Ballymoney.
In 1997 he and his family moved back to Co Down when he became minister of First Holywood, a congregation of some 380 families of around 890 people.
"The town has a good community spirit and the congregation has contributed widely to good community relations," he said.
"It's a busy and lively congregation that caters for all ages and has good relationships with the other churches in the town.
"A big influence on my call to ministry has involved youth work and evangelism with Evangelical Youth Movement.
"I have always been keen on sport, using it as a means of reaching people for Christ. I've had some experience in chaplaincy in sport and believe this is a great avenue for evangelism to young people as well."
Commenting on the year ahead, he said: "2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
"During the year I would hope I can emphasise and preach on some of the great principles and doctrines of the Reformation, such as 'Justification by faith alone'."