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Presbyterians celebrate 500 years since Reformation

By Alf McCreary

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is to hold a series of meetings later this year to celebrate and commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The 800 clergy and laity at this year's General Assembly were told yesterday that there will be a major emphasis on the Church's plans to commemorate the milestone.

One of the key events will be titled 'Faith At The Crossroads: Rediscovering The Reformation'.

It will be held over three days in three different venues - Dublin, Londonderry and Belfast - from October 17-19.

The keynote speaker will be Dr Conrad Mbewe of Kabwata Baptist Church in Zambia, who is known to Ulster congregations.

He was a speaker at the Bangor Worldwide Missionary Convention last year, and in February this year he spoke at the Union Theological College conference on Martin Luther.

The incoming Moderator, the Rt Reverend Dr Noble McNeely, who is minister of First Holywood Presbyterian Church, has indicated that he will make the life and work of Martin Luther a key figure of his year in office.

In his address at the opening night of the General Assembly on Monday, Dr McNeely referred to Luther's "remarkable initiative that started the wheels of transformation in the Church that has had such colossal influence for five centuries".

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, which has more than 225,000 members in 539 congregations across 19 Presbyteries on the island, is a member Church in the Reformed tradition.

Irish Presbyterianism has its origins in Scottish migrations to Ulster in the 17th century.

The oldest congregation is Ballycarry in Co Antrim, which dates back to 1613.

The youngest is Donabate in Co Dublin, which opened in 2010.

The Moderator welcomed guests to the General Assembly, which began its business sessions yesterday morning and will continue until Friday lunchtime.

The guests will comprise representatives from other churches in the UK and Ireland, including senior clergy from troubled parts of Africa.

Tonight, the Assembly will be staging a special celebration on the Moderator's theme 'Everyday Disciples'. The keynote speaker will be the Reverend Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe's parish in Oxford.

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