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Historic Belfast church rings in changes as congregation moves after 190 years

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The congregation at May Street is to be amalgamated with Malone Road worshippers

The congregation at May Street is to be amalgamated with Malone Road worshippers

The congregation at May Street is to be amalgamated with Malone Road worshippers

One of Belfast's most historic churches will be ringing out the old - as well as ringing in the new - on Sunday.

A special Dawning Of A New Era service at May Street Presbyterian in the heart of the city will mark the end of worship by the existing congregation after 190 years.

But the church isn't closing; the baton is instead being passed to Central Belfast, a new city centre church under the auspices of Carnmoney Presbyterian Church.

May Street congregation will be formally amalgamated with Fisherwick Church on the Malone Road, and Central Belfast will take over the old premises.

The service at 2pm will be conducted by the Rev Ivan Steen, Moderator of South Belfast Presbytery, and the preacher will be the Rev Jack Lamb from Townsend Street.

During proceedings Arthur Acheson, clerk of session of May Street, will ceremonially pass on a special baton to Dave Dickinson, Leader of Central Belfast.

Among the readers will be Fr Michael McGinnity PP from nearby St Malachy's Catholic Church, with which May Street has long been associated. Guests of honour include Sir Nigel Hamilton, the Deputy Lieutenant of the City of Belfast, and councillor Carole Howard, High Sheriff of Belfast.

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Mr Acheson said a shrinking congregation means it's time to hand over the building to a new church.

"In many ways this will be a sad moment as it means the break-up of our loyal and steadfast congregation, but we are excited to see the witness in this building being revitalised," he said.

"Everyone will be welcome at this special service, in particular those with family, historical and other links to May Street Congregation over the years."

Dave Dickinson from Central Belfast said May Street is ideally positioned for outreach.

"We have tried to become a community that keeps Jesus in focus and we prioritise discipleship, worship and witness as we proclaim the Kingdom of God in the centre of Belfast," he said.

"It is a huge blessing to have our own home and we look forward to playing our part in the transformation of Belfast."

May Street Church opened in October 1829 and its first minister was Dr Henry Cooke, the famous Black Man of Belfast. Its buildings are used by charities including Belfast Street Pastors and Teen Challenge.

Central Belfast now intends to partner with Storehouse and develop a Christians Against Poverty programme within May Street.


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