Presbyterian Moderator McNeely recalls fallen friend in poignant farewell message
The outgoing leader of Ireland's Presbyterians has said that he is "greatly heartened by the Church that is responding to the pressures and challenges throughout Ireland".
The Rt Reverend Noble McNeely will step down as Moderator on Monday at the Opening Night of the Presbyterian General Assembly. He will be succeeded by the Moderator-elect the Reverend Charles McMullen, from West Church in Bangor.
During his year in office, Dr McNeely spent 12 days in Zambia visiting Church-related projects, and he also attended the Reformation commemorations in Cairo hosted by the Protestant Churches in Egypt, at a time of attacks by Islamic militants.
He said it was important to show solidarity with Christians in the Middle East "who have suffered violence, death and general persecution on a scale that has not been witnessed in many years".
Dr McNeely and his wife also attended the anniversary commemoration of the La Mon bombing, as well as visiting the Bessbrook memorial to the victims of the Kingsmill massacre.
During a visit to Thiepval Barracks he found the name of a Boys' Brigade friend, Corporal Trelford Withers, who had been the last Royal Irish Regiment soldier to be killed before the 1994 ceasefire.
He said: "Seeing Trelford's name on an illuminated page, being at the La Mon Commemoration and visiting the memorial to the victims of the Kingsmill massacre, and experiencing the emotion and just some of the pain and loss, brought to mind the importance of the whole issue of legacy and of getting to grips with our troubled past, especially for the sake of those who still live with such pain and loss."
Writing his final blog entry as Moderator, Dr McNeely stated that during his year of office he had met "many Church members, faithful Christian people just getting on with life - being good neighbours and helping one another, recognising these demands, and being prepared to try new ways to share the Gospel".
He said it was "amazing" to see such commitment and compassion, especially in the rural areas.
"We sometimes forget their struggle, or fail to see the issues that farmers face. It has been a hard year for them, but we found a people committed to the Church, their community and their faith."