It’s the afternoon of the second Sunday of Advent, and I’m now back at Andrew’s after church this morning. There was a party after the service so that the church family – or beloved community – as they call it there could come together to celebrate something of the Christmas joy that is not always so evident in the world at this time.
When coming back into the flats where Andrew lives, the door of one of the ground floor flats opened, and an older lady spoke,
Were you at All Souls this morning?
When we said that we had been – she said that so had another neighbour. It turns out that this morning four people got up and left from this address to head to the same church. In many cases this would not be so strange a feat. But when you realise that All Souls is the building where the Second Presbyterian Congregation and York Street Non-Subscribing Congregation of Belfast – founded in 1708 – worship, one begins to wonder. After all, Non-Subscribing Presbyterians are not exactly two a penny.
It is also the first time that Andrew has spoken to one of his neighbours. In his words he has become a grown up.
The two neighbours, Norah and Des, not a couple actually attend First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street which is where the Second Presbyterian Congregation’s first meeting house was. The Third Presbyterian Congregation’s church was also there, but has since moved to the North Circular Road.
The congregation’s history goes back to 1723; the present congregation being a union of Ekenhead and Rosemary Street congregations which moved from city centre locations in 1929 and 1941 respectively. The present congregation takes its name from Rosemary Street. The building there was destroyed in an air raid in 1941 and the congregation moved at that time rather than rebuild the church in the centre of the city.
All Souls is the united congregation of Second Congregation and the York Street Congregation whose church was also destroyed in an air raid in 1941.
Norah invited us to the Carol Service on December 19th in First Church, Rosemary Street in the evening – and in the morning it is the Carol Service in All Souls! And this morning I had just been roped into the choir by the organist at All Souls – after I had offered to sub for him if he needed a hand with the organ. Isn’t it good how God gets us ways of using our talents?
Also this morning, Andrew and I both joined the congregation in All Souls. How did we do this? We did it by subscribing – not our names or signature to some previously agreed collective creed of belief but to giving of our earnings to the upkeep of the congregation. Quite simple.