May Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Magazine

Dear Friends

Below is a sample of the May edition of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Magazine, which includes the Table of Contents and the Editorial. 

If you would like to subscribe please forward your subscriptions to The Business Manager, Neil Brown, 53 Tullygarvan Road, Ballygowan, Newtownards, BT23 6NB. Annual subscription £16 (£18 overseas).



  1. Editorial

  1. Letter to the Editor

  2. A Prayer for Earth Day

  3. Article: A Reasonable Faith?

  4. Reflection: Some Thought on Doubting Thomas Book

  5. Review: The Vast Enquiring Soul

  6. News of the Churches

  7. Children's Corner with bonus colouring pages

  8. Obituary: Rev Ivan McKnight

  9. Article: The Hymns We Sang Together

  10. Video Reflections and Meditations:

  • A Prayer and Meditation from Rev Dr David Steers

  • A Prayer and Meditation from Rev Simon Henning

  • A Reflection from Rev Chris Wilson

  • A Reflection on Holy Week from Rev Colin Campbell

  • An Easter Sunday Service from Rev Mike O'Sullivan

  1. Orders of Service for Worship at Home

  2. Daily Reflections for Worship at Home

  3. Online Ministry (Back Page)

Cover Photo: Many of our younger members across the denomination having been painting, colouring, crafting and Lego-building rainbows to share as a sign of hope throughout their communities during this time of lockdown. This month's cover brings blessings from and to our Moira congregation, and many other NSPCI rainbows can be viewed on Facebook.


I would like to thank those who have sent articles, letters and reflections for inclusion —I hope it has helped you feel connected to your church and the denomination in these unprecedented times.

I am aware that some of you will be receiving this month's edition of the magazine alongside last month's, and potentially next month's too — just another little symptom of the changed reality we find ourselves in. My sister always described me as 'an area of high entropy', in that chaos seemed to surround me. It was in part a dig at the mess of my room, or the fact that I was always doing lots of things at once rather than having a focused, logical routine (my sister teaches Science, I teach English Language and Literature, there were bound to be domestic issues growing up) but also, it was a reference to my ability to stay calm — or at least project calm — in the midst of the storm. Currently, the little eye of my personal hurricane seems a little tighter than usual; chaos is barely a breath away. Perhaps you feel the same. It is impossible to plan beyond a day, or even an hour, if you are juggling working from home, with schooling from home, with keeping a home where more time is spent keeping at home. We are living in TS Eliot's lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock' in measuring out our lives 'in coffee spoons'. It becomes so important then, to find that eye within the storm. The place of peace, and silence. When I think of that space, I think of Jesus. Jesus, surrounded by thousands of hungry people at twilight, calmly reminding the disciples that they could rise to the challenge and feed those who depended on them. Jesus, sitting serenely among the fish-scales in Peter's boat after the miraculous catch of fish. Jesus sleeping through the storm, or sitting in a home as the roof is broken through to accommodate a paralysed man. Jesus walking on water in the' midst of a squall, or walking, whip in hand out of the chaos he had wrought in the temple courts. He was no stranger to chaos, by all accounts. Yet, tellingly, he was no stranger to peace; no stranger to the spirit of God that rests upon the water, and has been there since creation's dawn. If he needed peace, he found it, through meditation on scripture and conversation with his father. The Prince of Peace was Man of Prayer.

You will find many prayers in this issue. There are meditations from some of our congregations, and messages from our clergy. Many of our congregations have walked out onto the stormy sea of social media, often for the first time. Be patient with them, and with our social media team. Like Peter, we may sink a little, but we trust Jesus to take our hand, and use us for the good of those around us by displaying our diversity and dependence on Christ.

I hope they help you find a space to worship God in your own way, and in your own situation. For those of us who don't utilise social media, I have noted down the text of some of what is 'on offer', and I will continue to do so, with my colleagues' permission.

You will also find daily thoughts or devotionals to take you through to the next issue. I can't claim credit for them, they are gathered from various sources in print and online, carefully keeping below copyright infringement level!! If any of you dear readers have a book of reflections that you have found particularly useful, please do share it.

For now, I ask that you would pray for our congregations. Pray for our healthcare workers, farmers, food production workers, store workers. Pray for protection, strength and grace. Pray for our families: for patience and resilience; for our individuals that they would not feel abandoned or alone. Pray for those in hospital, and all those who grieve. Pray for resolution, for rational thought and behaviour, for regard for one another.

Stay strong and safe, precious people of God. Thank you for your selfless acts of sacrifice. Remember, if looking out at the hurricane wall of chaos surrounding you is dizzying and overwhelming, look up. That perfect patch of blue sky is your promise: the rainbow is on the way.

Yours in Christ,


NSPMag May 2020 Front page 001


The Moderator and the Clerk have sent out documents to assist with the opening of Churches / Meeting Houses for services of worship: 


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We appreciate your patience, understanding, support for your church and for one another. Thank you.
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As we move towards the reopening of our buildings for worship etc we wish to assist you with further guidance, much of which is based on recommendations outlined by the PCI.

When you have completed the checklist, we strongly recommend that you provide your Clerk of Presbytery with a copy of  the completed checklist prior to the resumption of Services etc.

Blessings on all that you do.

Yours in the Lord

Rt Rev Chris Hudson (Moderator of General Synod)
Rev Colin Campbell (Moderator of RSU)
Rev Robert McKee (Clerk of General Synod)
Mr Paul Jeffrey(Assistant to Clerk)

April Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Magazine

Dear Friends

Below is a sample of the April edition of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Magazine, which includes the Table of Contents and the Editorial

If you would like to subscribe please forward your subscriptions to The Business Manager, Neil Brown, 53 Tullygarvan Road, Ballygowan, Newtownards, BT23 6NB. Annual subscription £16 (£18 overseas).

1. Editorial
2. Good Practice Guidelines to Slow the Spread of COVID-19
3. An Update from the Moderator and Clerk of Synod
4. Report on the Sunday School Games
5. Book Review: The Endless Practice
6. Article: Appril Fools
7. News of the Churches
8. Advertisement for Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society
9. Reflection: Some Thought on the Uncreated Mystery
10. A Tribute to the Very Rev McMillan, from the Congregations of Newry and Warrenpoint
11. Article: Who Am I?
12. Report from the Christian Ministries Committee
13. Children's Corner
14. Poem: Tae a Virus
15. A Message from Rev Dr David Steers
16. Dates for Your Diary (Back Page)

Cover caption: Laura, Kellie and Ellen from Downpatrick share their smiles (and matching piggy art) at the Sunday School Games. In this time of uncertainty, let their joy raise a smile, and remind us of a bright and hopeful future.


I have written and re-written this editorial many times over the past few days; as events, advice and guidance seem to change almost by the hour.
By this stage, the decision has been taken to suspend services indefinitely, to thus preserve the health and wellbeing of our more vulnerable members. While on many levels this fills me with sorrow, I recognise the wisdom within it.
And indeed, the timing is interesting. It's Lent, a time in which the church reflects on Jesus' self-isolation in the wilderness, a place to which he was led by the Holy Spirit'. If we accept that '40 days and nights' is Israelite idiom for 'a lengthy period of indeterminate time' (or as we say in Northern Ireland, "donkeys' years") then like us, He had no means of knowing how long the time of trial would last, and he was hungry, and anxious about the road ahead. Perhaps we, like Him, have felt tempted in various ways. Hopefully, we can follow His example and counter each of these moments with words of Scripture.
There are a number of Bible Reading resources which can be accessed from home, including audiobooks and study guides. Beginning next month, if distancing is still in effect, we will include a little 'verse of the day' section to offer some ideas for prayer and contemplation also.
It is also useful to note the element of choice in Jesus' response to the tests he faced while self-isolating. He could indeed have turned the stones into bread. He chose not to. He knew that withdrawing from earthly things would bring Him closer to His Father. He could have trusted the angels to catch Him. He chose not to. Instead He chose to trust that this trial was not too great to bear in His humanity. Three years later, in the Garden of betrayal, when his anxiety was so strong that blood mingled with His sweat, He welcomed the ministering of angels; but here, at the beginning of His ministry, He used only the tools that we all have: patience, perseverance, prayer, and the Words of the Father. We too can choose to be generous with our food and other earthly possessions, seeing them as secondary to the presence and peace of God. We can choose to trust the words of Romans 10:13: "And God is Faithful, He will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear." And we can choose to be comforted by the Spirit around us - the Advocate, the Comforter, whichever term you prefer - because again and again in scripture we are reminded that true Worship; worship in Spirit and Truth, occurs not in buildings (however beautiful and beloved they might be) but in the heart.
I long for a return to fellowship with my congregation. Yet, I remain in fellowship with my God. That cannot be taken away, from any of us.
When Jesus returned from the wilderness, He was strengthened. He knew who He was, and His purpose was clear. As He joined in fellowship once again in the synagogues, He spoke with authority. He healed with impudence. He loved with abandon.

NSPMag April 2020 Front page 001


May we return to our places of worship at the end of this season as blessed and as bold as the One we serve.

Yours in the Enduring Spirit,