Last Sunday was a day to mark a milestone in the history of the Kilkenny Presbyterian Church, and also the next chapter in its life as its minister moves on to another area after nine years in the marble city.
Its modern church at New Road, Kilkenny is 20 years old this month and is continuing to flourish as a place for families to worship together.
David Moore, who left his post as minister of the Kilkenny church on Monday to take on a new role in the Belfast suburb of Knock, said of his time in Kilkenny: “I loved it. It’s a great place.”
A native of Holywood, County Down, he originally wanted to be a journalist but then in his school years in Scotland was drawn to a calling in the church. After returning to Ireland, he completed his ministry apprenticeship and then served as minister in Cavan for around eight years before coming to Kilkenny in March 2003.
His hope for the Kilkenny church now is that it will continue to flourish and contribute to the community.
“One of the things that’s great about this church ... is that people are focused on the word of God. That is what I believe my calling is, to make the word of God known,” he said before departing from Kilkenny. “They are people who believe in prayer and people who want other people to come to know God.”
“I would love to see that the vacancy between my going and someone else coming in is as short as possible,” he added of the ministerial post that can take at least six months to fill.
The local Presbyterian congregation, which dates back to the 1830s, has not always had its own minister, church elder Willie Harper noted. Having once shared a minister with the Waterford church, and then having been without a minister when that congregation amalgamanted with a Methodist church, he said the Kilkenny group prayed for many years to again have a minister.
These prayers were answered with the arrival of part-time minister John Woodside, and then again with the news in the late 1980s that they would be getting a larger church to meet the needs of a congregation that was outgrowing its space on the Ormonde Road.
Such was the support for the new church that the €500,000 needed to build it was gathered in donations by the time the building opened in 1992 – “again an answer to our prayers,” Mr Harper said, recalling that the gifts ranged from school children giving pennies to people contributing larger donations.
And where the congregation once had only 15 or 20 people – “There were so few baptisms in the whole church that when my daughter was baptised in the 1980s they had to change the baptismal cert from ‘1800s’ to ‘1900s’,” Mr Harper recalled – it now has around 100 families.
“We used to rope off some of the back seats because the congregation didn’t fill it, but that doesn’t happen anymore,” he noted.
Part of the growth has come from people of various nationalities who have made their home here, Mr Moore said. “We are a gathering of many different backgrounds and outlooks.”
“Our emphasis is not on a denomination; our emphasis is on the Bible,” Mr Harper said. “That is what unites us even though we come from diverse backgrounds.”
This also involves reaching out to the community, through the church’s parent and toddler group, classes in English as a second language, children’s Bible clubs, the annual Shoebox Appeal to benefit children in need, and a children’s club it runs in Millennium Court.
The church building itself was designed with this family and community focus in mind, Mr Harper said, including a kitchen, a hall, and rooms for toddlers, teenagers and prayer meetings.
“We would like to be known as a caring church, not just to people within the church but for the community outside,” he said.