Moyrah Congregation

1996/97 - 1997

Moyrah Congregation

by Kieran Clendinning

Moira, Non-Subscribing Presbyterian congregation is one of the oldest in Ireland. It derives from "Moyrah" mentioned in the earlier official minutes of the Synod of Ulster of 1692, when together with Lurgan it was agreed it should be annexed to the Presbytery of Antrim. Six month later Moyrah asked that the Rev. Matthew Haltridge of Ahoghill, should become minister. However, nothing came of this, and in 1693 the Rev. Samuel Ferguson became the first known minister to the Presbyter in the district.

In the Synod Minutes for 1738, it was ordered that a day's collection from all the congregation should be taken, to assist the building of a new "convenient and handsome house for God's worship" in Moira. This was during the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Crighton and is undoubtedly the building still in use.

The Secceders enter and occupy the Meeting House

The mid-18th century was a stirring time, however, the Rev. Crighton died in 1741. At this time it would seem that the congregation were disunited, and the party known as the Secceders entered and occupied the Meeting House.

Eventually, in 1750 a Mr. Robinson from Moira, went to the Synod of Ulster and suggested that "the now united congregation of Moira should be put under the care of the Presbytery of Bangor", and the following year the Rev. Joseph Mitchell was ordained. By 1753 it would appear that the high cost of a law-suit to recover the Church caused a special appeal to be launched which stated that "this had been violently seized and detained by the Seceeders."

From 1775 to the beginning of the 19th century Moira had no less than six ministers, one of them being the son-in-law of the Rev, James Porter, of Greyabbey who was hanged in front of his Meeting House for his part in the Ninety-eight Rebellion.

The Presbyterian Church splits

Then came the Rev. John Mulligan and his son the Rev. James Mulligan, who ministered for close on 70 years between them. The Rev. John Mulligan sided with Doctor Montgomery in the famous Cook-Montgomery controversy of the 1830, which split the Presbyterian Church, and thereafter Moira became a member of the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster and subsequently the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

There use several items of historic interest in the church, including part of the old Communion Plate, marked "Moyrah" and a Precentor's Flute, used for raising the tune long before organs were used to accompany congregational singing.