Four score years have passed since the birth of Methodist worship in Carnalea. On Sunday 28th June we celebrated the eightieth anniversary of the opening of Carnalea Methodist Church at a special thanksgiving service conducted by Rev Fiona McCrea who traced the history of the church in six chapters highlighting significant events in our history.
Pay a visit to Carnalea railway station and admire a recently installed framed poster that describes the history of the station and tells how the Stationmaster William McDade and his wife Annie organised Christian house meetings in the station house ( with the blessing of the Belfast and County Down Railway) over eighty years ago and thus started a fellowship that led to the opening in June 1935 of a Methodist Church at the corner of Crawfordsburn Road and Killaire Park. The first and only church in Carnalea and Bangor West for the next thirty years.
Rev Mc Crea reminded us of those days and how the new church relied on the assistance of lay preachers with the wholehearted support of the Queens Parade Methodist society. One of those preachers was Leslie Wallace a local printer who went on to be ordained and who served as a missionary in Sierra Leone becoming President of the Methodist Conference there for over twelve years . Leslie was honoured by the Government for his services in translation and literacy for the whole community . Now retired Leslie is a member of Carnalea where, health permitting ,he worships and was a regular preacher in days past. Leslie is also Father of the Methodist Conference.
Ethelinda Coey was another stalwart who came to live in Carnalea from the Belfast Central Mission during the war and immersed herself in working with the young people through the Sunday School and founded the Girls Life Brigade in 1946. Two of her early recruits were Ruby Mc Connell (now Lawlor) and Yvonne Major (now Miller) who continue today as two of the longest serving members of the Carnalea society.
As Carnalea developed it came to rely on the services of Supernumerary Ministers and over a period of thirty years Richard Sherwood ,Henry Munro, J Dwyer Kelly, and Ernest Nelson served a growing congregation until by 1965 there were ninety adult members, thirty eight juniors and twenty four adherents. The need for a full time Minister was recognised and John Nelson a probationer was appointed . The financial implications of supporting a full time minister and providing a manse gave rise to a Christian Stewardship Campaign.
By this time the West Church Presbyterian and St Galls Church of Ireland congregations had become established in a community that was growing rapidly as many families fled to Bangor to escape the growing sectarian tension in Belfast. The Methodists were outgrowing their accommodation and plans were put in place to build a new church on land recently identified on Rathmore Road. Problems over whether the land could be purchased or (as the owner preferred ) leased delayed the project by three years so that by the time the tenders were received the cost had risen to the extent that a new church was unaffordable and the building of a Methodist Centre was decided upon instead.
As the Carnalea story was unfolded by Rev Mc Crea it was interspersed by prayers that were offered by Fred Miller and Carol Watson and scripture readings by Ainslie Whiting - Hebrews 10 23-25 “And let us consider how we can spur one another by good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together ,as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more so as you see the day approaching” and Hazel Newell who read - 1 Peter 4 8-11 “ Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling . Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. “
Take root and bear fruit was the theme for the final chapter of the anniversary story as we were reminded of the opening of our new church nine years ago and were challenged to use it to continue the spirit of dedication and service that had led us to this memorable day. The service concluded with the singing of Hymn 784 “ Thy hand O God has guided”. After worship we were entertained to an excellent lunch provided by the Carnalea Catering Corps under the guidance of Sandra Drennan and her team, who have had a very busy time with so many funerals over recent months. We are indebted to them for this important feature of our fellowship in Carnalea. And a special word of thanks must go to Judith Frazer who produced the beautiful anniversary cake complete with its decoration of the Memorial Window, correct in every detail. A fitting end to an eventful day.
These words may have been in the mind of the St Galls Select Vestry when in 1969 they invited the Methodists to share in the use of their sanctuary and enter into joint working with organisations using both their premises and those of the Methodists on Rathmore Road. Both congregations heartily endorsed the proposal and the sharing arrangement continued amicably for thirty seven years until circumstances permitted the construction of a new Methodist Church on the Rathmore Road site which was large enough to accommodate both the sanctuary and a limited housing development that helped to finance the project.
They say that “What goes around comes around. “ This story began with the tale of the Carnalea stationmaster and the use of his home as the birthplace of Carnalea Methodism. It has not escaped the notice of the author that the present occupant of the former Carnalea station house is none other than Elizabeth Porter Editor of the Carnalea Methodist Magazine. Fred Miller