Meet our Minister
Rev Peter Douglas was installed in Toberkeigh as our Minister on 27th January 2013. Peter, who hails from Bangor, is married to Jill (from Whitehead). They have three children, Grace (11), Emma (9) and Joshua (4).
Peter served as Assistant at West Church Presbyterian, Bangor prior to ministering among us. He has traveled and served widely with Christian mission and retains a long held love of football. He supports the best team in the Premiership.
Passionate about the gospel, Peter seeks to lead us all to live in the full light of what Christ has done, is doing, and yet will do for his people. We are truly blessed to have Rev Douglas and his family among us and give thanks to God for his sacrificial dilligence in feeding and pastoring our souls with the Word of God.
Toberkeigh Presbyterian Church currently numbers over 100 families with a wide spectrum of ages. This richness displays God’s covenant faithfulness to his gospel promises to be our God and the God of our children. (Acts 2:39) We are a busy rural congregation with many opportunities for fellowship, encouragement and service in the gospel. Even if you are not a member, but seek a listening ear or pastoral counsel, do contact us.
As you browse our site we hope you gain the impression that we are serious about what we believe. For us Church is essentially about knowing and growing in our understanding of the greatness and goodness of God, and any responsive service done in this community or beyond merits us nothing. We confess we are guilty sinners, but, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, we have been reckoned saints, and so seek to live more saintly through his power. Heaven is ours because of Christ’s work alone. It is this good news that motivates grateful living, worship, and service.
It is reckoned by some that the history of Gospel witness in this area of North Antrim stretches back to the 5th century. In 474, Fergus McErc, the owner of the district around Armoy gave land to Patrick and built the first Christian Church in the area. Fergus later became King of Dalriada (named after a 3rd century chieftain Riada). An early monastery was founded by Olcan, a disciple of Patrick (hence the named St Patrick’s Parish Church and St Olcan’s Primary School, Armoy). Patrick’s Confession and Letter to Coroticus remain rich sources of primitive Celtic Christianity, and worth the read.
Many faithful celtic servants of God’s Church during the medieval period contributed much unseen service to God’s church. Yet, the labours of 16th the century Reformers John Calvin of Noyon (France) and John Knox of Haddington (Scotland) ensured the clarion calls of the Protestant Reformation would continue to hold a prominent place in the Protestant denominations for generations to come.
Presbyterianism in Ulster
The first known Presbyterian Minister to settle in Ulster was an Edward Brice, a Scotsman, when in 1613 he ministered in Broadisland (Ballycarry), between Carrickfergus and Larne. The oldest Scottish settler monument in Route is considered to be the gravestone of a Kathrine Peebles, who died in 1615, situated in the graveyard of the old Derrykeighan church, which may be the oldest connection to Protestantism in the presbytery.
The first regular Presbytery to exist in Ireland, the ‘Army Presbytery,’ met in Carrickfergus on the 10th of June, 1642, had 3 sections to it, namely Down, Antrim and Route-with-Laggan (north Donegal), and consisted of 5 Ministers and 4 Ruling Elders. The Scottish soldiers and chaplains of Major-General Monro had added significant momentum to the early spread of Presbyterianism in Ulster.
It was only 4 years later, in 1646 that the first congregations within Route were formed, namely, Ballymoney, Dervock (then known as Derrykeighan), Bushmills (then known as Billy), and Ramoan. The first Route Presbytery met in 1657, a mere 16 years after the slaughter at Carrickfergus and 5-month siege of Ballintoy church, and only 15 years after ‘Black Friday’ (the Laney massacre). Darker days were to come.
To be continued..
The Route Presbytery
Toberkeigh was one of 4 local churches which formed as Seceder congregations, and one of 11 within the Route Presbytery, which trace their beginning to the 19th century. However, the Secession Synod had its origins in the first secession from the Scottish Kirk under Rev Ebenezer Erskine in 1733. Patronage and The Marrow of Modern Divinity were central causes in that separation. (Look out for blog posts on The Marrow) The Route Presbytery currently consists of 22 congregations.
In Ulster Seceder churches were formed by presbyters and members who did not agree with regium donum payments, annual grants paid to ministers for political services rendered during King William III’s struggles with King James II. Such gifts appeared to blur a clear separation of church and state, something the Seceders desired to maintain. The payments scheme was discontinued in 1869, but the connected ecclesiastical fissures continue in parts, at least in terms of bricks and mortar.
Toberkeigh Church began in 1830 as a Secession Church, her first Minister being the Rev John Simpson, with help from some Croaghmore families who disapproved of the calling of their first Minister. Early services were held in private homes and the Rev John Simpson of First Bellaghy, a minister in the Secession Synod, was called to pastor. It was only a short time before a church was built, quickly followed by another with larger capacity. The Rev John Simpson ministered for 39 years, and was loved by the congregation until his death in 1869.
The first page of the Church’s record books contains the resolution to choose 12 Elders. Those chosen (by vote) were Robert McCurdy, William Curry, John Pollock, John Boyd, William Curry, Alex McCurdy, Charles McCurdy, James Hamill, James McIntyre, John McCurdy, Samuel Boyd and Samuel Hill. In 1840 Toberkeigh joined the Route Presbytery following the formation of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, by union of the Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod. By 1845 there were 170 families. The ’59 Evangelical Awakening did not appear to touch Toberkeigh or the surrounding community.
Toberkeigh’s 2nd Minister was the Rev James Ross Moore, who was ordained on the 23rd of June, 1869. With the need for a larger church building, Rev Moore collected substantial funds through a lecture tour in the USA (a common practise), and the old meeting-house was replaced with the present building. Thoughtfully, stones from the original building were placed into the foundations around the pulpit area. During the construction the Rev Moore accepted a call to Second Newtownstewart (1888), though he had left a deep impression. His sermons were marked by clarity and practicality, and was ‘a trusted counsellor and friend.’
With the building work not yet completed, Toberkeigh’s next Minister preached his trial sermon in the old church and conducted worship in the church stables. The Rev William Magill was ordained on the 12th of March, 1889, and the new (present) building opened on the 23rd day of the same month. During the Rev Magill’s ministry, the congregation purchased Moorefield (manse and glebe, and current site of the new manse) from Rev Moore (who had bought it from family called Mogey), and also built a church hall. It was while the Rev Magill was on honeymoon with his new bride in England, that he suffered the tragic experience of her sudden death. He has been described as ‘an earnest student, a diligent pastor, a gifted preacher and a loyal friend.’ He retired in 1930 and passed on to his reward in 1937.
The Rev James A McFarland was Toberkeigh’s 4th Minister, and was ordained and appointed on the 28th of April, 1931 to pastor both Toberkeigh and Croaghmore (the Rev HB Henderson of Croaghmore having also retired). The Rev McFarland’s ministry had a significant impact on the youth, and it was during his tenure that 5 young men pursued training for the ministry. The 3rd Route Company of the Boys’ Brigade was also formed at this time. However, the Rev McFarland accepted a call to Belfast in 1945, and the 15 year Croaghmore-Toberkeigh union became separate charges again.
It was nearly 7 months later, on 3rd of October, 1945, that the Rev Hugh Young became Toberkeigh’s 5th Minister. In a remarkable gesture of appreciation, 6 years later the congregation gave Rev Young a car. In May of 1953 the Rev Young accepted a call to Hillhall and vacated Toberkeigh.
By November of the same year, the 6th Minister of Toberkeigh was secured, the Rev Cowan G Thompson, but stayed only a little over 6 years, following Rev McFarland to Belfast in 1960. He no doubt enjoyed the newly installed electric lighting.
The Rev Andrew Owens, Toberkeigh’s 7th Minister, also served a shorter time among us, from September 1960 to February of 1966, receiving a call from Kilbride. During Rev Owens’ time the original hall was demolished and replaced with a suite of rooms.
The same year, Rev Arthur Clarke became Toberkeigh’s 8th Minister, and served until accepting a call to First Hollywood in 1972. In 1968 the carpark was concreted, and extensive renovation and redecoration was undertaken in 1972.
Our 9th Minister, the Rev Thomas Andrew Moore, was installed on 6th September 1973, and ministered until moving to Lurgan in 1985. During the end of Rev Moore’s ministry at Toberkeigh the old Scottish-styled manse (of a previous Rev Moor) was leveled and replaced with a modern bungalow.
A longer period of ministry was carried out by our 10th Minister, the Rev Ian McClean, from 1987 to 2005. The link block between our main building and new suite was added in 2004, with kitchen, toilet, disability-access, and audio-visual upgrades being made.
The Rev Denis Bannerman followed in November of 2006 as our 11th Minister, and served 5 years until his retirement in 2011.
Our present Minister, and 12th of Toberkeigh, the Rev Peter Douglas (see top of page), was ordained on January 2013, and we give thanks to God for his unfailing goodness in providing faithful shepherds to feed and lead us with His Word.
Two members of Toberkeigh have gone on to become Moderators of the General Assembly: the Very Rev Dr William James Currie (1938) and the Very Rev Prof John Thompson (1986). In addition, there are many familiar surnames of members, past and present, who entered the ministry, including Chestnutt, Henderson, Holmes, Kane, McConaghy, McCurdy, McVicker, Stewart.
In the words of the Very Rev Dr AW Godfrey Brown, ‘There cannot be many congregations in the General Assembly who have been so prolific in providing ministers for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.’ (289) May God be pleased to raise up many more for his own glory.
Charity no. 105335
A Short History of Toberkeigh Presbyterian Church, Rev Arthur Clarke (1972).
The Presbytery of Route 1657 – 2007: A Revision of the Ter-Centenary Book: Edited by the late Rev Dr Harry C. Waddell, Edited by the Very Rev Dr AW Godfrey Brown (Impact Printing: Ballycastle, 2007).
Presbyterians in Ireland; An Illustrated History, Laurence Kirkpatrick (Booklink: Ireland, 2006).
Presbyterian Church in Ireland website