Grange Baptist history is compiled

THE rich history of a local church and its ministers and congregation is told in a new volume authored by the former head of Religious Education at Ballymena Academy.

Norman Wilson’s book ‘Grange Baptist Church, Co. Antrim: A Bicentenary History 1811-2011’ will be launched at the Grange on Friday evening (September 9) at 7.30pm.

The earliest known record of the Church’s beginning was written in 1853 by the Rev. Robert McMaster, who described himself as a ‘Junior Pastor’ of the Church. McMaster, who lived at Ballymontena, Ahoghill, gives many insights into the unusual origins of the Church during the first decade of the 19th century.

Norman Wilson’s volume brings out in detail the exciting and unusual personalities associated with Grange Baptist from its beginnings to the present day. He makes extensive use of the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of the 1830s and the Census of Ireland returns of 1901 and 1911 and thus builds up a picture of the social, economic and religious lives of the people who lived in ‘Grange of Ballyscullion’.

The draining influences of emigration, the grinding effects of poverty and the tumultuous political events in Ulster were all to take their toll of the little Baptist Fellowship over time. But the men and women of this Church had deep convictions and were committed to keeping alive the flame of radical religious dissent.

Researching the book took the author to Regent’s Park College, Oxford University, where, sifting through the arhicves, he discovered amazing new information especially concerning a revival in the Church in 1872-73, which had far greater impact than the 1859 Revival. The then minister was the Rev. W. S. Eccles, formerly from Moneymore, who practised medcine as well as looking after the soul.

This substantial hard back of 146,000 words runs to 352 pages and will undoubtedly make a positive contribution to local historical studies. The foreword of the book was written by Dr. Eull Dunlop, the widely acclaimed local historian while the preface was rendered by a former member of Grange Baptist Church, the distinguished surgeon, Prof. George W. Johnston, OBE, MCh, FRCS.

The programme for the book launch includes the participation of past minister of the Church and their relatives dating back to the 1930s and 40s. If you plan to attend, come early!

The book will be on sale in Cameron’s Bookshop, the Faith Mission Bookshop, High Street, Ballymena and at the Mustard Seed, Cullybackey.