Read what members of our church have to say! This section is updated monthly and will include blogs from our Committee, young members of the Church and new members of the Church. If you would like to comment on a blog, you can do so via the Contact Form.
Hi everyone! Our Church blog has taken a break over the New Year period to allow us to get the new Church Hall up and running. If you would like to do the next blog, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikki Milligan, Officer in Girls' Brigade
Hello everyone!! My name is Nikki, I am the youngest in my family of four with one older brother. We are originally from Bangor, however, as my passion for horses continued to develop we choose to move and begin an exciting new lifestyle in the country! We built a house and five stables five years ago and it has proven to be the best decision we ever made! Infact my 'passion for horses' has progressed to being the proud owner of two show jumping horses, one donkey (a birthday present!!) and five pet sheep, which we have adopted and hand reared over the past five years!!
Much to our surprise my dad, Gordon, (who never liked animals), spends most of his time outdoors with the animals or cruising around the fields in his tractor surveying his land!
Anyhow, in search of a local church for us to attend we came across Ballyblack Presbyterian. Ballyblack was instantly very appealing to each of us as it appeared to be small, beautiful and most of all the people seemed so friendly. Having been members of the church for four years I believe this certainly sums Ballyblack up, the people within the church are caring, thoughtful, friendly and extremely welcoming!
Shortly after joining Ballyblack Church Lindsay Lyttle invited me to help at their GB on a Tuesday evening. Having started the GB as a 'helper' I have recently completed my officers training, thanks to a certain dedicated, encouraging, caring GB captain, Norma Tennis.
I sincerely love attending GB every Tuesday evening to see each of the girls and other officers and have made some amazing friends over the past three years! Norma continues to put her heart and soul into the company and it is undoubtedly paying off as the company continues to expand every year!!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year :)
Caroline Edmondson, member of the Church
Well I have been asked to write this blog and I'm not very good at this sort of thing so here goes - (if you get bored by the next paragraph just print the page out and use it to light your fire with – result of a sort).
So, I am a member of Ballyblack and have been for I think 10 years. I came to Ballyblack originally because I knew and liked the Rev. Haslett and when I attended my first service I was very happy with the friendliness of the people, the atmosphere but most of all that one magical hour that built you up for the week with a clock ticking in the background, simple. I felt I had got the package.
My sister Margaret Moore and her family joined at the same time. That is actually how I became involved in the Sunday School. One Sunday morning after the service someone asked Margaret (as she was a teacher) would she like to help in the Sunday School, and as quick as a flash she smiled sweetly and said no she wouldn’t, but our Caroline would - as she turned to me behind her. Sisters eh? And that folks is how I ended up in that position. But it has been fun, a bit frustrating along the way but I have made some very good friends.
I was brought up in Church attending Sunday School, Brownies (and during the summer months when we came to Donaghadee, the Bethal Hall as well). I did the usual youth club camp and got “saved” around the age of 14/15 years, but although I always believed in God, I think my big spiritual experience was on my wedding day. As I stood at the altar in Shore Street I felt God's presence as clear as had He been standing in front of me, that really was the happiest day of my life – well so far up to then.
I have a very simple faith. I believe in God, I try and do the right thing and I live by and have brought my children up with the motto that "you should always do what’s right, cause its right” – simples. I believe if you keep it simple and don’t over complicate things it easier to go along life’s journey because you’ll meet your allotted problems anyway.
Some might say that I have had a fairly blessed life. I am married to Nigel and have 2 children Lucy 23yrs and Patrick 21yrs. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on 31 December 2011. Yes got married on old years night by candlelight (ha no health and safety issues back then!). I was certainly blessed with 2 great children who have never brought trouble to my door (hope I haven’t scudded myself here), although there have been a few hair pulling moments over the years. These have drastically diminished along with the wash basket as Patrick has gone to Australia for a year or more. He left for Perth on 21st August on his own to fulfil an ambition he had since P7. That was the year that his life turned around for the better when he went to Beechlawn School. Patrick is dyslexic and has had an uphill struggle all his life, but although he might not have academia he has common sense and a great work ethic. When he left I cried solid for 2 days but I have no doubt he will fulfil his dreams and have fun along the way.
Lucy is still at home. The wee bubble that she lives in is bursting a little at the minute as her boyfriend Riaan (pronounced Riuun, he's South African) has just gone to Afghanistan – so lots of prayers please.
That’s another thing I believe very strongly in the power of prayer. But I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, so we’ll just watch this space.
On that note I will stop drivelling on. Quite therapeutic this writing. On reading this back I think I have learnt something about myself – SIMPLE!!!!!!!!!
Sarah Warden, Member of the Church
I have belonged to Ballyblack Church all my life and try to attend as regularly as possible with my dad Alex, my mum Elizabeth and brother Graeme. As I’m sure all of you are aware my dad is the Clerk of Session and mum is involved in various activities within the church, such as the PW and Bible Study, so I have grown up with a strong sense of attachment to Ballyblack.
I joined Ballyblack GB when I was 3 and, having taken a couple of years out when I was at university, am still there now helping out as a sub-officer. I help to supervise the Tiny Tots and Explorers for an hour every Tuesday night along with Susannah Lyttle, Pauline McKee and some very dedicated mums. I really enjoy it and am encouraged to see so many new members, especially since Norma Tennis became our very dedicated Captain!
I became a Communicant member of the church a few years ago and attended classes with Rev. Haslett, Ballyblack’s senior minister. Whilst I made the decision myself to take Communion, I feel I am better able to appreciate its meaning now and really try to focus on the messages Simon delivers in his sermons. I would say the most memorable thing I have done through the church was to go to Uganda last July for 3 weeks with an Abaana Youth Team. There were 4 members of Ballyblack who went, Lindsay and Susannah Lyttle, Lisa Brown and myself along with around 15 other young people from churches in the local area. With the very generous donations from the congregation of Ballyblack and our families and friends we were able to build a primary school in Ayila in our first week, organised a holiday bible club during our second week and worked with street children and those who Abaana had helped to rehabilitate in our third week. It really was an eye-opening experience and one I don’t think any of us will forget. The children we worked with were so full of love and really taught us the true sense of richness, being rich in spirit, not in monetary terms.
When I came home from Uganda I started the Institute of Professional Legal Studies which is attached to Queens University Belfast. Having completed my law degree at Queens I am now training to be a solicitor at the Institute and attend classes there 4 days a week and work in my mum’s solicitor’s firm every Monday and during holidays. I am finishing the last of my exams before Christmas and will (hopefully!) be fully qualified this time next year. In the next couple of years I hope to develop, both in terms of my career and faith and am excited to see how the church progresses too with all the renovation works that are currently underway.
Jason Rankin, Member of Church
Summer 2012 - coming soon
Norma Tennis, Member of Church and Captain of Girls' Brigade
I was born into a Christian family – the eldest child and only daughter. I was very much into playing with dolls and prams (now I know why!). All I ever wanted was to be a mummy.
I married David in June 1978 (both only a wee young things) and we have 3 children – Michael, Judith and Heather. We moved out to live in Ballyblack in June 1985.
When Heather was 3 years old we applied to foster and our first child arrived in April 1990. We have had a steady stream of children coming and going (some still staying) over the years. Some of these children have had a terrible life before they arrived but it is so rewarding seeing them settle into a ‘normal’ family life. It used to be a laugh in our house that when David came home from work there could be a new face to greet him. He said that if a bus slowed down or stopped outside our house he would get worried in case it would be a load more of kids!! Children could stay with us for 1 day/weekend/years. We never know, when they first come, how long they will be with us.
People often ask ‘How do you do that? I wouldn’t be able to let them go.’ At first it was very hard I would have cried in private but now we have been very lucky and the children that have recently gone on to be adopted, we have made good friends with their ‘forever family’ and it has been delightful to see them attend the weddings of our eldest two children - Judith and Michael. Next year God willing two of these children will be bridesmaids at Heather’s wedding.
Nathan has got very used to having so many older sisters in his life doing things for him. While he was very young two of the girls would do his physiotherapy with him to help him to walk. Some of them would do his ‘homework’ for the speech therapist; and Michael was there for the football and computer games.
We have lost count of the number of children that have come to stay with us. I believe that these children are a gift from God and I often would refer to myself as a ‘mother hen’ taking these unfortunate children under my wings to protect them and show them a better life. My help comes from God and when times are tough, He provides me with the support I need, the people I need, to help cope and to take control of the situation on hand. Without my mother-in-law’s help and the help of my husband and children I would not be able to do this very rewarding task in working with children. As the eldest children of our family have moved out it is now Nathan’s turn to help with the children. He helps to keep the babies amused while I get the bottles ready etc. He is an uncle to Daniel and Adam and loves them dearly.
My other passion is our company of Girls’ Brigade. When Judith, Heather, Estelle and Nina went to GB every week I decided to become a helper. Pauline McKee and I were helpers for many years before Mollie Bailie (previous captain) persuaded us to train as officers. Little did I know that I was going to be the next captain when Mollie retired. When I was asked if I would take over I prayed a lot about it asking God ‘was this what He wanted for me?’ ‘What if I couldn’t do it?’
From I was a very young age I would have gone to the Gospel Hall Sunday School and later on the Baptist Church Sunday School. Sunday School prizes might have been wee pictures for the wall with a text on it. Mine always involved two different texts – Proverbs 3 vs 5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths; and Romans 8 v 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
These were the answers I received each time I prayed. I knew then that this is what God wanted for me. I still had my doubts and I kept praying. I had six months before Mollie retired to come to terms and learn the ropes before I took over.
Our company had 17 members when I took over in September 2006; and last year (2011) we had over 40 members on our books. I have a brilliant team of officers behind me and I am truly grateful for all they do every week. They are a great support to me. I also have some mothers who come to help us on a monthly basis and I really appreciate them giving some time to the company. When Display time comes our hall is packed and our parents join in with some of our items. Their support is invaluable.
This forthcoming year in GB we celebrate our 50th Anniversary. I am looking forward to celebrating this special anniversary in our newly renovated hall.
Robert Major, Member of Church and runs Ballyblack Ramblers
Sailing southwards from Rathlin Island,
Past Fair Head and by Murlough Bay.
With a north wind to drive us homeward,
What care we for the wind and spray.
Just recently I headed home from Rathlin Island after spending a glorious weekend with some friends from the Ballyblack Ramblers.The weather had been perfect, sunny with a light cooling breeze.
I think it was early January that I booked all but one room at the hotel, two single rooms and a double are all I couldn't fill. These were cancelled at the very last minute before the deposit would have been lost.Ten of us took the trip four couples, Roy and Sheila, Jonathan and Helen, Sam and Annie and Jim and Kathryn. Two single rooms were also taken for Margaret and me.
Arriving at the Island we booked in at the Manor House hotel, left our luggage and grouped outside by the buses.The hotel and ferry are all that would be pre-booked, the Saturday evening meal is the only other thing. Once over to the Island we are all free to do whatever we want although the Saturday usually has been a trip to the West light house, some taking the bus for the 10 mile return trip while others walk or a mixture of both.
This is our third year to Rathlin, the first year was a day trip while the last two were overnight. David, Christine and family came for the day each time.
Booking for Rathlin can be a worry as we are at the mercy of the weather. Too windy and we may not get over and too wet the experience wouldn't be pleasant. Thankfully our trips over have been during lovely pleasant sunny days.
The end of May was chosen this year so as we may get to see the puffins and other birds nesting on the rocks around the West Lighthouse.To get a reasonable view of the birds we had to climb down hundreds of steps (tough climbing back up) to get to the vantage point. The bird reserve people had the area kitted out with binoculars and telescopes. I saw birds but they were too far away to make out any detail.My disappointment at not seeing the Puffins was short lived though, at the top of the cliff was the biggest Puffin ever and I was able to photograph it. David, Christine and the kids were also in the picture.
After having our lunch at the bird reserve we headed back to the harbour where we all met up and relaxed.
Due to pressure of work, Roy didn’t come with Sheila and Margaret in the morning but was due in around five o’clock. At this time a helicopter landed at the far side of the harbour and we were watching to see if Roy was on it. He wasn’t. Well you never know.A short time later the ferry came in and Roy came upto us accompanied by Sheila and Margaret.
What I love about the Island is the relaxation and with no car or call outs to worry about I was able to unwind and have a drink or two.
The evening meal was booked and at seven o’clock we all met up and took our places at the table.The food was lovely and we made short work of it. The walking and fresh air gave us all a great appetite.
After dinner we went for a walk around the harbour and m0st of us retired for the evening.
Jonathan, Helen and I stopped at the pub where we chatted and got to know each other better. A great ending to a great day.
After a good nights sleep I was up at 6.30 to shower and prepare for the day. My room didn’t have a dedicated bathroom so I got in early. I hate being in the bathroom when someone pulls on the door handle trying to get in.
Breakfast was at 9.00 and later we all went our separate ways.
I hadn’t been to the East Lighthouse before so that was my destination. On the way there I came to a bicycle hire place. I couldn’t believe it. I just love cycling. 10 minutes later I was on my way, a massive grin on my face. Rathlin Island is very hilly and a tough cycle but once I warmed up I was ready to face anything.
The North Lighthouse wasn’t too far away so I went there next, the views were spectacular and the countryside rugged.On my way to the North Lighthouse I met Jonathan and Helen and got my photo
taken. Later I met Sam and Annie reading the Sunday papers. After leaving the bike back I joined the others for lunch.
Lunch over we prepared to leave and assembled in the Manor House garden.
We boarded the fast ferry and within 30 minutes we were going our individual ways. The trip was over.
Tracey Fitzsimmons (nee Brawley), Member of Church
Roy Lyttle, Chairman of Ballyblack Hall Management Committee
It came as a shock to me to be asked to write a Blog for the Ballyblack Presbyterian Church website as my life is usually so monotonous and uneventful. I am not a ‘religious’ person but I would say I am a ‘spiritual’ one and a visit to Uganda certainly reinforced this.
In August 2011 our two daughters Lindsay and Susannah, along with Lisa and Sarah also from Ballyblack Church, went to Uganda as part of a team of twenty with the Christian Charity Abaana. In those three weeks they were challenged both physically and emotionally in the work they did with the underprivileged children. They learned that things we take for granted in our society make a great difference to the lives of others. They also learned to be thankful, not least through the generosity of all those who supported them.
Shortly after they arrived home I met Angus Wilson of Wilson’s Country Potatoes at a trade show and in conversation I mentioned that the girls had been in Africa. He explained that he was organising a Fields of Life fact finding trip to Uganda in March 2012 and asked me if Sheila and I would be interested. Of course my immediate reaction was, ‘Oh no, much too busy in March with organising the new season ploughing, sowing and harvesting the last of the leeks!’ Maybe it’s a consequence of the age I am now but I thought about it again and wondered when would I ever have time? I have declined many invitations over the years because of responsibilities and work commitments. Sheila and I discussed this and, as she had been to Africa twice, suggested that perhaps this was an opportunity not to be missed and for Alexander to go with me because Fields of Life is involved in well drilling projects and helping the people to become self-sufficient. So I rang Angus and said we would go.
Ten of us left Belfast very early on Thursday 15th March, prepared to exist for the five days on hand luggage, each with two 23kg cases of hold baggage packed with clothes, pens, footballs etc. for the children, generously donated by the congregation and friends, and arrived in Entebbe at 10pm that evening. On Friday we visited a primary school in a slum area of Kampala, funded by Fields of Life. En route we saw women and children huddled outside mud huts, breaking stones to create gravel to be sold to provide food. Such shocking sights prompted me to ask Angus, ‘How can we ever fix this? Can we even make a difference at all?’ At the school we interviewed senior staff, assessing their needs for future development, buildings and staff requirements. We were immediately struck by the positive and cheerful attitude of the teachers and children who have so little. We then headed north and visited two more schools in Lire, again greeted by smiling faces and great enthusiasm. ‘The richest person is not the one who has the most – but he who needs the least’.
The next day we travelled on our ‘coach’ deep into a remote rural area to see Fields of Life’s most recent investment, a second well drilling rig, manned by trained, local workmen, who appeared to be very competent. We also visited a ‘capped’ well, complete with a pump. Each pump can supply enough clean water for 600-700 people and costs approximately £3,300. Where this has been done there is a marked improvement in health and consequently, a reduction in hospitalisation costs. Investment can then be made in education which in the long term will greatly benefit these communities. We spent that evening at an orphanage set up by Roger Annett from Kilkeel. This was probably the most significant building project we saw, a small village, created for children taken off the streets of large cities. They have 50 acres of land and, to our delight, a forty year old MF165! Alexander and I felt we may have the skills to contribute to the future development of this agricultural project. Later we celebrated St Patrick’s Day with the children participating in Irish and African dancing!
On Sunday three of our team from The Royal School in Raphoe officially opened The Bethel Royal School. The five Royal Schools of Ireland were founded by King James I in 1608 and to mark their 400th Anniversary a school was built in Uganda. This was such an impressive accomplishment, providing education for 600 children. We attended their outdoor, church service, a little bit different from Ballyblack, and were greeted like Royalty! We spent the day there and it was a very fitting conclusion to our most memorable experience.
We left Uganda that night after a very intense programme but we will never forget the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful continent. I thought about my first impressions, the abject poverty and hopelessness of the people and then the gratitude they show for the little we sacrifice to give to them. Our contribution does make such a difference. The schools and orphanages we provide create a structure to their day and give these people a purpose. I was reminded of something I read years ago which has helped me make decisions in business and in life.
"The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed." (Michelangelo)
A video of the trip is being made and hopefully this will be presented to the congregation when the Church Hall refurbishment is completed. Fields of Life is very grateful for the generous donation the Church congregation made at the Seed Time Thanksgiving Service.
For more photos, please see the Gallery in the News and Events section of the website.
Christine Gordon, member of Church
It seems a shame to take the shiny new look off a lovely website - Congratulations Lindsay, Simon & co- but here’s hoping it will become a healthy forum for reporting and exchanging viewpoints.
My blogging (and jogging) habits are both infrequent to non-existent and devoid of style, but here goes….Bill and I arrived in Ballyblack some 24 years ago, with two small boys in tow, and were happy to find our local church to be a very friendly community. As a family we faced some tough times over the next couple of years, but knowing we had the support of Rev. William Haslett and the people of Ballyblack made everything survivable and friendships deepened as a result.
It has been a privilege to bring up our three sons in this environment, and all have a very definite sense of where “home” is, even though opportunities for work and study take them elsewhere. I quote: (not sure who!)….“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other is wings.”
(-Though if I’m honest I have considered clipping them from time to time…!!!)
I feel we have been very fortunate with our new choice of minister, Simon. I know I’m not alone in finding his thought-provoking sermons stimulating- he has a habit of providing insight into the context of the old familiar, so that it takes on fresh relevance. One of the recent initiatives is the Rambling Group, with whom we’ve shared many’s a good dander in diverse locations. Why do conversations flow so much better when you’re walking?!
Is Ballyblack different?
I think so. A very diverse mix of people, an open-minded positive outlook- it gives us the space and quiet to be whatever we choose to be. There is, for me, a timeless quality to which I feel drawn. I cannot claim ancestry at Ballyblack…. but am amused by the thought that the rooks will still be in the sycamores long after I’m gone. Hopefully as custodians we value what is unique and worth preserving about our place, whilst ensuring we are equipped for a healthy future.