250 years of Bready history celebrated

William Roulston, wife Heather and children Harry and Sarah.
William Roulston, wife Heather and children Harry and Sarah.

A large gathering of friends and neighbours met in Bready Reformed Presbyterian Church to hear Dr William Roulston give a talk on the history of the congregation.

May 8 marked 250 years to the day since the ordination of the first minister in 1765.

The Calderwood family.

The Calderwood family.

Dr Roulston, a son of the congregation, gave a masterful presentation as he introduced his book, ‘Foyle Valley Covenanters – A history of Bready RPC, 1765-2015.’

The Covenanters trace their roots to Scotland and a conflict between the king and Christians who sought the right to live by their conscience and to regulate the affairs of the church according to the Bible.

James VI openly asserted the “Divine right of kings” and was determined that he would have no “competing authority in the land.”

Andrew Melville, a minister in the church, addressed the king by saying, “Sir, I must tell you there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland. “There is Christ Jesus the King, and his kingdom the Kirk (church), whose subject King James VI is, and of whose kingdom he is not a King, nor a Lord, nor a Head, but a member.”

The Church belongs to Jesus Christ who bought her freedom by his death on the cross. The head of the church is Christ and not the king or any other man.

Christ rules his church through his Word, the Bible. Covenanters rejected the king’s interference and the conflict intensified as time went on. During the period from the early 1660s to the late 1680s, often referred to as the Killing Times, Covenanters in Scotland were subjected to state-sponsored persecution on account of their beliefs.

Many resorted to field preaching, and were hunted, jailed, killed (sometimes without trial) or banished.

Covenanters who lived in Ireland had no minister of their own and no church buildings for many years. They met in “Societies” – local house groups under a local elder, for prayer, instruction, encouragement and fellowship.

The first congregation west of the Bann was organised in Bready when Rev. William James was ordained on May 8, 1765. In following years other congregation would be organised in Donegal and at Mulvin, Faughan (Drumahoe) and Limavady.

Rev Blair McFarland, minister of the congregation, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone present and introducing Psalm 90 which was sung in praise to God.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place through all the ages of our race.”

Covenanter worship in its form is marked by simplicity. Its content is marked by its God-centredness. Focusing on God helps to keep our life in perspective. 250 years seems a long time to us, but to God it is a mere moment.

“Teach us to number all our days, so that our hearts find wisdom’s ways.”

What matters in life is not how long we live but that we have a living relationship with our Creator, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator.

Visitors on the evening included: Mrs Margaret McCune, Miss Wilma Calderwood and Mrs Pauline Rankin – all daughters of the late JW Calderwood; Rev George McEwen, grandson of a former minister; and Rev Bob McFarland from Kansas, a descendant of Rev Armour McFarland who left Bready in 1831 and who ministered to the Covenanters in America.

Dr Roulston’s book, “Foyle Valley Covenanters – A history of Bready RPC, 1765-2015” is available from the congregation. Telephone: 028 7184 1192.