Donaghadee Parish Church

Rector’s Letter – Summer 2017

Dear Friends

As I write to you (now mid May), in a week of lovely weather, the TV has been dominated by the exploits of President Donald Trump. It seems as if, nearly on a daily occurrence, he makes some outrageous statement, some political blunder or fires an employee. The story is unwinding on CNN and Sky as well as on Capitol Hill.

I’m wondering will he survive his Presidency, will he be impeached! One of the headline comments that Trump makes is “Fake News”, it seems a good way to write off any criticism of his actions, seeming to place himself in some sort of moral high ground with the press. Wikipedia (The online font of all knowledge!) defines Fake News as: 

a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention”.

As we finish our Confirmation Classes for both adults and young people, one of the sessions was on spreading the “Good News”. ‘Gospel’ is the old English wording of good news and it has struck me that in the days after the resurrection of Jesus the early disciples had real difficulty absorbing the “good news” that Jesus was alive – especially dear old doubting Thomas!

The message of Jesus is as real and relevant as it was in 33AD and just as it touched the struggling, broken and hurting people of His day, it still touches people’s lives today – for the GOOD! Each Sunday – Resurrection Day – we celebrate the Good News of Jesus’ love for a broken world – his love for you. Fake watches, fake diamonds, fake T Shirts and fake DVD’s and now even fake news! Is there anything real in this world – what can we believe. Heb 9:12-14

Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.”

This is the message I centre my life on, I have found it to be real and lasting. Each morning a loving heavenly Father meets me with His love! Now that is Good News! One of my favourite hymns sums the Good News so well:

I will sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me; 

how he left his home in glory for the cross on Calvary:

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me,

sing it with his saints in glory, gathered by the crystal sea.

I was lost, but Jesus found me, found the sheep that went astray,

threw his loving arms around me, drew me back into the his way.

Ian R Gamble


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Rector’s Letter April 2017

Dear Friends

As I write to you in this edition of In Focus, we are in the early days of Lent, the road to the cross and the joy of Easter Day. Reflecting during Lent, I joked “well we have still got Lent!” As I said in the last edition: Christmas has been lost to the big red Coca Cola Santa and now I think Easter is in danger of being lost to the Easter chocolate egg or bunny! But firstly, who wants Lent? It seems it is just for giving things up – a spring diet – rather than a period of self reflection and spiritual renewal. Lent reminds us most of all about failure and forgiveness, which is after all the central message of the Gospel. So to answer my own question who wants Lent? I do! It reminds me that I don’t have to be content with my sins and failures, it reminds me that I am a child of God who was created for returning – returning in all my waywardness to an ever loving God! Lent is about forgiveness as well as failure.

One of the most beautiful Lenten parables is that of the prodigal Son found in St Luke 15: 11-31. It speaks of a son’s selfishness and greed – living it up with his inheritance and after blowing the lot on wild living – downcast returning to face the music! At home he comes in his broken state to his father, who gladly welcomes him! Many Bibles give this parable the title of “The Prodigal Son” but I like the other side of the coin it is a story about “The Welcoming Father”. Here in this story the “I did it my way” lad is met by a caring and all loving father who embraces the undeserving son.

The call goes out to you to ask as you read these words and perhaps lift your family Bible to read about the prodigal – what about me?

Could/should/will I return to an ever loving God? You might ask the question – will He want me?

I can only assure you that God turns no one away who comes to Him with an open heart. And so to Easter! I want to metaphorically shoot that Easter Bunny! Easter is the celebration of the risen, victorious Jesus who has conquered death and hell and in his train leads fallen human being to new life and living. Easter is far too important to be reduced to bunnies, eggs or daffodils! It is about Christ’s battle over death – for you and me! It gives meaning to all that is Lent, Good Friday – life and death! It is hope for living and dying. What an amazing reality “Christ died for our sins” is how St. Paul succinctly puts it. Could you journey from Lent to Easter Day, a journey of self surrender to Jesus is to find new life in Him. Please think of making that journey – the first step might be for you to cross the threshold of our Parish Church and come to worship. Here you can meet with others who have found forgiveness and life and so encounter your risen Saviour!

Wishing you and your families the joy and peace of our risen Saviour as Easter approaches.

Ian R Gamble


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Happy New Year


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Happy Christmas and an Even Happier New Year to you all


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Rector’s Letter – Autumn 2016

Dear Friends

“So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never, Like earth’s proud empires, pass away: Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever, Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.”

John Ellerton’s poignant last verse to his hymn “The day thou gavest Lord is ended”, chosen by Queen Victoria for a service to mark the 60th Anniversary of her reign, is a good introduction to my thoughts for this edition. This has been a season of anniversaries; HM The Queen’s 90th Birthday, the Easter Rising, the Battle of the Somme, and the Battle of Jutland Commemorations. All moments in the life of nations.

In Donaghadee we marked the Queen’s Birthday at morning worship and recalled the Somme with an emotional Remembrance Service, remembering the lives of those connected to Donaghadee, who fought or fell at that battle.

Looking back is important, I thought it good that our young people experience just a little bit of one of my interests– military history. So I took ten of them to Berlin to see the sights of a rebuilt city.

They experienced the destruction of the allied bombings, the various memorials to Nazi atrocities and a visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The group spent time learning about the division of a city and defeated nation after the Second World War and the various escape attempts across the Berlin Wall, many ending in tragedy.

Our young people enjoyed a visit to the Berliner Dom (Cathedral) to see the tombs of the Kaisers in the crypt, the beautiful church interior and a walk around the outside of the huge dome, with a panoramic view high up over Berlin! This visited ended with Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen (Black Forest Gateau) in the Cathedral Refectory Café.

Great food, brilliant tourist sights, high wire adventure climbing and some terrific shopping! Berlin didn’t know what hit it when the Donaghadee 13 arrived!

Earth’s empires come and go and in doing so, often cause great destruction. The trip was a great team building exercise and also helped to remind our young people of the value of human life (especially the trip to the concentration camp) and an encouragement for them to live life to the full – rooted in Jesus Christ.

It also was a reminder to me of how valuable each of them are to us as a congregation! This summer many young people have lost their lives in various atrocities in the USA and Europe. As I think back over the many children I have baptised during my time as rector in Donaghadee and consider the numbers that come along to Sunday school – I do ask myself some hard questions:

Do parents really mean the promises they make in baptismal services? Do they value their children’s spiritual health as much as their physical health? Do they feel that Christian faith, in a godless, valueless and hostile world, is important?

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then please come along and live out your baptismal promises for your family through regular worship in Donghadee Parish Church. September is a new start to the working year please take your place in the church family, you will be made very welcome at YOUR Church!

In Donaghadee Parish children and young people matter – our worship is geared to include them and to help them grow in their faith. But this only happens if parents – not just send them – but bring them along regularly to Church AND Sunday School /Youth group.

Thank you to all who helped make the Berlin Trip 2016 such a success! I know that our young people enjoyed it and that some of the lessons of life in that great city have imprinted their lives for the good! A trip of a lifetime for them to remember!

Your friend and Rector


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Saturday 4th June 2016 – 10.00am – 12.30pm.


stock-vector-crafts-market-craft-fair-with-stall-holder-119159869 cup-coffee-cute-cup-cake-15858562         car-wash

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Pentecost Family Service 15th May 2016


What is Pentecost?

Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian church when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is celebrated on the Sunday 50 days after Easter.

It is also called Whitsun, but does not necessarily coincide with the Whitsun Bank Holiday.

Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian church, and the start of the church’s mission to the world.

The Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that is the way Christians understand God.

Pentecost is a happy festival. Ministers in church often wear robes with red in the design as a symbol of the flames in which the Holy Spirit came to earth.

Pentecost comes from a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot.

The apostles were celebrating this festival when the Holy Spirit descended on them.

It sounded like a very strong wind, and it looked like tongues of fire.

The apostles then found themselves speaking in foreign languages, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

People passing by at first thought that they must be drunk, but the apostle Peter told the crowd that the apostles were full of the Holy Spirit.

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Rector’s Letter – April 2016

The Battle of the Somme 1916 was fought between July and November 1916. The battle was one of the defining events of the First World War. The Somme offensive was planned as the major Allied effort on the Western Front for 1916 but the start of a desperate battle between French and German forces at Verdun meant that the British Army assumed the main role.

After an intense, week-long artillery bombardment of German positions, the infantry began their advance at 7.30am on the clear midsummer’s morning of 1st July 1916. While there were some gains to the south, in the north the attacking troops struggled to overcome formidable defences, many of which had survived a huge artillery barrage. By the end of the first day, some 57,000 troops from the Empire and 2,000 French soldiers had become casualties – more than 19,000 of whom had been killed. The offensive continued over the following months, and men from every part of Britain and across the Empire took part. Both sides committed huge quantities of manpower and munitions to the struggle. When the offensive was halted in November, more than 1,000,000 Commonwealth, French and German soldiers had been wounded, captured, or killed. In 1916 the Somme was part of a number of battles aimed at breaking the stalemate of trench warfare. One preparatory battle to the Somme was at Vimy Ridge (more about that in a moment).

In Ireland the 36th (Ulster) Division and 16th (Irish) Division played a major role in the summer offensive. Here in Donaghadee, many families lost loved ones or had loved ones injured as part of these battles. In this Centenary year we tell just a few of their stories: Billy Murdie, one of our most senior worshipping church members has told me of his recollection of his father. William James Murdie from Donacloney was wounded just before the first Battle of the Somme at Vimy Ridge. Billy’s father suffered terrible wounds to his arm. He was rehabilitated at Belfast City Hospital and started a job in the Post Office as a deliveryman but, around four years after the war ended, his arm began to suffer the effects of his terrible war time injuries and had to be amputated. Unfortunately, blood poisoning set in and he died aged 36 in 1928, leaving his widow with three sons. Billy’s mother did a wonderful job of looking after her young family and working hard to provide for them.

I pondered Billy’s story: war is not just about the terrible event called KIA (Killed in Action). War through bereavement, injury or widowhood, leaves scars on future generations. I have travelled with Billy to the Somme and know he feels a deep affinity to the place his father served – war shapes our lives, decades later and it stands as a reminder of how precious human life and relationships are. Knowing and understanding our history has, I think, shaped Billy into the person he is today. Thank you Billy, for sharing your family’s story with me.

In Donaghadee on 19th October 1896, Andrew and Elizabeth Thompson of Moat Street had a son, John. He, like many young men in the town, enlisted in the British Army. The 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108 Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.

In April 1916, Cpl Thompson returned to Donaghadee for some leave then returning to prepare for the Somme Offensive. He was wounded in action on the 1st July 1916. After recovering from his injuries he returned to the frontline but sadly, just over a year Later he was killed on 16 August 1917 at the battle of Langemarck. Initially he was declared missing in action but his death was confirmed in November 1917. In our congregation, Cpl John Thompson’s memory is kept alive by his two nieces May Watterson and Jenny Leishman. Within their family Uncle John’s service and sacrifice is remembered with pride and it comforts them to know that his place of memorial in France is at Tyncote in France, which Jenny has visited.

Robert McCandless from Dromore, enlisted in 10th Royal Irish Rifles from South Belfast. He trained in County Down before going to Seaford, England and then to France on the 4 October 1915 arriving in Boulogne. He was married to Minnie McCandless from Dromore and had four children. Rifleman McCandless, at 6.00am on the 1 Juy 1916, was based in “Speyside” in Thiepval and moved towards Thiepval village when his battalion came under machine gun fire shortly after at 7.10am at Rosscastle. At 7.45am the 10th RIR went over the top and after much bloodshed reached the German lines at 12.30am. The battle was fierce.

Private McCandless was killed in action at “Inverness Street” trench at Theipval Wood and his body remained there until it was re-interned in Serre Road Cemetery Number 2 in 1927 some 11 years later. Poignantly, he is interned with the two soldiers who fell either side of him. Here in Donaghadee, Private Robert McCandless is remembered in our congregation by Gary Robinson.

He was Gary’s maternal great grandfather and Gary and his wife and daughter, Brenda and Sophia, have visited the Somme to see the place Cpl McCandless fell in Theipval Wood and his grave is now in the peaceful cemetery at Beaumont Hamel. Gary has researched his great grandfather’s military career and followed the journey he took from Belfast to the Somme.

Poignantly, Gary showed me the Commemorative Scroll bearing his great grandfather’s name, presented to his family by the nation. His family, as so many did at the time, also received the large ”Death Penny” bearing his name and the inscription “He died for Freedom and Honour”. As we remember the Battle of the Somme, the inscription “He died for Freedom” sums up the conflict of the First World War. It also stands as a reminder of the ultimate conflict which Jesus Christ waged on our behalf. He died for our freedom. In faith, we look forward to when all conflict will end. For Christ indeed is our peace.

Your friend and Rector


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For those a little sad or depressed!!!!!!


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Rector’s Letter February 2016

At the end of November 2015 The Larder Food Bank in St Christopher’s, Mersey Street, just beside the Oval in East Belfast, gave out emergency food to it’s 5000th person in under three years. It is a ministry of a Church of Ireland Church Plant in the now redundant St Christopher’s Church and is led by Revd Adrian McCartney.

Adrian joined us at our Epiphany Service in early January and spoke of his work. He said: “The Larder in St Christopher’s exists to both serve people in need and as a reminder that some things in our society are not working as well as they could. At the original feeding of the 5000 Jesus said to his followers, ‘You give them something to eat.’ We would like to apologise to all those who have less than they need because we want to keep more than we need”. It was a very challenging address and highlighted the great need that exists in so many families today.

At that service, members of the congregation brought along food items as an Epiphany gift for The Larder. Adrian left Donaghadee with his car loaded with groceries and a commitment that we would pray for and support this new ministry in East Belfast. A box will be permanently kept in church for grocery or other items like washing up liquid, jay cloths, toiletries – but Adrian amusingly said no soup or beans! They get a good amount already!

February 2016

I visited Adrian at The larder to see his work and was humbled to see the groceries we gave in Donaghadee being bagged for families in East Belfast. Thank you to our congregation for their generosity. Though a food bank doesn’t exist in Donaghadee we have access to food banks in Ards and Bangor; if anyone ever hears of someone in need please speak to me and I can assist them with accessing local food banks. Locally, donations can be left at Shore St Presbyterian Church and  St. Comgall’s Roman Catholic Church, Millisle Road. So no matter where you make your donation, please give!

As you will see from the inserted photo we also presented a cheque to The Larder as part of our annual missionary support. Thank you to Billy Murdie for making the presentation. Billy in his years with the Housing Executive worked bringing assistance to the poorest of areas of Belfast and it was fitting that he presented the cheque on behalf of the Select Vestry and congregation.

We have nearly concluded our year of Mission in Donaghadee, with services in which God has blessed us and spoken to people’s needs in a very real way. We have also enjoyed some great events. I hope that this Year of Mission, if it has done anything, is that it reminds us to always be an outward facing congregation. It would be easy in Donaghadee Parish, with such a comfortable and beautiful church building and a warm church fellowship, to become some sort of cosy club! Jesus said build my church and go and make disciples!

As your rector I pray that I may have grace and strength to continue to do this into 2016 and to see the Lord continue to add to our number those who quietly come to faith! The seekers! And even the odd doubter! When I meet people around Donaghadee who don’t come to church: I ask why? I’m amazed at their answers. Are they rejecting the institution of “The Church” or simply God! As we leave Christmas the message of Jesus’ birth still rings true: For heshall save his people form their sins! That’s what I need for living! What about you?

Your friend and Rector


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