An Interim Session, consisting of
members of Glendermott Presbytery, looked after the affairs of the
Congregation prior to the appointment of the first clergyman.
In the Minutes of Glendermott
Presbytery, dated 5th Nov., 1878, there is found the following:-
The Interim Session met at
Magheramason and made out a list of Communicants "in connection
therewith it was reported that what purported to be a Certificate
from the Session of 2nd Donagheady for Mr. John Coulter was found not
to be genuine. It was
agreed that Mr. Coulter's name be struck off the Communicants' Roll
and that the Interim Session be instructed to make inquiry regarding
the person who handed in the said document."
(As reported in
the Centenary Handbook of 1978)
The Minutes of Session Meetings
were normally brief. Business was largely routine, such as making
arrangements for Communion, examining and receiving new communicants
and electing representatives for attendance at Church Courts.
The earliest record relates to a
Meeting of Session held on 31st May, 1881, attended by the Minister,
Rev. Thomas Boyd, and the four elders, Messrs. Victor Love, John
McCorkell, John James Love and William McCarter. At this
meeting Mr. McCarter was appointed Clerk, the first in Magheramason.
It was arranged that a meeting
for prayer be held in the Session Room on the first Sunday of each
month at "one quarter before 12 o'clock, all the members of
Session to take their part and at each meeting leading prayer very
briefly, for the Blessing of God and the outpouring of His Spirit on
the Minister, on his Service in the Church, on the Congregation and
the families of the Congregation, and for the School of the Sabbath,
for "the Children of the Church and the Church's Sabbath School
Teachers; and that a Prayer Meeting be held in the School Room, on
each alternate Thursday evening at 6 o'clock."
It was also decided that the
Congregation be divided into four districts" at; conveniently
arranged as possible" for the Elders each to have charge of a
"district", and that the Elders visit these districts two
or three weeks before each Communion and at the same time give
"Communicant Cards of Admission" to the members throughout
their districts. It was also arranged that families or members of
families in each district who should be absent from Church two
Sabbaths in succession be visited by the elder of the district,
"the cause of absence ascertained and induce them to attend more regularly."
At this first Meeting of Session
(the Minute is perhaps one of the longest recorded) it was also
agreed that "applications for the relief of poor members of the
Congregation be made, when required, to the Session and given only by
their concurrence." It is interesting to note that, at a
Meeting some twelve years later, the case of a woman living alone
without means of support applied for assistance, and definite action
was postponed until "State of Church funds in hand could be
ascertained." There is no indication of what the final
outcome was, nor is there any record of another such application.
A minute of 3rd November, 1881
records that Sarah Jane Hall was admitted by examination to the
membership of the Church. She was the first person so admitted. The
same minutes also record that Thomas Doherty came before the Session
and stated that "he has been in full communion with the Church
in America, but that on his leaving there, the Minister was from home
and he got no Certificate." However it was resolved that Mr.
Doherty be admitted to the Communion of the Church at Magheramason.
Occasionally some rather delicate
matters had to be resolved. For instance there were two or three
cases where mothers sought Baptism of their illegitimate children,
and had to appear before the Session to admit their fault and show
signs of repentance before the children could be baptised or the
culprits admitted to Communion.
There was also a case where a
Meeting of Session and Assessors (the latter appointed by the
Presbytery) was called to consider and deal with a "Fama clamosa"
affecting the character and status of an elder, when it was carried
that the case be referred for investigation and adjudication to the
Presbytery. At a subsequent meeting of Presbytery the "fama
of intemperance" came before it. The elder concerned
appeared and apologised for his indiscretion and expressed regret for
"the slur which had rested on the Church through me."
The apology was accepted and no further action taken.
There are no direct references to
either World War I or World War II, but the following might be of
interest. World War I ended in 1918 and was followed by a serious
epidemic of influenza. It is recorded in the Minutes of Thursday, May
15, 1919 as follows: 'Session met to prepare a Report from the
Session on the work of the year ending 31st March, 1919, this report
to be read at a Congregational Meeting to be held on 22nd May.
The Report, which was adopted, stated:-
"The Kirk Session reports,
with thankfulness to Almighty God, a year of quiet steady Christian
Endeavour. Our Minister was absent from us on Active Service with
the Y.M.C.A. during the whole of the year except for short
leaves, and we wish to acknowledge with gratitude the faithful
Services of the Rev. James Connell B.A.(2nd Donaheady) who did
whatever pastoral work was necessary. We also thank the Presbytery of
Derry for seeing to the supply of the Pulpit on Sabbath Days, and
especially the Rev. R. W. Ross, who spared himself no trouble to see
that the Congregation was well provided for in this respect.
"We regret that Death has
taken a heavier toll than usual, twelve of our membership having
passed beyond the Shadows. To all the families who have been bereaved
we tender our deepest sympathy, commending them to the Father of all
Mercies and the God of all Consolation. During the period covered by
the report there have been twelve Baptisms in the Congregation. The
number on our Communicants' Roll stands at 241.
"Now that our Minister is
back with us, we would urge on all our People the duty of waiting
with regularity and expectancy on the ordinances of God's House, and
of keeping their tryst with the Master at His Table as often as the
opportunity to do so is afforded them.
'Wait on the Lord, be of Good
Courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the
Victor Love, John
McCorkell, John Jas. Love, Wm. McCarter.
William McNeely, David McCorkell.
Robt. Gamble, John
McNeely, R. J. Montgomery, Josias Ramon
Donnell, William Goligher, V. M. Love, Robt. McNeely, James Todd,
J. Derek Anderson,
R. A. Finlay, R. S. Gamble, John McCorkell, Andrew McNeely, Andrew A. Walker.
Joseph Doherty, W.
Edgar C. Kennedy, Robert Lowry, T. Archibald McCorkell, Alan
Mitchell, J. B. Rankin.
T. Basil Craig,
Thomas Doherty, Cecil McBride, W. N. McCrea, (Mrs.) Lorna E. McNeely,
H. Montgomery, Samuel M. Montgomery, (Mrs.) Mary S. Todd.
Mr. Wm. McCarter
Mr. Victor Love
Mr. Wm. McNeely
Mr. Robert McNeely
19th October, 1925:
(Rev. F. W. C. Wallace's First Meeting)
Rev. Wallace reported that a gift
of individual Communion cups had been presented to the Congregation
by Miss Susan Hall of Tully in memory of her late sister and brother,
Miss Catherine Hall and Mr. Robinson Hall.
The records of Meetings of Kirk
Session in the last two or three decades are much fuller and more
informative than those of previous years. They show that the Session
has been deeply concerned, not only with domestic matters, but also
with wider aspects of the Church's function and purpose.
Discussions on many and varied
matters are recorded, e.g. the calling of new Ministers, introduction
of evening Communion, formation of Youth Clubs for older teenagers,
dancing in Church Hall, Church Music, the Sunday School, the
appointment of women to Church Committee and to eldership, visiting,
missions in our Church, drinking and driving (prompted by a tragic
accident at the Church gate), vandalism (after damage had been done
to Church property), inattention and even restlessness during Church Services.
In the wider field there have
been lively discussions on various Evangelic and Missionary topics,
e.g., "Spreading the Christian Gospel," "Flame
74," when it was decided to hold seven full attendance Sundays
with special preachers.
The filling up of a query sheet
from Church House on "What does it mean to be 'The Church' in a
situation of Conflict!" was not taken lightly. Session decided
that representatives from the Session, Committee, Youth Club, B.B.,
G.B., P.W.A. and Congregation generally, would study the query sheet,
and after discussion formulate replies.
There have been several Elder
Conferences attended by members the Kirk Session. One held in
Magheramason on the theme "The Role of the Church - What it
stands for" was followed by a Second Stage on the theme -"
Spreading the Christian Gospel."
The ecumenical aspect of
religious life has been given due attention. Not only have United
Services with the neighbouring Church of Ireland, Reformed
Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church been held, but the Session
have met on some occasions with members of Church of Ireland,
Reformed Presbyterian and Methodist Churches for discussion.
The erection of a Combined or
United Church at Newbuildings has been discussed several times in
recent years, and the Session has finally decided that "...while
wishing to preserve the good relations built up over the years with
the Methodist Church in Newbuildings, the Session is of the opinion
that the proposal (i.e. to build a United Church at Newbuildings) is
not practical and that no further discussion or action be taken in
For the records it is easy to see
that our Kirk Session over the past I 00 years has taken its role
seriously and prayerfully and our present Session upholds the high
standard set up by their predecessors. Their decisions are considered
- their aims are ever for the betterment and progress of the Church,
not in Magheramason only, but much further afield. To these ends they
invoke God's aid and the support of the Congregation.
The only licentiate for the
Ministry from Magheramason Congregation is Alan Mitchell, who was
accepted as a Student for the Ministry on 21st June, 1971 and was
licensed at a Special Service held on 19th June, 1977.
To mark the latter occasion the
Session presented Alan with two Volumes of "The Interpreter's
Dictionary of the Bible."
Alan has been appointed
Superintendent of the Irish Mission and secretary to the Board of
The first visitation by the
Presbytery of Derry was on Tuesday, 1st August, 1883, and the
representatives of Session who were appointed to answer the
prescribed questions, were Mr. Victor Love and Mr. John McCorkell.
The finding was most complimentary to the Minister, Session,
Committee and Congregation, for their cooperation in the various
affairs of the Church, but it also stated "that the Presbytery
would rejoice to see more manifest signs of spiritual life and
prosperity and are of the opinion that a much larger number of the
Congregation should attend the public ordinances of the Sanctuary."
Other visitations took place in
1894, 1902, 1913, 1927, 1937, 1947, 1967, 1976, and the findings on
all occasions were generally favourable - with an occasional
recommendation such as "more generous support for Sustentation
Fund," "increase insurance of Church property,"
"increase giving to Missions."