Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church has been meeting in a prime location along the A4 trunk road, between Fivemiletown and Clogher in Co. Tyrone, since 1970. In a bygone age the Clogher Valley narrow gauge steam railway passed by. That more sedate age has been superseded by the thousands of motorists travelling along this arterial route. The Clogher Valley area is one of great natural and unspoilt beauty, and includes a section of eastern Fermanagh as well as the rolling hills of south Tyrone.
In ancient history there is a local tradition that Patrick visited, establishing Clogher as an early centre of Christian ministry. In more recent times the Presbyterians first came to Clogher in 1657, forming congregations both within the Synod of Ulster and the separated body known the Seceders over the following century; subsequently united within the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
A Free Presbyterian Witness Born
In February 1970 local Fivemiletown business man, Baskin Boyd being enthused by the ministry of Rev Ivan Foster in Lisbellaw secured a local orange hall, known locally as Andrews Wood School for the evangelist to preach Christ. By April a nucleus of people committed themselves to the formation of a new congregation. As a result of opposition within the community, resulting in the local lodge withdrawing permission to use their hall, the first Lord’s Day service was, therefore conducted by Dr Paisley, under a tree in a lay-by. God, however, burdened the heart of local farmer Mr James Irvine to gift a piece of ground, where the congregation continues to meet.
The congregation was constituted by Presbytery in September 1970 with Mr Michael Patrick ordained and installed as the first minister in December. Congregating initially in a wooden building, the first permanent meeting house was officially opened in September 1977. After Rev Patrick’s departure for Moneyslane, Rev Austin Allen, Rev Ron Johnstone, Rev David Priestley have occupied the pulpit; the current pastor, Rev Peter McIntyre has been ministering since April 2002
Over the decades the congregation has made progress both numerically and in outreach activities. With a growing Sabbath School, an active Youth Fellowship, two weekly children’s meetings, a Holiday Bible Club and annual Teen Challenge the work amongst the young has ever been a priority. There is also an annual outreach event at the Clogher Valley Show, a weekly radio programme and in more recent times an internet ministry through webcasts and articles posted on a blog site. One of the most tangible evidences of God’s blessing upon the work has been the ordination of men as ruling elders, who were brought through the Sabbath School.
The New Meeting House
Aware of the need for a church hall and enlarged kitchen facilities the Session and Committee had been praying over and discussing the development of the congregational property over a number of years. This led to a proposal that a new meeting house with adjoining minister’s room be erected, that the old meeting house be transformed into a church hall with the former minister’s room and kitchen converted into a new and greatly enlarged kitchen. The office bearers were unanimous in their conviction that it was necessary to step forward in faith, for the glory of God and for the furtherance of the gospel in the locality. The congregation have shown absolute commitment through their prayers and giving, with hundreds of thousands being added to the building fund over a relatively short time frame.
The sod was cut by Rev Gordon Dane (Moderator) in January 2020, after which construction work got underway. Motorists travelling along the A5 watched with interest the foundations being poured, the steel work and walls being erected as the project progressed to a conclusion. The COVID-19 pandemic was the challenge that brought blessings because the lengthening of the project gave time to raise further funds and reduce bank borrowing. With the rapid increase in construction costs post pandemic, the congregation is acutely aware that the project was timetabled according to God’s plan.
On 16th October 2021 Rev John Armstrong (Moderator) received the key from Lester Weir (main contractor) as the new meeting house was officially opened. Preaching from Psalm 87 Rev Armstrong encouraged and challenged the congregation regarding God’s love for public worship, “The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob”. It is the prayer of the congregation that many would be recorded in the annals of eternity, that they were born again in this house dedicated to the preaching of the gospel of Christ; “The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there”.