Introduction (Taken from our Church History PDF, download the rest here)
At one of our over site meetings I was asked if I would put in writing, the history and (commencement) of the Baptist witness in Rathfriland. May I say we as Baptists are not in opposition to other evangelical churches in our town. In fact we work alongside them. You may ask why Baptists? We hold to the principles of doctrine laid down by the Lord Jesus Himself and practised by the early church.
The risen Lord Jesus is speaking to the eleven disciples in verses 19 & 20 of Matthew’s Gospel CH 28, before he ascended back to heaven and he gives them this charge:
“Go ye therefore and teach all nations”,
or the rendering is make disciples of all nations
“baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”.
In Acts Chapter 2 we see the commencement of the New Testament Church as we know it. Peter is preaching the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord in verse 37 of chapter 2
“and when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts and said onto Peter what shall we do?”
Peter said onto them
“repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”.
In verse 41 of chapter 2 it tells us
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptised and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
So we as Baptists practice the ordinance of believer’s baptism.
Secondly we practice the ordinance of the Lords supper, which was instituted by the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed. He took bread and gave thanks and broke it and gave onto them saying
“This is my body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me”. Likewise also the cup after the supper saying; “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which, is shed for you.”
When we go to first Corinthians chapter 11 verse 26, Paul says;
“As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup (or wine) ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”
In Acts chapter 20 verse 7 we read that the disciples came together upon the first day of the week to break bread or to remember the Lord’s death.
We as Baptists practice what the New Testament teaches firstly repentance, secondly faith towards God, thirdly baptism by emersion, fourthly to remember the Lord’s death by breaking bread and drinking wine each Lord’s Day.
To take you back to the commencement of the church in Rathfriland. It was in June 1966 when Pastor James Irvine, pastor of Newcastle Baptist Church, along with Pastor Victor McWilliams, pastor of Kilkeel Baptist Church came to Edenagarry Mission Hall for a gospel mission. Edenagarry Mission Hall is situated approximately three miles out of Rathfriland on the Ballynamagna Road. Many folk travelled out from Rathfriland to these meetings. It was a mission with much blessing. God’s people were built up in their most holy faith and sinners challenged of their need of God’s salvation.
In the autumn of that year both pastors asked for the use of Rathfriland Orange Hall for bible readings on Sunday afternoons. These Bible readings continued through to the spring of 1967. Many publicly expressed the help and encouragement these services had been to them.
In June of that same year, 1967, both pastors came back to Rathfriland for a gospel mission, this time in a portable hall belonging to the Kilkeel church.
The late Hugh Frazer, grandfather of the present John Frazer, gave permission to put the hall on his land, just opposite the livestock yard, the same site where the present church now stands. It was during that 2ission that some expressed the desire to commence a Baptist witness in Rathfriland.
The mission ended around the first of July, but the portable hall remained on the site. It was in this humble hall, the church at Rathfriland was born. We read of Christ’s humble birth, born in a manger, the church of Rathfriland was born in a borrowed hall on borrowed ground.
The door was open for the first service on the Lord’s Day morning of July 15th 1967, when 15 souls gathered for worship and breaking of bread. Mr Sam Hamilton, an elder in the Newcastle church, was the special speaker.
The services continued on through the autumn and winter months. Can you imagine what it was like in winter frosts with no insulation and no carpet on the wooden floor? Many of those who came were advancing in years – it wasn’t a place for the feint hearted….