In 1981, seven Baptists who lived in Ballymoney began to meet together, once a week, with Bill Johnston, a Baptist Missions worker. Initially they met in each others’ homes, but following the arrival of Steven and Gail Curry, also from Baptist Missions, they began to look for a suitable site.
During this time, there were many instances of encouragement and support from the local, mainly Presbyterian community, including the offer of a field near the town as a temporary initial site. Unexpectedly, a local estate agent offered them a small site in Ballybrakes, right beside the water, so perhaps congenial to Baptists! A portable hall was erected, and a short time later, the present church was constituted, on the 20th September, 1986. The little hall on the riverside was packed to overflowing on a bright harvest day, when friends from neighbouring churches met to mark this exciting event.
Thirteen people (Baptists are not superstitious!) covenanted together to become the founder members of Ballymoney Baptist Church. Amazingly, no-one, including the many children, was scalded when tea was served from a little hut outside to this very cramped congregation!
The Church Covenant
The thirteen believers signed a covenant on the day of their constitution, as follows:
“We, the undersigned believers, with deep humility, being gathered together before God our father, dedicate ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. By God’s grace we declare ourselves to be a church after the pattern set forth in the New Testament, gathered together for the preaching of his word, the observance of his ordinances, and the evangelisation of our fellow men. Therefore, we do solemnly join ourselves together in a holy union, fully subscribing to the above constitution, and recognising Christ as the only Head of the Church.”
Underneath, in the then-new minute book, are the following signatures: Derek Boyd, Joy Boyd, Annie Craig, Steven Curry, Gail Curry, Valerie McFall, Robert McClelland, Margaret McClelland, Barbara McCook, James McCook, Betty Scott, Alastair Smith, and Jackie Smith.
A New Constitution
The formation of the constitution was one of the many new ventures undertaken by this newly-formed group, under Steven Curry’s leadership. What might well seem on the face if it to be a laborious and painstaking exercise, proved a time of productive searching and discussion of the truth of the Bible, and of the Baptist faith. It turned out that discussions of doctrine and theology were enjoyable and helpful in building a team of believers together into a unit.
The present church grew in numbers, and moved its Sunday services for a time to the town hall, during which period, they called Steven Curry to be their pastor, a position he filled until his departure to Bethany in Bangor in 2008.
In 1990, the present site, at the exit from the Ballymena bypass, was purchased from a local farm owner, and despite some difficulty about planning permission, a building was erected by local builder, Tommy Shaw. Once again, the support and encouragement of local people, including the seller, and members of the council was critical in these early days.The building was officially opened in September 1993, by Sam and Mary Sloan. Rev. Bob Sheehan was the preacher, and the new building was filled to capacity for this event. Some other figures who played a significant part in those early days included Albert White, a lively pensioner who lived with his wife in the Covenanter flats. Albert, despite poor health, walked the length and breadth of Ballymoney to seek out a site, prior to Ballybrakes. Pastor Jim Henry and Pastor John McVicker, formerly a missionary in Peru, and then Pastor of Kilrea church, and the secretary to the Baptist Union, Pastor Grant, were also stalwarts who brought inspiration and vision.
More significant still, Sam and Mary Sloan, retired missionaries form Peru, moved from their local church in Coleraine to help pioneer this new work. They scarcely ever missed a meeting or failed to support a venture in the church. Sam suffered failing health and weakness without a murmur of complaint, while Mary’s zest for life and mental vigour never failed. She too was always upbeat, praising God’s goodness in all circumstances, and even cheering up her visitors who came to see her on her deathbed. One of her many notable expressions was “unpacking for heaven” by which she meant she was sorting out her belongings and giving them away before herdeath. It was sometimes hard to imagine someone as docile and meek as “wee Sam” being stoned in his early days in Peru, and yet continuing undaunted. A little plaque in the foyer of the present building bears quiet testimony to this lovable and inimitable duo.
Calling A Pastor, Or Two
After a mere three years, the church had grown to twenty seven, and decided to call Steven Curry as their pastor. Pastor Tom Lawson from Bangor delivered the charge to the new pastor, who had set his heart on being a missionary in Peru and was a little deflated to find that the Lord would have him travel no further afield than Ballymoney.
From the beginning, Steven was the ideas man, always ready with a fresh initiative, and full of enthusiasm. His apparently endless fund of contacts provided support, and added to the teaching ministry of this new church. Steven was always ready and willing to help those in any difficulty or need, and a tireless visitor of those who were ill. His systematic teaching from both Old and New Testaments with an unashamed emphasis on the doctrines of Grace drew people from a wide range of backgrounds into the church, and established a firm foundation for the future of the work. His wife, Gail supported Steven to the hilt.
It was therefore with great sadness and regret that this congregation heard the announcement that Steven Curry had accepted a call to become the pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Bangor. 23 years in one church, and growing together with the members of that church makes the parting difficult on both sides.
Andy Dalrymple arrived as assistant pastor in 2004, with his wife, Sarah. He was a prime mover in getting our website under way, and he and Sarah also initiated and developed the Young Adults’ Group. During her time in Ballymoney, Sarah was heavily involved in a major thesis on the Old Testament, but her contribution on the piano complemented the organ and galvanising the singing. The radio outreach was specifically Andy’s responsibility, and while the first year was highly nerve-racking, it was also a terrific success, involving so many people in the church and providing 40 hours of broadcasting. Year by year, this outreach has become more proficient and almost professional, and many form Ballymoney and around the world tune in during the annual weekend broadcast.
Andy and Sarah’s desire to be involved in a new church venture was realised when he received a call to be Associate Pastor of Musselburgh Baptist Church, to which he was inducted on 31st January, 2009. A new church plant is now planned for Dunbar, which Andy will lead.
From Two To None And Then To One
Following a period of only 18 months, a call was issued to Colin Adams, Associate Pastor in Charlotte Chapel, in Edinburgh, and an Induction Service was held on Saturday, 5th September 2009 when a capacity audience filled the church building.
An early and often-repeated motto text of the church is, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.” (Ps. 127:1) It is the hope and prayer of all associated with the church, that the initial vision and Biblical focus which have guided the church through its first 25 years will continue to do so in the future
1981 - Seven baptists start meeting in Ballymoney.
1986 - Ballymoney Baptist Church is officially constituted. It begins with 13 members.
1989 - Steven Curry is officially inducted as the church's first pastor .
1992 - Ballymoney Baptist Church completes a building project on its present site.
2004 - Ballymoney Baptist Church inducts its first Associate Pastor, Andy Dalrymple. Andy serves along with his wife Sarah at Ballymoney for 4 years.
2005 - The first Life 4 You radio broadcast takes place.
2008 - Steven Curry leaves Ballymoney Baptist after 23 years.
2009 - Colin Adams is inducted as the second pastor of Ballymoney Baptist Church.