Church History

In the year 1768 the first Methodist preacher arrived in Ballinamallard. His name was Hugh Saunderson. He preached at the farmhouse of a family called Myles. Later he stayed at the house of Mr William Armstrong, Sydare. A home with which John Wesley himself had close connections. Shortly afterwards Thomas Halliday and John Smith came to the neighbourhood. Through these first Methodist preachers many souls were brought to God. It is interesting to note that in the same year 1768, was built the first Methodist church in New York, believed to be the first Methodist Church in America. It was also around this time that the first Class Meeting was held at Knocknamoul, at the home of a Mr William Graham.
Ballinamallard is justly proud of its links with John Wesley. Wesley arrived at Sydare, about 1 mile from the village of Ballinamallard, within one year of the first Methodist preachers. It was 5.30pm on Tuesday, 2nd May, 1769. ‘It was,’ says Wesley, “A day of God’s power. This constrained me to enlarge in prayer, as I have not done for some years; so that I did not dismiss the congregation until it was almost eight o’clock.” Wesley also visited Sydare on 7th May 1771, 24th May 1773, 30th May 1775, 30th May 1787 and 27th May 1789. These visits are commemorated each year by an open air service in a field where John Wesley preached in Sydare.

In 1794, 3 years after Wesley’s death, Ballinamallard first appeared on the list of Circuits. The ministers then were Bleakley Dowling and James M’Keown. The Circuit at that time included Irvinestown and Pettigo. From about 1817 Ballinamallard did not appear on this list of Circuits. It was caught up in a dispute which, in 1818, split Methodism in Ireland into the ‘Primitives’ and the ‘Wesleyans’. The ‘Primitaves’ holding that, whilst being Methodists, they should also remain members of the Church of Ireland and receive the Sacraments there. The ‘Wesleyans’ holding that the time had come to form a seperate Church with their own Clergy to administer the Sacraments. It was in 1878 that the two bodies came together again and Ballinamallard appeared once more on the list of Circuits. In Ballinamallard the Wesleyan Church was what is the present Church Hall; The Primitave Church stood where the Soldiers of the Cross Hall now stands. It was during these years that the Wesleyan Methodists built the Church at Knocknamoul in 1832 and at Laragh in 1858. The present Orange Hall at Knocknamoul was a Primitave Methodist Church. The Ballinamallard Church was rebuilt in 1868. Other places of worship associated with Circuit were Coa, Ballyreagh and Garvary. Coa was under the direct control of the Methodist Church. Ballyreagh and Garvary portable halls had been purchased by Mr George J Coulter, who for nearly 40 years was a much respected school teacher and Evangelist in Ballinamallard.

It soon became clear that it would be necessary to build a new Church in Ballinamallard. A beautiful site was given by Mr John Campbell and on Friday 5th September 1902 there was a laying of the Memorial Stones. The chairman of the proceedings was the Rev Wesley Guard. It was 2 years before the Church was opened. The new Church was dedicated on Friday 15th April 1904. The door was opened by Mr John Porter-Porter, D.L. The Church was dedicated by Rev William McVitty, the Superintendent Minister of the Circuit, and the Rev W.R.Budd. The sermon was preached by Rev Wesley Guard. The new Church and stables, the converting of the old church into a National school, and the school furniture cost £2250.00.

During these 75 years Methodism in Ballinamallard has maintained a vigorous life and witness. Inevitably changes have taken place. But it is often through change that God prepares his people ‘to serve the present age.’ After 1904 the old Methodist Church became a National School. By 1966 this had been handed back to the Methodist Church and was converted into what is now the Church Hall. It is a much used building! During the past ten years Knocknamoul, Laragh and Coa ceased to be used as places of worship. Those who for so many years served faithfully in these places have served no less faithfully since becoming more closely linked with Ballinamallard. Ballyreagh was also closed. Garvary holds a monthly service. The Circuit today consists of Ballinamallard and Trillick. Trillick having become part of the Circuit in 1976.

The Methodist people in Ballinamallard have faced with great devotion, any demands made upon them during the years. In 1960 a fine new organ was installed. In 1972 a new Manse was opened. It gave much comfort and happiness to many ministers and their families. In 1975 the Church was made even more beautiful by the replacement of all the windows. Each new window being given as a memorial gift.

In 1987 our new halls were opened by Miss Elsie Mills and have become a focus of many activities in both our Church and village. Our Church today has under its pastoral care around 300 adults and 80 children. It is a busy Church with many activities; Sunday School, Girls Brigade, Youth Fellowship, Children’s Church, Youth Praise Band and Drama Group, Home Groups, Prayer Meetings, Bible Studies, MWI, Bowling Club, Choir, Craft Club and Friday Lunch Club. As we look back over many years we have much to be thankful for, but God has more for us to do. Our commitment must now be for a closer relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; and with all Christians in our village to share the Gospel of Jesus with others. Our prayer is that we shall be renewed by God’s Holy Spirit to be enabled to accomplish God’s will in Ballinamallard.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7 V 14.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witness…” Act 1 V 8

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