DOWN RECORDER - 24th June 2020
New Presbyterian minister installed in Saintfield
SECOND Saintfield Presbyterian Church has a new minister.
Despite the continuing coronavirus emergency, the Rev John Torrens was last week ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church and also installed as the new minister at Second Saintfield.
With special permission, his ordination took place in a livestreamed service held at Belfast’s Assembly Buildings — the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland — due to the global pandemic.
Ordination and installation services are traditionally held in the church where the minister will serve, watched by members from their new congregation, friends, family members and guests who have played a significant part in the minister’s life and faith journey.
On this occasion, the Down Presbytery conducted the ordination of Mr Torrens with only four members of the Presbytery Commission participating in the service, each maintaining appropriate social distancing in the large Assembly Hall.
There were also two guests present, Mr Torrens’ wife, Melanie and a representative elder from Second Saintfield, Mr Trevor Leaker.
The Rev Mark Spratt, Clerk of Down Presbytery and minister of Kilmore Presbyterian Church, said while the circumstances of the were unusual, it remained the same as the church’s constitution requires.
He continued: “John was one of the last two Presbyterian ministers to have been called to a new congregation prior to the lockdown. Sadly, the restrictions in place caused by Covid-19 prevented the service from taking place in Second Saintfield.
“As a presbytery, we are so thankful that the service could take place and that that those who would normally have attended could watch and take part via the livestream.”
Second Saintfield Presbyterian Church’s roots go back to the 17th century, but the congregation itself was established in 1795. Today, the church has 232 families of around 550 people.
The vacancy was caused as a result of the retirement last August of the Rev Dr Graham Connor, who had been the minister for 10 years.
Having begun the formal process of calling a new minister to the church, a full congregational meeting took place on March 9, prior to the lockdown, when Mr Torrens was called to be the new minister.
Originally from Moneydig near Garvagh in Co Londonderry, the 31-year-old father of two studied at the University of Glasgow and the PCI’s Union Theological College in Belfast.
He was licensed to preach the gospel in a service in First Garvagh Presbyterian Church in 2017, followed by three years in Richhill Presbyterian Church as assistant minister.
Speaking after his installation Mr Torrens said that while the evening had not been quite what he had imagined as he began his journey into ministry, important as it is, his ordination was not the end goal for him.
He continued: “What is important is the opportunity it gives me to serve the gospel of Jesus Christ and the people of Second Saintfield Presbyterian and I am extremely excited about what lies ahead.
“I am also very grateful that we were able to use the Assembly Hall for the service. While I missed my family and friends and others who have played a significant part in my life, I am glad that they could watch from afar via the live-stream.”
The service began with a welcome and call to worship by the Moderator of Down Presbytery, Rev Dario Leal, minister of First Ballynahinch Presbyterian.
During the service, which included three pre-recorded items of worship by members Second Saintfield, Brian McKee a representative elder to the Presbytery from First Ballynahinch, read from 1 Timothy 2:1-7.
The sermon, based on the reading from First Timothy, was delivered by the Rev David Hyndman, minister of Magherahamlet and Spa Presbyterian Churches, who convened the Second Saintfield vacancy.
Those present for the service and others watching online from over 200 separate locations also heard short pre-recorded speeches after the service had concluded.
One was a message of welcome from Stanley McFarland, Clerk of Session of Second Saintfield Presbyterian Church.
The Presbytery Moderator described the installation and ordination service as “different, but a special evening.”
He added: “John received and accepted a call from Second Saintfield on the Monday before lockdown. While it was frustrating for all concerned that his ordination and installation could not take place in Saintfield due to the restrictions in place, we were delighted and relieved when the offer came from the PCI’s General Secretary inviting us to use Assembly Buildings.
“It now means that John can commence his ministry for which he trained and has been called to. We wish him, his wife, Melanie, their children, Emma and Ben, God’s richest blessing as this exciting new chapter opens for them at Second Saintfield.”