History


Railway Street Presbyterian Church was opened in March 1864.
The congregation had been formed in 1860.

Our church is over 150 years old!

Although we concentrate more on the present than the past, it is interesting, and often humbling, to look back and see where we have come from and who the people were who shaped the church as we know it today.

The Revival of 1859, and the growth of Lisburn through expanding industries, resulted in the Presbyterian Church building in Market Square (1st Lisburn) becoming inadequate to accommodate the numbers attending public worship. In 1860 Wm. Barbour, founder of the linen firm that bears his name, and an elder in the Church, encouraged the formation of a new congregation in the town.

The General Assembly approved the organization of such a congregation, and in 1860 Rev John Powell held services in a hay loft in Castle Street. The first committee of the new congregation was elected in November 1860.

In 1861 the majority of the congregation, faced with the calling of a minister, favoured Mr David John Clarke. Mr Powell then founded the congregation now known as Sloan Street. Rev DJ Clarke continued to minister in Castle Street until the new Church was opened in Railway Street on Sunday 6th March 1864. After an exacting and effective ministry Mr Clarke died on 23rd November 1878, at the age of just 44 years.

The second minister of the congregation, Mr James Lyle Bigger  was ordained on 16th October 1879. He was appointed Professor of Hebrew and Biblical Criticism in Magee College, Londonderry, in 1885, and hence resigned Lisburn on 17th July 1885.

Professor Bigger’s successor was Rev Robert Wilson Hamilton. During his ministry, a new Lecture Hall was built in 1887. Side galleries were added in the church in 1897 and a new organ in 1908. Brownlee Memorial School was built in 1913. Electric lighting was installed in the church in 1929. Dr. Hamilton, after almost 50 years in Railway Street, finally retired on 6th May 1930. He died on 12th October 1935.

Rev Thomas Henry Robinson was installed as assistant and successor to Dr Hamilton on 10th September 1930. Being then appointed Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy in Magee University College, Londonderry some years later, he resigned his charge in Lisburn on 31st August 1938.

On 11th January 1939 Rev John Knox Elliott was installed as minister. During his ministry the interior of the church was renovated in 1945 and electric heating installed. In 1952, the old school house was renovated and became what is now known as the Minor Hall. Dr Elliott died on 3rd May 1961.

Rev Howard Cromie was installed in Railway Street on 10th January 1962.  In 1961, the present manse at 31 Magheralave Road was bought in anticipation of Mr Cromie’s arrival. In 1965 the Church Extension congregation of St. Columba’s, Moira Road, was formed from Railway Street’s parish area. A further new Church Extension Charge at Ballymacash (now Elmwood Presbyterian Church) was formed in 1976. In 1984, Howard Cromie became the second Railway Street minister to be appointed Moderator of the General Assembly, Rev RW Hamilton having held the office in 1924.

During Dr Cromie’s ministry, the Lecture Hall was completely refurbished in 1962 and the pulpit area at the front of the Church redesigned. In 1978, the link area between the church and the Minor Hall was reconstructed. In 1980, a new extension to the property adjoining the church (No 31) was added for youth organisations. On Sunday 6th December 1987, Very Rev Dr Howard Cromie dedicated seventeen new stained glass windows. Dr Cromie retired on Sunday 9th May 1993 and is now Minister Emeritus of Railway Street Presbyterian Church.

The most recently retired minister, Rev Brian Gibson, was installed in Railway Street on 26th January 1994. During Mr Gibson’s ministry the Lecture Hall at the rear of the church was refurbished. In summer 2006, work commenced on the complete re-roofing of the church and after just eight weeks’ work, the job was completed by September 2006. Work on the refurbishment of the church interior commenced in October 2007, involving repairs to and strengthening of the ceiling, re-vamping of the dais area including relocation of the organ console, rewiring and the installation of emergency lighting and alarms, new pews and gas-fired heating. The church was rededicated by Very Rev Dr Howard Cromie on Sunday 1st June 2008.

Rev Gibson retired in October 2013.

The current minister, Rev Michael Davidson, was installed on 11 September 2015. Having previously served in 1st Antrim Presbyterian Church and then as minister of Drumgooland and Kilkinamurry congregations for 11 years, he moved to Lisburn and came to live in the newly built manse at 33 Magheralave Road, along with his wife Linda and their three children.

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