The dissenting tradition in Ireland can be traced back to the early 17th century. The Presbyterian system of church government was established in Ulster in 1642 when the first Presbytery was founded in Carrickfergus. Early in the following century, disagreements arose in relation to compulsory subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Those who declined to subscribe, or sign, became known as Non-Subscribers. The first Non Subscribing Presbytery was established in 1725, when the Presbytery of Antrim was founded. Several leading Non Subscribing ministers of the time had been educated in Europe and brought new ideas about theology to Ireland. At that time, liberal approaches to theology were also prevalent among dissenters in the southern part of Ireland, and members of the Presbytery of Antrim were given support by the Southern Association.
Throughout the eighteenth century, the gap between the Non Subscribers and more conservative Presbyterianism closed as a more relaxed attitude again began to prevail. This changed in the 1820s when, under the leadership of Henry Cooke, the more conservative elements within Irish Presbyterianism began again to seek to make it compulsory for ministers to sign the Westminster Confession. The Non Subscribers, under the leadership of Henry Montgomery, refused to accept this and the Remonstrant Synod was formed, holding its first meeting in 1830. The first congregations to break away to form the Remonstrant Synod were Dunmurry, where Montgomery was minister and Moneyreagh where the minister was Montgomery’s friend and ally, Fletcher Blakely.
In 1910, the Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland was founded, bringing the Remonstrant Synod and the Presbytery of Antrim together as a denomination. In 1935, the Synod of Munster joined the NSPCI, which is now comprised of three Presbyteries: the Presbytery of Antrim, the Presbytery of Bangor and the Synod of Munster.
In 1964, Rev. AL. Agnew and Rev. J. McCleery published a booklet ‘Told for its Sunday School’ to tell in a few words, the long and complicated story of our Non-Subscribing Church, to give some sense of the Spiritual back-ground and importance of our movement, take a look at our current publications.
The First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian congregation was established in 1676 and a meeting house was built on a nearby site of which no trace remains.
In 1714 a second church was built, part of which forms the return of the present meeting house.
The current First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church was built. The plaque over the left door states that it was built in 1719, a misinterpretation made by a painter. The architect of the building is unknown for certain but it has been thought that it was Roger Mulholland who designed First Church in Rosemary Street in 1783. A stone set in the gable end of the return has the inscription “Anno Christi 1714. Georgii R:J” in other words, built in the first year of the reign of King George 1.
The return at the rear of the church was raised to two stories.
Monument placed in memory of Henry Montgomery, son of Rev Dr Henry Montgomery. Henry Montgomery fought during the First and Second Sikh Wars, and died returning from India in 1857.
Monument placed in memory of Rev Dr Henry Montgomery. Rev. Dr Henry Montgomery, preacher, teacher and reformer was renowned as a brilliant orator who worked tirelessly for the rights of many different causes (including Catholic emancipation) and led the remonstrance of liberal Irish Presbyterians in Ireland.
A beautiful stained-glass window depicting The McCance family’s journey to church was erected in 1900 in memory of John McCance JP (1816-63) and his brother Henry (1829-1900). The McCance family lived at Woodburn House and were in the linen business, the image depicts their journey to Church. The window is attributed to the firm of Tiffany of New York, and it is reasonable to deduce that the designer may have been Agnes Northrop, who began working for that company in 1895. Unfortunately the window was damaged by a bomb blast in the 1970s when the signal box at the level crossing of the railway was blown up. It has since been partly restored.
In the late 19th century a second storey was added to the meeting house and at this time the wall behind the pulpit was pierced to create a balcony and organ loft. Mrs Sheila McMillan, daughter of Rev. John McCleery and wife of Very Rev. William McMillan has composed a wonderful record of the history of the Organ according to her personal memories. Visit our blog to learn more.
The congregation built a new Church Hall, incorporating a part of the old Georgian Manse. The hall was built through the work of volunteers from all sections of the local community in memory of Rev John McCleery. Prior to this all social aspects of the church took place in the Courthouse adjacent to the church grounds.
The Pulpit was beautifully restored in 1976 as a memorial to Miss E Andrews, whose father was Thomas Andrews who was lost in the RMS Titanic disaster. This is recorded by a small brass plaque to the left of the pulpit.
On 18th December 2015, the Ulster Historical Society Blue Circle Plaque commemorating the Rev Dr Henry Montgomery (1788-1865) was unveiled by Very Rev William McMillan, Minister Emeritus of First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church.