At Causeway Coast Peace Group’s recent meeting in Ramoan Parish Centre, Ballycastle, Leader Eleanor Duff welcomed everyone.
Opening devotions were spoken by Rev Don Irvine, and after business was conducted, Eleanor Duff asked Pat Crossley to introduce former Moderator and Guest Speaker, Very Rev Dr Ken Newell. Ken chose as his theme “Captured by a Vision”, his recent book.
This is a personal account of his Ministry as Ordained Assistant in Bangor, lecturer in New Testament studies in Indonesia, his return to Belfast as Minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church from 1976 until his retirement in 2008.
His audience were enthralled as he read chapters of his book about his childhood on the Shore Road area of Belfast during WW2, his early memory of the Belfast blitz and the influence of his home and local Church. This instilled in him a love of Jesus Christ leading to a sense of being called to Ministry. Following family tradition he joined the Orange Order, soon becoming a Chaplain. While he agreed withe the Order’s emphasis on biblical faith he became increasingly uncomfortable with some of its criticisms of Roman Catholicism and some sectarian elements within its membership, so he resigned just prior to his ordination in 1968 in Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor. Ken was invited to take up a lectureship in Indonesia, and set out with his recently married wife Val. There they experienced the wider world of different cultures and religions as well as extreme poverty. All of this combined to broaden and deepen his understanding of the Christian Faith and Ministry. On Ken and Val’s return to Belfast at the height of The Troubles, when he was called to the congregation of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast in 1976, he was confronted with the challenge of sectarianism. A surprise invitation from an elderly Roman Catholic priest led to a meaningful and growing relationship between his congregation of Fitzroy and Clonard Monastery. Central to this was his personal friendship with the Rev Gerry Reynolds, which lasted until Father Reynolds death some months ago.
While reading passages from his book he supplemented these by further stories of significant experiences and events which strengthened his commitment to Ministry of Healing of the community and the growth of ecumenical relations - an unfinished task. Throughout he drew on biblical accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus and St Paul, relating these to the continuing political, social and religious challenges of life in Northern Ireland.
Eleanor thanked Ken, and closed the meeting with prayer.