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In the early months of 1968, a number of believers were meeting on a Tuesday evening in the home of Mark and Isobel Johnston at 11 Carolhill Park, Ballymena.  After much prayer and consideration they formed a fellowship on 10th April 1968.  They then moved their meeting place to the minor Town Hall, Ballymena where Rev. Fred Henry ministered the Word of God and preached the gospel.  Times of rich blessing followed the faithful preaching and teaching and the numbers soon began to increase.

The Fellowship, then known as the ‘Evangelical Church’, sought for a place where they could expand and be free to hold other meetings without restrictions and a site was offered to them by Alexander Neilly at Toome Road, Lower Ballee, Ballymena.  They moved to the present site and erected a temporary wooden building which was opened and dedicated on 7th June 1969.  The guest speakers on that memorable occasion were the late Pastor Willie Mullan and his son Michael.  A Communion suite was presented to the Church by Mr Alex Agnew.

 

The first work on the site

 

Mr Matthew Calderwood from Dunloy became the first Elder in the Fellowship on 9th April 1969.

 

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Mr Matthew Calderwood, first Elder in the Fellowship (photo coming soon)

 

The following extract is taken from the minutes of the Annual Church meeting on 8th January 1970 –

“Pastor Henry reported 47 souls pointed to the Lord:

 28 believers baptised and 37 received into fellowship”

 

On 1st February 1970 Mr Robert Cameron and Mr Jim Fleck were elected Elders in the Fellowship.

 

The first wedding in the Church was on Tuesday 11th August 1970 when Miss Ina McAuley was joined in marriage to Mr John Livingstone.

John & Ina, the happy couple

 

The first gospel mission on the present site commenced on Lord’s Day 6th September 1970, conducted by Mr Henry, and continued for four weeks ending on Lord’s Day 4th October. During that period many precious souls trusted the Saviour.

 

God continued to bless and add to the Church. In the Autumn of 1970 a manse was purchased at 6 Rowallane Drive, Ballymena and in the summer of 1971 a further building was erected to accommodate the Sunday School.

 

At a special meeting on 3rd August 1972 it was agreed after much consideration to change the name from ‘The Evangelical Church’ to Ballee Baptist Church.

 

The study of God’s Word on a Tuesday evening, something that is still carried on today, commenced back in the autumn of 1973.

 

Mr Henry served as Pastor of the Fellowship until 30th April 1974 when he went to serve the Lord with Sandes Soldiers and Airmen’s Homes to HM Forces. Mr Matthew Calderwood took charge of the platform and was ably assisted by his fellow elders Robert Cameron and Jim Fleck. Under their continued steady leadership and counsel the fellowship continues to flourish.

 

During the month of September 1974 Mr Jim Peden, Cloughmills conducted a three week mission.

 

At the Annual Church meeting on 4th February 1975 Mr Bertie Russell was elected to the office of Elder.

 

Pastor Samuel Gordon

 

On 23rd October 1975 Mr Samuel Gordon from Bangorwas inducted as Pastor of the fellowship. During the winter of 1975 lengthy negotiations were completed for the purchase of the present site from the Ballymena Development Commission at the cost of £4,220.

 

In February 1977 Bro Jim Fleck resigned from the Church due to taking up the Lord’s work in England.

 

Pastor Hamilton Moore was the guest speaker during a further three week mission from 1st to 22nd May 1977, which proved to be a blessed time.

 

At the annual meeting on 9th January 1978 Bro. Wilbert Price was elected to the Office of Elder.

 

In August 1978 Pastor Samuel Gordon accepted a call to Limavady Baptist Churchand commenced there on 1st September. For the following two years God continued to bless and lead the assembly of His people through many local and visiting servants.

 

At the Annual meeting on11th February 1980 Mr James Robinson and Mr Ronnie Linton were elected to the office of Elder.

 

From 23rd March to13th April 1980 a further gospel mission was held at the Toome Road. The Speakers were Pastor Willie Mullan and Mr Geoffrey Ward, both from Lurgan Baptist Church. This proved to be very profitable for sinner and saint alike. At a special Church Meeting on 17th April, the Church sent a unanimous call to Mr Ward to be their pastor. Brother Ward accepted the call, left his employment in the Post Office and was inducted as Pastor on 2nd August 1980.  

Pastor Geoffrey Ward with his wife Brenda

and daughters Susan & Sharon

 

On 29th May 1981 the church suffered a great loss with the home call of Mr Matthew Calderwood. He was a mighty man of God and it was a joy to have known him. A number of his messages are still remembered.

In June 1981 the church held a three week tent mission outside Cullybackey on the lands of Bro David Logan. This too was a great time of blessing for the fellowship.

 

On 1st October 1980 the wooden Sunday School building was removed and work commenced on the new Church. Over the following 20 months to 1st May 1982, many of the Church members gave freely of their time and skills to build the new Church. We cannot mention them all by name but we must mention some for their great commitment; Robert Cameron, the late Cecil Scott (Pastor Ward’s father-in-law), Billy Colville, Tommy Rea and the late Robert Craig. The new Church valued at £130,000 was built, furnished and opened on 1st May 1982 at a cost of £65,000. The late Mrs Lily Wharry, a senior member of the assembly,  performed the official opening and the late Pastor James Irvine, Newcastle was the guest speaker on that memorable occasion. A gospel mission followed until 28th May 1982 . Pastor Jackie Hughes (then Coagh Baptist Church) was the preacher. God was in the midst in salvation blessing.

 

The 1982 Oversight at Ballee

(left to right front) R.McMaster. R. Herbison, Pastor Ward, R.Cameron, J. Livingstone, and W. Kirk

(back row) J. Robinson, R. Linton, D. Mitchell, J. Stevenson, R. Craig.

 

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Pastor Ward's Induction Service (photo coming soon)

(left to right) Pastors Mullan, Ward & Gordon, Mrs Brenda Ward, H McNally, M Calderwood, H Moore, R Cameron

 

 

The first building at Ballee (right) and the new Church, 1982

 

 

Opening of New Ballee Baptist Church, Sat 1st May 1982

(left to right) S Carson, J Irvine, K Maxwell, G Ward (pastor), 

J Hughes, S Gordon, R Cameron (secretary)

 

 

Ballee Baptist Church, September 1993

 

 

A section of the congregation

 

At the end of 1983 a new manse was purchased at 17 Ballee Road West, Ballymena and the property at 6 Rowallane Drive was sold.

 

During the month of March 1985 the late Mr Ivan Thompson, Belfast, was the guest speaker at a further gospel mission when many souls found the Saviour.

 

In April 1987 Pastor Ward accepted a call to Kilkeel Baptist Church, Co. Down. During his six and three quarter years in Ballee the Lord blessed his ministry in the salvation of precious souls and growth in the Church.

 

At a special Church meeting on 26th October 1987, it was agreed to proceed with plans for the building of a new Church Hall to replace the first building erected on the site. At that meeting the contract was given to Mr Victor Gordon, Builder. The Hall was completed and the official opening took place on Saturday 1st October 1988. Bro. Wilson McKeown, a senior member, turned the key in what was to be another new chapter of the work at Ballee. The guest speakers on that occasion were Pastor G. Ward and Pastor H. Chambers.

 

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The opening of the new Church Hall, 1988 (photo coming soon)

 

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The Ballee Youth Fellowship Choir in 1988 (photo coming soon)

 

 

 

On 4th July 1988 a unanimous call was sent from a special Church meeting to Mr Lawrence Kennedy of Belfast to take up the Pastorate at Ballee. In the weeks to follow this call was prayerfully considered in the Kennedy home and in September the Church received a letter of acceptance from him. Mr Kennedy left his good position in the Bank and his induction Service was held in Ballee on Saturday 3rd December. The guest speakers were Pastor Victor Maxwell, Templemore Hall, Belfast and Rev Tom Shaw, Ballycraigy Congregational Church.

 

Pastor L Kennedy with his wife Lesley and their family

Geoffrey, Deborah and Naomi

 

At the annual church meeting on 8th February 1990 an inscribed watch was presented to Brother Wilson McKeown for his faithful service over many years to the Sunday School and Bible Classes.

Between 6th-25th October 1991 a further gospel mission was held to reach out with the great message of good news to lost sinners. The guest speaker was Pastor Victor Maxwell, Belfast.

 

The Elders and Deacons, 1988 (photo coming soon)

(L to R)I.Bankhead; R. Cameron; R. Herbison; J.Robinson; R. Linton;

J. Stevenson; D. Shaw; J. Livingstone and A Calderwood.

Friday morning 1st October 1993 was a morning we will never forget. Many of us were awakened out of sleep at 4am to receive the news that our Church building was on fire. Mr John Stewart of Toome Road had seen the fire and alerted the Fire Service. We could do little as the fire was at such an advanced stage. The building was reduced to ruins.

As day light broke we were faced with the awful reality that our Church and bus were destroyed. The Pastor led a very quiet tearful group of men in prayer and committed the days ahead to God.

The Scene Inside

 

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The scene outside (photo coming soon)

In due course it was decided to remove the old walls, clear the site and build a new and bigger Church building, The plans were drawn up by Mr Jim Anderson, Architect, Ballymena. The contract was awarded to Mr Victor Gordon at the Annual Business Meeting in February 1995.  

At the annual meeting in February 1996 Mrs Jean Kelly, Mrs Emma Simpson and Mr Raymond Herbison were presented with gifts in recognition of faithful service to the Sunday School over many years. Tribute is also due to Tom and Kathleen McGrath who have served the Lord in the tape ministry of the Church through many years. A sincere thanks was also due to Mrs Sally Fleming and Allison Calderwood, Organist and Pianist respectively for their dedicated service.

Pastor Kennedy’s continued and dedicated service to the Assembly in Ballee is much appreciated. He is a gifted Bible teacher and scholar of the Word and all benefit tremendously from his ministry. He is a visitor to the homes of the sick, the elderly, the troubled and the bereaved. Over the years many have been saved, membership in the Fellowship has increased and spiritual growth is evident. His wife Lesley is also busy in the work and care of God’s people at Ballee.

Over recent years the Fellowship have had a great interest in the work of mission. A record of those on the Mission Field or at BibleCollegepreparing for Mission, is recorded in the next pages.

We thank all (we could not record all the names) who serve or have served in Oversight, those in leadership of the Sunday School work, the Bible classes, the Good News Club, the Ladies Fellowship, the Outreach work and not forgetting the Youth Fellowship. We praise God for a great company of believing youth.

The new Church building was completed and opened on Saturday 1st June 1996 by Mr Robert Cameron, Elder. This began another chapter in the work at Toome Road. We lift our hearts and voices in praise and thanks to the One who is worthy of all our Praise. To God be the glory great things He hath done!  

Checking the Plans

 

The official opening

Left to right. Rev Ronnie McCracken, Pastor L. Kennedy, Mr R. Cameron, 

Mr V. Gordon, Mr D. Mitchell, Mr J. Anderson  

 

Part of the congregation who attended the opening service

 

 

SERVICE

 

Those who have served the fellowship in the capacity of Pastor/Elder

Pastor Fred Henry

April 1968

- 30th April 1974

Matthew Calderwood

9th April 1969

- until his death 29th May 1981

Robert Cameron

1st February 1970

- until his death 13th May 2011

James Fleck

1st February 1970

- February 1979

Bertie Russell

4th February 1975

- December 1975

Pastor Samuel Gordon

23rd October 1975

- 30th August 1978

Wilbert Price

9th January 1978

- October 1978

James Robinson

11th February 1980

- still serving

Ronnie Linton

11th February 1980

- 31st March 2012

Pastor Geoffrey Ward

2nd August 1980

- 30th April 1987

Pastor Lawrence Kennedy

1st December 1988

- still serving

David Mitchell

11th February 1996

- still serving

Auldwyn Calderwood 7th October 2012 - still serving
Wesley Coulter 7th October 2012 - still serving

 

 

Those who have served the fellowship in the capacity of Secretary

Mark Johnston

April 1968

- March 1969

James Alexander

April 1969

- January 1971

Arthur Dempsey

January 1971

- October 1971

Bertie Russell

November 1971

- January 1976

Robert Cameron

February 1976

- February 1996

David Mitchell

February 1996

- still serving

 

 

Those who have served the fellowship in the capacity of Treasurer

William Lormer

April 1968

- April 1969

James Fleck

April 1969

- January 1971

James Alexander

January 1971

- February 1976

Raymond Herbison

February 1976

- February 1983

Stephen Irons

February 1983

- February 1987

Raymond Herbison

February 1987

- February 1993

Stephen Irons

February 1993

- April 2013

Wesley Coulter

April 2013

- still serving

 

 

Those who have served the fellowship in the capacity of Assistant Treasurer

James Robinson

1981

- December 2006

Wesley Coulter

January 2007

- April 2013

Stephen Irons

April 2013

- still serving

 

 

Those who have served the fellowship in the capacity of Sunday School Superintendent

Thomas Orr

April 1968

- April 1969

Pastor Henry

April 1969

- February 1972

Auldwyn Calderwood

February 1972

- February 1976

Robert Cameron

February 1976

- February 1984

Robert McMaster

February 1984

- September 1986

Raymond Herbison

September 1986

- September 1995

Ivan Bankhead

September 1995

- September 2000

Noel Bell

September 2000

- still serving