Deputy Lord Mayor opens new visitor exhibition
27 Mar 2019
The Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, has officially opened the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s new visitor exhibition at its Assembly Buildings headquarters in Belfast city centre.
Located on the ground floor of one of the city’s iconic buildings, the permanent exhibition tells the story of Presbyterianism in Ireland over the last four centuries and the work of the Church at home and overseas today.
Councillor McDonough-Brown, said: “I am delighted to officially open this new visitor exhibition which has been installed thanks to funding from Belfast City Council’s Social Outcomes Fund.
“This fund was established to support tourism and social economy initiatives to help grow Belfast’s tourism infrastructure, and I have no doubt the exhibition will be very successful in attracting more visitors - both local and out-of-state - to the historic Assembly Buildings.
“Belfast is an increasingly diverse city and this exhibition will help us build an inclusive and shared future based on mutual respect by improving peoples’ understanding of the history of this island.”
Welcoming Councillor McDonough-Brown, Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Belfast Dr Philip McGarry, and other guests, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen, said that the exhibition had been made possible by a significant investment that the City Council had made in the project - which wasn’t just for Presbyterians interested in their own history.
“In recent years we have seen a huge and welcome increase in visitors to Belfast, coming here from all over the world to experience, not only the city and its sights, but the rest of Northern Ireland too,” Dr McMullen said.
“While we are an all-Ireland Church, the administrative heart of the denomination is here in Belfast and we want to be supportive of the city that we are a part of in so many different ways. In this building we welcome people from across these islands and from around the world, and while we have been able to provide them with some information, we have not been able to really tell them of our Church’s rich history and its contribution to society across Ireland.
“Our new visitor exhibition does just that and we are very thankful for the contribution that the City Council has made to enable this to happen and for the Deputy Lord Mayor’s presence here today,” he said.
Across different stand-alone interpretive themed panels and interactive exhibits, visitors can walk through a brief history of Presbyterianism on the island. From the arrival of Scottish Presbyterians in Ulster some 400 years ago, to the founding of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1840, they will discover the work, mission and ministry of the Church today.
The exhibition also tells the stories of some of the influential men and women who have left their mark on Irish Presbyterianism, takes a look at the democratic nature of Presbyterian church government and some of the religious and political controversies, past and present.
With over 30 special artefacts on display, many of which have been loaned by the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, there are also interactive exhibits and audio-visual installations. These enable visitors to locate the denomination’s 500-plus congregations across Ireland, interact with a 19th century map of Presbyterians in Ireland and view short films on the history, life and work of the Church.
In dedicating the exhibition to God, Dr McMullen made reference to the piece of Scripture from Hebrews 13: 8 that is on the commemorative plaque to mark the official opening, “As we encourage and welcome more people to Assembly Buildings, I’m pleased that our exhibition joins a number of visitor attractions in the city already.
“Each tells a story, enlightening and broadening our understanding of people, places, institutions and events. In dedicating our exhibition today, I am also reminded of someone who is timeless, the one who is, as it says in the verse on the plaque, ‘…the same yesterday, today and for ever’ and is at the heart of all we do, our Lord Jesus Christ.”