Situated in South Derry, at the heart of the Mid-Ulster countryside mid way between Castledawson and Magherafelt, Aughrim Gospel Hall has stood as a beacon of Christianity for a hundred years.
In 1903, Mr. Robert McCrory held a series of gospel meetings in a tent on land owned by Mr. Andrew Norwell on the Killyneese Road. Around this time a group of believers, including John McMaster, Harry Boyle, Edmund Davis and William George Lennox, father of the late Alfie Lennox the missionary, were meeting every Lord’s Day morning to break bread in a little country cottage on the Belishill Road, outside Castledawson. A Sunday school was also carried on there at the same time.
In 1911, another series of tent meetings, conducted by J. H. McKnight and Joe Stewart, were held in a field on the Belishill Road and lasted most of that summer. One of those saved at these meetings was a young 15 year old lad called James Corbett. He went on to become a revered elder in the assembly at Aughrim until he was called home on June 24th 1967. His obituary in the Believers Magazine for July that year states, ‘Saved at 15 years of age under the preaching of Messrs McKnight and Stewart and for 56 years showed growth in grace, and much of the Spirit of Christ. The assembly at Aughrim has lost a warm-hearted shepherd, friend and counsellor, and the neighbourhood has lost a living witness to the reality of salvation.’
As souls were saved in the locality, and added to the assembly, there was a need for larger premises. The first hall, constructed of corrugated tin, was built in 1912 in the corner of a field generously donated by Mr. Hutchinson. The first series of gospel meetings held in this new building, now named ‘Aughrim Gospel Hall’, was at the beginning of 1913. The speakers were Messrs J. T. Dickson and Joe Stewart, and the meetings lasted eight weeks, ending on the 20th February.
An example of the character of those early believers who met at Aughrim is given by Mr. Robert Broadbent, who was a regular visitor in the 1930s. In his book ‘In Search of Souls’, he refers to an incident which occurred shortly after he first began to visit. ‘The first time I was in Aughrim, North Ireland, I was standing crying to the Lord – to send some money. No one was near me. About fifty yards away there was a cottage, inside there was only an unemployed brother and his wife, and they had just one pound sterling in the house. The Lord said to him, so he told me, “Give the pound to this brother coming down the road”. He did so. He has never been out of employment since! Brother Lennox is his name.’
The assembly continued as a testimony in the area during the next 40 to 50 years with a fairly consistent number of around forty in fellowship, and by 1970 there were around thirty-five in fellowship.
In the early 1970s, an extension was added to the hall, and the original tin structure was given an outer roughcast cladding. This building served the assembly well until a new hall was built in 2003.
Saturday 5th April 2003 was a historic day for the assembly at Aughrim with the opening of the new hall to the glory of God. Over 450 members and guests packed the hall that day, with many travelling from England, Scotland, Shetland Islands, and all corners of Ireland.
We are thankful to the Lord that the assembly has made progress and the numbers have increased steadily since 1970. In the past 40 years we have had much spiritual help from gifted Bible teachers and evangelists from Scotland, England, and Ireland, helping in spiritual and numerical growth – at present there are approximately eighty in fellowship, comprising all ages, and representing 40 families.
Following in the footsteps of those godly men of bygone days, the present company of believers meeting at Aughrim seeks to maintain a good testimony in the local community by obeying, honouring, and glorifying the Lord after the New Testament pattern. As with those who founded the assembly, we continue to believe that the revealed and inspired word of God is a sufficient rule not only for faith but for practice, trusting by the Spirit of God to be led into all truth, and desiring to be known among men by no other name than Christians. The wide range of assembly activities include the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, prayer and Bible study, preaching of the gospel, Sunday School work and children’s missions, youth work, open air evangelism and tract distribution. Along with pastoral hospital visitation, and women’s fellowship there is also a keen interest in missionary work.
It is good to look back and give thanks, but there is still much to be done in our needy area. Our prayer is that the Lord will add His blessing to the work that we do to the honour and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ until He comes again.