The history of Lissara Presbyterian
Lissara Presbyterian was originally a Secession Church, formed in 1770 at Ballydugan, near Downpatrick, where the congregation met in a large room at the Mill.
The accommodation soon proved inadequate and an unsuccessful effort was made to obtain a site for a Church building at Glasswater. The congregation eventually obtained a site near the river in the townland of Lissara (now occupied by St. Josephs R.C. Primary). The Church (or Meeting House) was 60 feet by 25 feet (the some length but 5 feet narrower thon the present Lissara Church Hall). The large White Pulpit, Bible and Communion Vessels were brought from Ballydugan to Lissara. The new Church cost £150 to build, the money being raised by Mr. Thomas Newel of Barneymahery.
Lissara was not financially strong enough to support a Minister on its own and was united with the Secession Church in Ballynahinch, formerly 2nd Ballynahinch, now Edengrove.
The Minister of the United Congregation in 1774 was Rev. Thomas Dobbin Fryer, who became the first Minister of Lissara. The first Elders were Robert Harper, James McEwen, Thomas Newell and Hugh Stewart (Clerk). Mr. Fryer died in 1775.
The Second Minister was Rev. John Sturgeon (Emyvale) Ordained July 1776. He died in 1792 and was interred in the Church.
Rev. John Reid was ordained in 1793. He was called to Drumbanagher and died in 1800.
Interior of Lissara Presbyterian Church, circa 1967
Rev. Alexander Denham was ordained in 1801 and emigrated to America in 1804.
A vacancy of 4 years occurred after which in 1808 Rev. Joseph Lowry, M.A. became Minister. He was Clerk of Presbytery and lived at Rademon where he conducted a classical Greek School.
In 1840 the Union took place, Presbyterians and Seceeders meeting to form the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Mr. Lowry died in 1858 and was buried in Kilmore. The next Minister was Rev. J. G. Thompson, 1858 - 1887, to whom a memorial was erected at the front of the present Church. It was during Mr. Thompson's Ministry that the old Manse (Kilmore Road) and the present Church were built, the former at a cost of £332 10s.
The Foundation Stone of the present Church was laid on 26 August 1865 by James Sherman Crawford, Esq., J.P. on a site in Crossgar Square donated by James Cleland, Esq., J.P., (Tobar Mhuire). Among those taking part were Rev. Ringland Fisher (Raffrey), Rev. Moses Black (Kilmore), Rev. A. McCleery (Killyleagh), Rev. William Whyte (Downpatrick) and the Moderator of Presbytery, Rev. W. J. Patton (Dromara).
The new Church cost less than £1500 and was opened for Public Worship on 14 April 1867. The preacher was Rev. Samuel M. Dill, D,D., Professor of Theology, Magee College, Londonderry.
Mr. Thompson died in 1887 and a Memorial to his life and work stands at the front of the Church.
Rev. John Johnston (left) was the Seventh Minister of Lissara. He was installed in March 1888 and after a long and faithful ministry retired from active duties in 1923. He died in 1935. A stained glass Window to his memory was provided for by Mrs. Johnston, who died before it was erected and it was dedicated to the memory of both.
In December 1923 Rev. William McClure, B.A., (right) was installed. He had been ordained in Carrowdore in 1908. During Mr. McClure's Ministry and on his initiative the present Church Hall was built and has been a great asset to the Congregation for Sunday School and Youth Organization work. This hall was opened by the Duchess of Abercorn on 29th November 1932. Mr. McClure retired in 1950 and died in 1954. A Memorial to Mr. McClure (The William McClure Memorial Room) was opened by his widow (Mrs. MWD McClure), daughter of Rev. John Davidson, M.A., D.D., Moderator of the General Assembly, 1907.
The Eighth Minister, Rev. Samuel Finlay, M.A., (left) ordained in 1st Stewartstown on 10 September, 1946, was installed as Minister of Lissara on 26th April, 1951. He came at a critical time in the life of the Church and in the nine years of his ministry spread a spirit of friendship that had far reaching results. Mr. Finlay accepted a call from Crumlin Road Presbyterian Church, Belfast, in June 1960, but died suddenly on 12 July 1960. Lissara congregation appreciated that in accepting the Call he gave due consideration to the future benefits of his young family. He was beloved by all and deeply mourned by everyone.
Rev. Maurice Ryan, B.A., (right) formerly Assistant in Malone Presbyterian Church, Belfast, was ordained as Minister of Lissara on 17 November 1960. Mr. Ryan's interest in and appeal to the young people of the congregation was outstanding. It was with great regret the congregation received his resignation in February 1962.
Rev. SGM. Logue, B.A., (left) was ordained in Home Mission Charge of Waterford in February 1950. He was installed in Castlederg in August, 1953 and later in the Rays, Co. Donegal, April 1957. He was called to Lissara and installed as Minister on 20 September 1962. Mr. Logue is Tenth Minister since the congregation was formed in 1774 and proved himself a worthy successor to his predecessors.
Rev SA (Uel) Mathews, B.A., B.D., (right) was ordained as an Assistant Minister in Larne in 1969. He was installed in Lissara in 1973 and was subsequently called to Banside Presbyterian Church where he was installed on 28 June 1979. On 12 May 2006 he was awarded a D.D. by the Presbyterian Theological Faculty, Ireland. He is presently the Secretary of Union Commission within The Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
Rev S (Uel) Armstrong, B.Sc., B.D., was ordained as an Assistant Minister in Abbey Church, Monkstown and was installed in Lissara on 29 February 1980. During his time as teaching elder and Minister a considerable renovation programme was undertaken and completed in 1985 and in 1992 and 2002 he oversaw the ordination and installation of many of the present elders within the church. It was with regret that the Kirk Session received his resignation due to ill health.
Rev R.I. (Ian) Abraham B.A., B.D. was installed in December 2004. Having been brought up in First Portadown congregation, Ian entered Union College in 1992 to train for the Ministry. He served as an Assistant Minister in Mourne, Kilkeel, for 4 years from 19995 to 1999. In April 1999 Ian was ordained as the minister of Aughentaine and Cavanaleck congregations and served there until coming to Lissara.