THE congregation of Larne Methodist Circuit said farewell on Sunday evening to Rev Andrew Kingston and his wife Jean.
Rev Kingston has served as a pastor ot the Larne, Craigyhill and Carnlough churches for the past eight years, as well as being very active in serving the entire east Antrim area.
His farewell service was held in Craigyhill Methodist on Sunday evening, conducted by Mrs Elaine Barnett, pastoral assistant on the Circuit.
At the same service, farewell was also extended to Rev Jim Lemon, who has served on the Circuit for a number of years in a part-time capacity.
Speaking about his departure, Rev Kingston said he had spent “eight wonderful years” in Larne.
“We came to the town with a little trepidation. Larne was in the news a lot at that time, and for all the wrong reasons. Pipe bombs were, it seemed, an almost weekly feature.
“Then there was a battle over flags, with certain colours predominating in Seacourt and Carnlough, and another set of colours in Antiville and Glenarm. Graffiti on the A2 added to the sense of unease.
“Incrementally, and with great sensitivity and care, our council, community leaders and church leaders have guided Larne to a more inclusive place at ease with itself.
“I would like to mention a few examples of positive change that I have noted. Carnfunnock is the jewel in the crown of the borough, and it continues to improve. I love the exercise machines on the Promenade and Town Park. Walking facilities have improved. I note, in particular, the Linn Glen and the Inver River walk. The stone work in the Town Hall can be again seen in its diverse beauty of shape and colour.
“Community groups have also played their parts. The facilities in Seacourt have provided a safe space for many young people. The Craigyhill and Antiville Community Forum have done much good there, and Ledcom continues to be a force for good in East Antrim.
“The churches too have done their part. It has been great meeting with members from most denominations in the intercessory prayer for Larne, the Larne Tuesday Group, and the Minister’s Club.
“I believe that when we get to Heaven, we will see the enormous good that was done for the Larne community through praying people.
“When I came to Larne I was sceptic about ecumenical encounters, but heard that the Elim pastor, Gordon Graham, was chair of a local inter-church group. I went along to suss it out, and found a group of humble Christians who became firm friends.
“We will never know the good that has been done by Gordon, Robert Alexander, Sister Catherine, Sister Olcan and the many others who have come on board in more recent years,” said Rev Kingston.
He said he would like to express particular appreciation to “the Methodist flock” in Craigyhill, Larne and Carnlough churches.
“Together, we have worshipped, celebrated, mourned and served. We have partnered with other churches in youth work, and in mission. We have come to love each other and our neighbours and we wish all of you God’s blessing for the future.
“I will never tolerate Larne being talked down. It is wonderfully situated, with the Inver – Magheramorne escarpment to the south, the Antrim Coast Road to the north, the Garron Plateau to the west and wonderful sea views to the east. We have easy access to Scotland and England and proximity to our capital city. Shopping is good, both in the town centre and in the new supermarket, and the people are unpretentious and down-to-earth.
“There is potential for more way-marked trails in the country, but Larne is blessed with good-humoured land owners who tolerate responsible walkers.
“In short, Larne is terrific!” Rev Kingston concluded.
The new Superintendent Minister of the Larne Circuit is Rev Tommy Stevenson and the welcome service for him will be held in Larne Methodist Church tomorrow (Friday, July 6) at 7.30pm. This service will be conducted by Rev Henry Keys from Carnlough and all are welcome to attend.