Flower festival marks 50 years at All Saints’ Church

Esse McMurtry, Elizabeth Woods and Emmie Woods at the All Saints 50th anniversary flower festival. INLT 36-341-PR
Esse McMurtry, Elizabeth Woods and Emmie Woods at the All Saints 50th anniversary flower festival. INLT 36-341-PR

FRIENDS and members of All Saints’, Craigyhill celebrated the 50th anniversary of the church in style last weekend, with an estimated 500 visitors flocking in to see the flower festival and attend the special services.

Despite poor weather, a large congregation gathered on Friday afternoon for the Service of Dedication, which included a reunion of three former rectors – Rev Bill McNee, Rev Robert Jones and Rev Malcolm Ferry together with the serving minister, Roger Thompson.

Mrs Avril McNee, Mrs Alison Jones - originally from Millbrook - and Mrs Fiona Thompson were also in attendance, along with Elaine Barnett, the pastoral assistant at Craigyhill Methodist Church.

Afterwards the visitors enjoyed looking round the 22 stunning arrangements of flowers – each depicting the life of a different saint from Bible times and church history, while a succession of musicians, singers and choirs filled the church with harmony.

Everyone commented on the amazing creativity of the floral displays, which had been designed by a small army of volunteer arrangers under the artistic direction of Mrs Jean Robinson.

At the tea afterwards Councillor Michael Lynch congratulated the church on its positive influence in the area over the years and passed on good wishes on behalf of the Larne Borough Council.

On Saturday, the weather turned fine and by the afternoon the church was packed with visitors, delighting in the floral spectacle and enjoying the music. Most then went down into the hall to sample the tea, coffee, scones, traybakes and sandwiches laid on by the organising committee. Here they were also able to view the gloriously crafted fabrics exhibited by the Loose Threads Quilters group, as well as photos and memorabilia of the church stretching back over 50 years.

The final day of the festival opened with a Communion Service led by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Alan Harper. Other special guests included Mrs Helen Harper and the Archdeacon of Dalriada, Ven Stephen Forde, the rector of St Cedma’s. Music was provided by Victor Haslett, who has been the organist at All Saints’ for the last 47 years, with help from St Cedma’s Music Group, led by Roderick Bain.

Archbishop Harper congratulated the flower arrangers on their amazing creations and then went on to reflect on the vision of heaven as recorded in the book of Revelation, where all people are in an intimate relationship with God.

After the last session of viewing, the festival finale was a celebration service led by the Right Rev Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor, with choral music provided by Larne Concert Choir conducted by John Dooris and accompanied by Rev Noel Williamson. Special guests included CLLR Mark McKinty, the deputy mayor of Larne, together with Rev Robert Johns, who was curate-in-charge of All Saints’ when it opened in 1962, and Dean Brian Moller, the curate from 1964. #

In his sermon, Bishop Alan talked about the family reunion he had been enjoying that weekend with his grown-up children, encouraging the people of All Saints’ to give thanks for the past, celebrate the present and face the future with hope.

Roger Thompson, rector of the parish, commented: “It has been an absolutely fabulous weekend! I am so grateful to the organising committee and their helpers who have laboured tirelessly over recent months and all weekend to make this event such a success.

“Thanks too are due to Jean Robinson and her team of gifted flower arrangers, the many musicians who played, Marty McToal for lending his cutlery and Inver Nurseries for the loan of a palm tree,”