THE congregation of Cairncastle Presbyterian Church gave an emotional farewell to minister Rev. Anne Tolland on Sunday.
Rev. Tolland will be taking up a new ministry at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church, in Belfast, later this week.
“Cairncastle Presbyterian has been part of my life for over 11 years. It is a big wrench to leave,” she said.
It is not the first time that she has ministered in the city.
Previously, she had an assistant ministership at McQuiston Memorial, at Castlereagh Road for four years.
“I loved it. It was very much a city congregation.
“I was also assistant minister at First Larne for 18 months before I moved to Cairncastle.”
By contrast, Newtownbreda has a congregation of 470 families compared to 220 in Cairncastle.
“It is about twice the size of Cairncastle. The geography will be very different.
“Newtownbreda is just before the Castlereagh hills. It is not inner city.
“It won’t be too long before I am in the hills again,” she joked.
Meanwhile, she says she believes that she will encounter the same social issues.
“I am expecting to find the same things. People are people wherever they are.
“For example, people are worried about their jobs and paying their bills.
“You may think that in Belfast, people are likely to have more problems linked to the Troubles, but people are much more concerned about things like their children and putting food on the table.”
Rev. Tolland also spoke of the importance of building inter-church relationships.
“Inter-church relationships are the way forward.
“We should be working together as much as possible while keeping our individual identity.
“We should also try to encourage schools to work together, to share accommodation and resources,” she added.
Rev. Tolland was part of a clergy group representing the four main denominations in the Ballygally area.
“Newtownbreda is very involved with different clergy groups.
“In Ballygally, this has been lovely and I hope to continue that where I am going.”
One of its roles locally was the annual dawn service at Ballygally slipway on Easter Sunday morning.
She indicated that there is a similar service in the Castlereagh Hills but at a much earlier hour.
She said that the Ballygally group “really came together” when residents were trying to secure funding for a new community hall.
She went on to say she believes that a submission from the clergy group may have played a role in securing grant aid for construction of the premises.
“Ballygally community is really special. I will always hold Cairncastle in my heart.
“I am looking forward to new challenges and looking forward to getting to know new people and hearing more stories and people’s histories.
“I am also looking forward to getting to know the clergy in the area.
“With a bigger church, there will be slightly more resources and it will be nice to be able to do more things.”
Rev. Tolland said that she did not take the decision to move “lightly”.
“I believe it is very much God’s call and when God calls, you really have to answer.” she stressed.
After Sunday’s service, on behalf of the members of Cairncastle, Rev. Tolland was presented with various gifts, including a Paul Holmes painting of Ballygally by clerk of session Mr Cowper Lynas and two of the first children she baptised in Cairncastle, Andrew Lowe and Hannah McCollum.
She will be joined by some of her former congregation members for her installation at Newtownbreda, on Friday night, as well as family members, friends and members of her home congregation, First Donegore, where her father James Tolland had been minister.
The service will be conducted by Rev. Brian Hughes, moderator of South Belfast Presbytery.