At the reopening of the Newtowncunningham Presbyterian Church are members of the session: Back Row from left to right, Elder Emeritus Mrs Moira Edwards and Mrs Ruby Gibson Elders, Mr Ian Edwards, Mrs
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The closeknit community of Newtowncunningham has bid farewell to a beloved minister and his wife shortly after re-opening the 19th Presbyterian Church.
There was a real sense of Thanksgiving in the village, where Rev. Nigel Craig served for the last nine years.
He and his wife Antonia were involved in everything in the community, and most especially at the heart of the church refurbishment.
The church, which was built in 1881 at a cost of £1,252 currently serves around 70 families in the locality.
After an architectural survey revealed that the spire was leaning slightly, it was clear that, in the interest of safety, the time had come for major improvements.
The congregation vacated the church in December 2013.
Four members of the congregation - Michael Roulston, brothers Robert and Leslie Edwards, and John Roulston - formed a subcommittee to oversee the work, which included removing and rebuilding the spire.
A new heating system was installed and a new audio visual equipment was acquired.
In addition, all the original pews were restored and 50 new chairs brought in to allow for some flexibility in seating arrangements.
The original windows were also restored and a wall in the foyer was replaced with glass. To top it all off, there was a complete redecoration of the entire interior and exterior.
The main contractor for the project was George Gill of Clonmany and a number of local companies were engaged to carry out most of the work.
The church was ready to open in time for a wedding last July.
In the autumn, the official reopening was celebrated with a Service of Thanksgiving with the former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev. Dr Alastair Dunlop as the guest speaker.
All the contractors involved in the refurbishment project, former ministers, local clergy and members of other local churches joined the congregation for the evening.
The only bittersweet note was the knowledge that Rev. Craig and his wife, who had added so much to the life of the church and to the wider community, were set to leave for Belfast just a few weeks later, where Rev. Craig was to be installed as Minister of Belmont Presbyterian Church.
“Nigel had been our much loved minister for nine years and we are sorry to lose him,” a parishioner told the DD/DPP last week.