The parishioners of Dungiven had one eye on the past and another eye on the future as they gathered in their local Church Hall on Saturday afternoon. They were there to celebrate the launch of a new book about their parish – spanning more than 400 years of its history – and to witness the burial of a time capsule which won’t be opened for another 100 years.
The book, ‘A History of Dungiven Church of Ireland Parish and Church’, was written by the Secretary of the Vestry, Alan Keys, who told those present it had taken around a year and a half to complete. “Hopefully,” he said, “it is a record that will stand the test of time”. Mr Keys said some parish records had been lost in the Four Courts fire in Dublin, in 1922, so he had had to rely on other sources on occasions.
The history dates back to the plantation period and includes a chapter on the old priory which preceded the current church, now celebrating its 200th anniversary. Mr Keys revealed that while researching the project, he had been unable to find an actual date for the opening of the church. “Some books say 1817; some even say 1816 because that’s the date on the stone of the tower; the Board of First Fruits has it listed as 1818, but the Vestry minutes would seem to suggest it’s 1817. The 175th anniversary dated back to 1817, as well, so that’s the date we’ve gone for.”
Mr Keys said he had been surprised by some of the things he had discovered during his research. “You think you’re a small parish and fairly isolated in rural Ireland but in a lot of things at that time Dungiven was nearly at the centre of things. There were petitions to parliament and to the King, it was caught up in other issues that were surrounding the plantation at the time”. One Dungiven minister, Rev Charles Vaughan, had “agitated” over the issue of tithes, raising the matter with King Charles I a decade before his execution.
Some of the parish’s most precious artefacts from its long history were on display in the church hall on Saturday afternoon. They include a number of communion chalices presented by ‘the Worshipfull Company of Skinners, London’ in 1679.
The current Rector of Dungiven, Rev Mark Loney, began Satutrday afternoon’s proceedings with a reading from Psalm 90, which he said, dealt with God’s presence with us through the generations. He told the parishioners that the God they worshipped was the same God as their ancestors had worshipped. Drawing attention to old photographs displayed around the Hall, he said they worshipped the same God as the people in those photos.
“We’re looking at history and we’re making history today,” Rev Loney said, referring to the time capsule, “because the children of the Sunday School and others who have contributed to it are making history for somebody else to look at. So, we’re playing our part in God’s big story, looking at the past and preserving some of today for the future.”
After the book launch, the parishioners – young and old – signed the time capsule before carrying it the short distance to the churchyard where a hole had been dug. The capsule was buried there and will hopefully remain covered and unopened for a future generation to unearth in 100 years’ time.