North Field Bible Weeks

History

Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this, Ecclesiastes 7:10.

How easy it is to say such words, as we listen to older believers recall the great meetings that were held many years ago in tents, large town halls, etc.  How easy to let our hands hang down, when we hear how God used men like Frank Knox to preach to thousands in Belfast in the 1930s. Can it still be done?

 It was in mid-July 1985, during a visit to Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland to see how the open-air work on the Promenade was progressing, that Derick Bingham[1] got into conversation with a brother from the local assembly. They recalled the former days when Jim Hutchinson and Charles McEwen had preached to very large crowds in the Palace Cinema on Sunday evenings; and how Hedley Murphy had preached to congregations of up to 500 in a marquee on the outskirts of the town. Perhaps it was the conversation about the large tent, pitched each year early in the 20th century in Wright’s Demense at Ballywillwill, that stirred up the local brother, who owned a portion of land on Corrigs Road just outside the town. The gospel had been preached on this farm ninety years earlier by brethren Clarke and Meharg, and he began to wonder if this could happen again.

But there were problems. The entrance to the large meadow was a swamp; but the Lord provided for that need through a contractor who tipped in thousands of tons of stone. It was levelled out and a heavy track digger was used to excavate a little lake. At the same time Mervyn Wishart was carrying out another contract in the town, and he was able to dump sandy soil on the site, which was mixed with the peat and till from the dig. When the bulldozers and diggers had finished, the site was sown out to grass. It now comprises space for the marquee, a car park for over 500 cars, and an area for caravans and camping.

The Lord had been good; but as yet there was no tent!  The God who is with you in six problems does not desert you in the seventh, and the large marquee and seats which had been used for the Ahorey Conference were acquired at a very reasonable price. Preparations were now in place; so it was with much prayer and apprehension that the first Northfield meeting was held on Sunday 19th July 1987. God had provided all these things; but because of the sin of unbelief it was felt that a section should be partitioned off.  A couple of hundred people would look so few in a 1000-seater tent!  All praise to God alone – this was never needed.  On the opening night the tent was filled to capacity.   John Speirs preached the gospel that night and for the rest of the week.  Derick Bingham ministered the Word each morning, and Reginald Fry looked after the children’s work. Northfield had begun! [2]

In 1989 a special day for the disabled was planned. It was decided that the existing toilet facilities were inadequate for this event, so a new toilet block was built, complete with showers, wash basins, etc. These can now be used by  the many  who stay on the site in caravans and tents. The meetings have continued regularly for two weeks each July. 

The Lord has blessed each year and very many souls, both from the local area and from further afield, have been saved. We continue with ministry in the mornings and gospel in the evenings preceded by a prayer meeting in a separate tent. The children’s meetings run morning and afternoon on two adjacent caravan parks, and open-air meetings are held every evening at 10.00 p.m. on the beautiful new Promenade. A team of young people commit themselves for one or two weeks to stay in the area and distribute tracts and invitations to locals and the thousands of holidaymakers who throng to Newcastle at this time. There is a well stocked bookstall, and all the meetings are recorded.[3]             

The tent was expanded in 2005 to hold 1200 people. It is often packed to its new capacity levels and on the final night many are seated outside, when the sides are let down to enable them to see and hear clearly. There is also a relay-screen in the prayer tent. 

The committee responsible for administration of the meetings is known as the Mourne Evangelical Trust, [4] comprising brethren from the Newcastle and Ballywillwill assemblies.  They are assisted by many willing helpers from all over Northern Ireland. Visitors from the UK and further afield now return year after year.  Accommodation is available in hotels, self-catering cottages and apartments, and in local caravan and camp sites. The Mourne Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop for the Northfield meadow, and invoke appreciation and worship to our great Creator. 

Why not plan to visit us over the coming fortnight, and bring your friends to hear the life-changing message of the gospel?

The God of those former days is still the same God today. 

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[1] Derick was born and raised in Newcastle. His father was Fred Bingham, one of those early evangelists who spoke at the open air meetings on the promenade. Derick was called Home on 6th March 2010 after a year-long illness.

[2] Named after the great summer Bible Conferences begun in the 1800s on D. L. Moody’s farm in Northfield, Massachusetts for all who were interested in the study of God’s Word, the development of their own Christian lives, and the conversion of souls.

[3] Recordings are available from Joe Skelly, 200 Sicily Park, Belfast, BT10 0AQ/www.jstl.org.uk

[4] Further information available from The Mourne Evangelical Trust, Fiddlers Green, 45 Ballyloughlin Road, Newcastle, Northern Ireland, BT33 0GQ, or through the Contact on this website.

 

Testimonials

This is a great event, one not to be missed for great teaching from God's Word and powerful Gospel preaching. Phil Cousins

This is a not to be missed event for fellowship. Heather McAlister