Loughaghery Presbyterian Church
As far back as 1802 it was decided to publish the accounts yearly although there is no copy of any such report available. The oldest I have to hand is 1881.Prior to 1929, when our Freewill Weekly Offering was first introduced, members paid Stipend, Sustentation and Pew Rents as well as Precentor’s fees. These monies were collected by house to house collection.The Stipend was paid directly to the minister as his salary, Sustentation was what is now our Central Ministers’ Fund, and Pew Rents as well as the weekly collections went to the general running of the Church.
How the Sustentation Fund came around is quite interesting. As far back as 1672 in Charles II’s reign a subvention by the State – Regium Donum or Royal Bounty was granted to be divided over all the clergymen. £600 was the grant, but the Seceders weren’t included at first, for why we don’t know. In 1690 William III on his way from Carrickfergus via Belfast to the Boyne, stopped at Hillsborough, where he was given an address of welcome by the Presbyterians. He immediately doubled the Grant to £1200. (good old William) and by this time Seceders were included in this Bounty.
Congregations were divided into three classes according to size and the grant proportioned out accordingly. This continued until 1869 when by the Irish Church Act it was stopped. Ministers though, could draw it for life or invest it in a trust. After much deliberation it was decided that each Minister would invest his share in a central fund, which remains as an endowment for all time.
The General Assembly, formed in 1840, accessed each congregation to pay into this fund according to number of families in 1869 and called it the Sustentation Fund. In the olden days many ministers could not have existed had it not been for this fund. It seems that in our congregation there was great difficulty in making ends meet and that money was often scarce. Minutes of 1878 reads:
‘That as the Congregation has been behind in its payments of the Sustentation Fund, consequently, Mr. Moorhead has received nothing from the fund for the last quarter. It is resolved that one or two men from each townland, so chosen from their knowledge of the circumstances of the people should mention a sum that every stipend payer should give that each may know what is expected of him.”
At a meeting of Session and Committee held on 27th May 1867 the following resolutions were unanimously agreed to:
‘That taking into account the number of families connected with this congregation and the abundant means with which the Lord has blessed them, we are of the opinion that the sum contributed for the support of the Gospel Ministry is far too small and much below what it is their duty to contribute. That this meeting is of the opinion that this congregation is able without burden being placed on any seat-holder to contribute a stipend of £100 yearly, and that we hereby resolve to make an effort at once to have it increased to that amount.” This target was not reached for many years.
“That in order that these resolutions be carried into effect at once a deputation be appointed to visit each district to urge upon them the duty of being more liberal.”
Then there was ‘Chicken Money’. Each family was asked to set a broody hen on a clutch of eggs to hatch. (we were then an almost entirely farming community). The proceeds from the sale of these chickens was handed over for whatever project was on hand at that time. This was each one’s special effort – an original idea.
As previously mentioned the Weekly Freewill Offering was first used on 1 st August 1929. Mr. E. Beatty and Mr. R. Bateson (then Clerk of Session) were in charge of this scheme. Mr. E. Beatty had been treasurer from 1923 until the end of his life. He was preceeded by Mr. J. McBride Lougherne, and succeeded by our present treasurers. The Freewill Scheme was so successful that after a year Mr. Moorhead got a rise of £20 in stipend bringing his total to £85. The target of £ 100 set in 1867 had not yet been reached.
At a committee meeting following the extensive renovations of 1895 the re-letting of the pews was considered, and it was thought this was the proper time to increase the rents. It was resolved that the front seats be let at thirty shillings yearly, seats in the middle of the Church at twenty-four shillings and the back ones twenty shillings, the small seats not less than twelve shillings and the front gallery the same as the ground floor back. In the report of 1881 contributions were understandably smaller. There was only a few who paid £1 each to stipend and sustentation, grading down to as low as two shillings to each fund.
Mr. Moorhead got £63.0.2d stipend that year, little wonder he needed help from the Sustentation Fund, into which we paid £44.14.0d. Missionary envelopes were also given out as another fund.