In 1833, Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church was established in a schoolroom belonging to the local mill. William Campbell, a licentiate from Scotland was called to be the first minister and ordained on 12 November 1833. He said, 'At the period of my first settlement here the congregation was in the earliest infancy of its being, few were its members, and feeble was its condition. The place of our assembly was a small schoolroom, and this, it is true, was found sufficient to accommodate all in the neighbourhood who were disposed to worship with us. On the following summer, however, it was deemed necessary to enlarge our temporary place of meeting by a tent, which gave to the whole an appearance somewhat resembling the Tabernacle in the wilderness.'
Progress has been the order of the day ever since; the foundation stone of the new church was laid on 28 September 1833 on a site gifted by Mr Hugh Lyons and the church was opened for public worship by the Rev Dr Cooke on 10 August 1834. Rev Dr Cooke's fame is symbolised by his statue, known as the 'Black Man', in Belfast city centre beside Inst.
Rev William Campbell's ministry lasted 10 years, in which time the congregation expanded greatly. His work amongst the young resulted in the building of a school in the grounds, which was opened in 1839 and was the centre for education for exactly 100 years. Rev Campbell.s ministry ended in 1844 with his call to the Free Church in Alexandria in Scotland.
12 more ministries have come and gone since then, amongst them 2 ministers, Rev R.J. Lynd and Rev R. K. Hanna, who became Moderators of the General Assembly. Also worthy of note - during the ministry of Rev William Rogers, the Clerical Prayer Union Meetings which he held in the Manse were brought to the attention of the General Assembly and resulted in the formation of the Jungle Tribes Mission in India, and subsequently the Qua Iboe Mission in West Africa.
All of that relates to the 19th Century. The writer of this brief history has had the privilege of knowing the last 7 ministers; each one has made a unique and distinctive mark in the growth of the congregation during the 20th and into the 21st Century. Several of our members have been ordained to the ministry, including Rev Jack Withers, who became minister of Fisherwick and was elected Moderator of the General Assembly.
Since the Millennium Whiteabbey Church has formed a partnership in mission with Dun Laoghaire Presbyterian Church and is jointly involved in the Mulanje Project in Malawi.
For a more comprehensive history, the book Times and Tides 1833 - 1995 is available and shows that the Church has come a long way since it was a Tabernacle in the wilderness.