Rev’d Ronald David McDowell, B.Sc., B.D

Following the long-established ministry of Mr. Wallace, the congregation embraced the twenty-first century under the dynamic ministry of the Reverend Ronald David McDowell, B.Sc., B.D. Born in 1971, Mr. McDowell attended Newry Grammar School, studied mathematics at Edinburgh University, and trained for the ordained ministry at the University of Aberdeen. In both, his university degrees Mr. McDowell was awarded First Class Honours. He was licensed by the Iveagh Presbytery at Rathfriland in June 1998, was the assistant minister in Harmony Hill congregation, Lisburn and was ordained and installed into Bushmills on 11 May 2001. Ron McDowell was, among many other distinctions, a gifted musician. During his short ministry, music of a more contemporary nature was introduced to public worship and groups were established for young adults and for those seeking to know more about the Christian faith. The Sunday School met during the church service for the first time and Bushmills also had its own website, allowing members and visitors from all over the world to be informed and to be in touch. It was a time of rapid change.

During the vacancy and prior to Mr. McDowell’s arrival, the congregation undertook an extensive renovation of the Manse. The building was put in good order, completely rewired and equipped with a new central heating system. The outbuildings were renovated, a new kitchen and bathrooms provided and double-glazed windows installed. The total cost of the works amounted to almost £100,000. Not long after Ron McDowell arrived it became clear that considerable work was immediately necessary on the church building itself, which had originally been opened in 1829 and was now in a somewhat precarious condition. Numerous options were considered, including knocking down and building a new church on the site. In the end, it was agreed to retain the façade of the building facing Main Street, to re-order completely the church interior and to extend the rear wall facing east by some 17 feet, allowing a much more open space for the choir and music group. The original windows were retained, as was the pulpit which was also extended. New pews, an impressive ceiling with exposed wooden beams, underfloor heating, and modern lighting were installed. A replacement Minister’s Room and toilet facilities were also provided. State-of-the-art audiovisual equipment was purchased, including a data projector to enable the use of PowerPoint during services. A closed-circuit-television camera provided those in the new glass-fronted gallery with good visibility. All these enhancements, creating a bright and modern space whilst retaining the best features of the historic meeting house, have been favourably commented upon by visitors and members alike. The beautiful building, which cost over £650,000, was officially re-opened and dedicated to the Glory of God by the Very Rev Dr. Ken Newell in January 2006.

Raising funds for the newly refurbished church was not the only challenge facing the congregation after July 2005, when Mr. McDowell announced his decision to resign from Bushmills. His four years in the congregation, which had achieved so much in such a short time, had been dogged by ill-health and he felt that a relinquishing of the burdens of the ordained ministry would be beneficial for him.