All Souls' has a long and honourable tradition through Second Belfast (founded in 1708) and York Street (founded 1833) congregations, which joined together in 1941 to form All Souls' after York Street church was destroyed during the Blitz in WWII.  
Its liberal Christian tradition is a very distinctive one reflecting at different times, a strong commitment to social change, to education, to culture and the arts and to open intellectual freedom and inquiry.  
As part of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, it has maintained its role as a church with no creed, which is open to everyone, without preconditions.  
The hope has always been that given the space and freedom to explore our own beliefs and ideas we will find greater meaning in our lives, be able to deepen our own faith and be able to commit ourselves more to the service of others.

Non-Subscribers do not have to accept the "Westminster Confession of Faith" before becoming "ordained" in any role within the Church, such as Minister or Elder.

Ministers of Second Congregation and All Souls, Belfast:  source is the illuminating book by Roger Courtney: “Second Congregation Belfast 1709- 2008”

 The charismatic Rev. Dr A. L. Agnew, who had been Minister of York St (founded 1840) before taking over The Second Belfast Congregation (founded 1709),  was the most important Minister of  our Congregation in the 20th C.  Although legally the two Congregations only came together as All Souls’ in 2001.

Dr Agnew was only one of many remarkable Ministers in the history of the congregation.

The Rev. Gilbert Kennedy, Minister 1743- 1764, was a strong supporter of religious liberty:

What is life without liberty?  Truth will never flourish in the world till every degree of spiritual tyranny and domination over conscience be set aside.

The Rev. James Bryson, Minister 1764- 1773, had been educated by Irish scholars and was a key individual in the revival of the Irish language: preserving and collecting Irish manuscripts and music.  He was also a keen supporter of the Belfast Society of Promotion of Knowledge: now the Linen Hall Library.

The Rev. William Hamilton Drummond, 1800- 1815, from Larne, had survived the 1798 rebellion and became Minister at the age of 22.  He led the Congregation in supporting and founding  the Belfast Academical Institution: a non-sectarian interdenominational school and a training college for students of the ministry.  Drummond was a strong believer in the place of reason in religion and was opposed to the concept of the Trinity.  Students and staff from the Belfast Academical Institution were to be at the centre of the controversy over “subscription”,  which convulsed the Presbyterian Church in the early 19th Century.

The Rev. William McEwen, 1813- 1828, did,  however,  subscribe to the Westminster Confession.  As well as being Minister he was an editor of the Northern Whig newspaper and a part time teacher at Belfast Academical Institution.  He was accused by The Rev. Henry Cooke of holding unorthodox theological views: it had only been in 1817 that it stopped being illegal to impugn the doctrine of the Trinity. 

During the Ministry of the Rev. John Porter 1829 – 1874, the Second Congregation was involved in the Remonstrant  controversy within  the Presbyterian Church  in 1830,  over the prescription  to subscribe to the Westminster Confession.  During Porter’s ministry the Second Congregation petitioned Parliament to end discrimination in the marriage laws, which led to Presbyterian marriages being recognised. 

The Rev. James  Street 1871- 1890, was an Englishman and an Unitarian, with controversial congregational views:  he believed that a minister should be installed by the congregation, not by the Presbytery.  The Second Congregation withdrew from the Presbytery of Antrim for a while.

The Rev. Edgar Fripp, 1891- 1900 and 1921- 1924, another Englishman, was fervently anti- sectarian but is best remembered for inspiring the move from Rosemary St to the present building in Elmwood Avenue. It was decided to call the new church “All Souls”: in Ezekiel it says in God’s name “All Souls are mine”.

In the 21st Century the Rev. Chris Hudson 2006 to the present day, leads the Congregation with a unique vision and energy.  He challenges us all to embrace liberal thinking, diversity, tolerance, and social justice: just as our Ministers have done for three centuries.  The open theology of Rev. Chris, gives us all an opportunity come to our own view of God

The Rev. Chris has one quality which resonates through the history of the Congregation and was a feature of all the fine men who preceded him as Minister (sorry no women ministers yet!): that of bravery.  Chris confronts prejudice, discrimination, complacency and injustice: at times I am sure at risk and strain to himself.  Chris has also, in leading and developing the Lay Preacher’s course, laid the foundation for members of our congregation to become inspiring preachers and Ministers in years to come.


The Rev. Chris and All Souls features prominently in the media highlighting  issues on gay marriage and LGBT rights: giving a progressive lead to other Churches, politicians and society.

Presbyterianism, The Remonstrant Synod of Ulster and Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland: a timeline by totally confused Niall

 1613 Ballycarry: Rev. Edward Bryce became minister of the “first Presbyterian Church in Ireland”: influenced by the Kirk in Scotland established by the Calvinist, John Knox.  The Episcopalian, Established Church of Ireland, for a few decades did not interfere, but later ejected The Rev. Bryce from the Church.

1642 During the Civil War Scots army chaplains in Carrickfergus, formed the first Presbytery in Ireland which became the Synod of Ulster: The Presbytery and its congregations rejected rule by the King and Bishops

1645 First Presbyterian Church, Belfast was founded in Rosemary Street

1708 Rev. James Kirkpatrick became Minister of the new 2nd Congregation in Rosemary St, Belfast. Presbyterians were “dissenters” from the Established Church, but in 18th C, arguments about freedom of conscience to interpret the Scriptures, the nature of Christ and subscription to the Westminster Confession led to splits within Presbyterianism.  Calvinists argued with “New Light” and Trinitarians with Unitarians.  

1725/6  Presbytery of Antrim      Ministers and their Congregations, who were non-subscribers to the Westminster Confession, (including 2nd Church Belfast) were put in the Presbytery of Antrim, and co-existed with the General Synod of Ulster. 

1830       Remonstrant Synod of Ulster    The Belfast Academical Institution (Inst) became a focus of controversy in the education of new ministers.  17 non-subscribing Ministers and Congregations led by Montgomery, left the General Synod of Ulster in the second Non-Subscription, or “Arian” controversy and formed “The Remonstrant Synod of Ulster”: 4 Presbyteries formed (Armagh, Bangor, Strabane and Templepatrick, including Ballycarry). 2nd Church was still a member of the Presbytery of Antrim

1835     “The Presbytery of Antrim, The Remonstrant Synod of Ulster and the Synod of Munster came together to found the Association of Irish Non-Subscribing Presbyterians for mutual support and cooperation”

1840 York St co-founded by 2nd Belfast, Presbytery of Antrim and the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster

1910       Non- Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (NSPCI) was established from the Congregations of the Association, except for the Congregations of the Synod of Munster

1935       Synod of Munster entered the united Church creating the modern NSPCI

1941       Association dissolved

1957       Presbytery of Templepatrick united with Antrim. The Presbytery of Antrim formally joined the Remonstrant Synod

2001 Second Church, Belfast and York St, Belfast, became All Souls’

2012/3 All Souls, left the Presbytery of Antrim because of concerns over its assets being at risk and joined the Synod of Munster which acts as a Presbytery within the NSPCI.

2017 The NSPCI consists of The Remonstrant Synod of Ulster, The Presbyteries of Antrim and Bangor, and the Synod of Munster of which All Souls’ is a Congregation

Sources: The Constitution and Code, NSPCI

Second Congregation,  Dr Roger Courtney

A Short History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Prof. J. M. Barkley

Dr Henry Montgomery and the formation of the Remonstrant Synod, Rev. Linda Ballard

I have been asking myself as  Honorary Secretary: who are we at All Souls?  by Niall D. Haldane

Past, present and punctuation marks!

To be or not to be an apostrophe ‘
Better perhaps quotation marks “ “
I think that neither should be
Because there is as much proof for quarks!

Who are we is carved on our porch: “All Souls are mine”, Ezekiel, 18 and in gold letters behind you: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty”, 2 Corinthians

Past: 1708 2nd Presbyterian Church, Belfast, founded in Rosemary St
1840 York St Congregation founded with the support of 2nd Church
1896 2nd Congregation moved to Elmwood Ave: renamed All Souls
1941 York St destroyed in the “blitz”: the Congregation came to All Souls
2001 All Souls and York St, Belfast, came together as one Congregation
We owe a huge debt to our forebears in both Congregations and in the 20th C to the socialist and Unitarian, Dr Arthur Agnew: a veteran of Royal flying Corp in WW1, who before, during and after the 2nd World War stimulated and united our Congregations. All Souls has for many years been linked with “The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Churches” and is still commonly referred to as “The Unitarian Church on Elmwood Avenue”!

Present: The unique leadership of the Rev. Chris Hudson has reignited a spark of liberal religious open mindedness. He inspires worship, community spirit, acceptance of all, fun and work in All Souls. All Souls is a proud Member of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. A lack-lustre name for a denomination which remonstrates against impositions and encourages the right to develop a personal faith. Our Congregation does not “subscribe” to the “Westminster Confession of Faith”. All Souls is a Congregation in The Synod of Munster, which acts as a Presbytery of the NSPCI. Our Congregation’s governance is entrusted to The Minister, The Session and The Committee. The Congregation, at the Annual Business Meeting, approves accounts, receives reports and elects Committee Members. I hope to see you all on 25th March!

Punctuation marks: Have you counted up the ‘ and “ ” in the text above and does it matter? I have not put an ‘ after All Souls, which would be the genitive use of the apostrophe. The Church of All Souls can be written All Souls’ Church (both are correct)! In speech it is impossible to determine the punctuation!
If the term All Souls in a text is freestanding, it could be argued that it should be “AllSouls”! I have now added a series of !s and ?s to confuse one and all!
It all sounds the same and the meaning is clear: so should we drop the ’ “ “ ! ?
What do you think?