In recording details of the history of the Bessbrook Gospel Hall it is necessary to go back to the latter part of the nineteenth century. Following the rediscovery of the simple gospel truths during the 1859 revival there was a great increase in gospel activity in Bessbrook and the surrounding areas.
The Richardson family, owners of the Bessbrook Spinning Company, were members of the Religious Society of Friends and brought many well known gospel preachers to the village. Large numbers learned their need of salvation and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
David Rea, a well known evangelist, visited the village for gospel meetings in 1876 and in 1887 and many details regarding his visits are recorded in his biography, “David Rea, Evangelist – His Life and Labours”. The earliest date on record for the assembly of believers gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in Bessbrook is around the time of David Rea’s visit in 1887. The assembly first met in the home of William McCullough of 6 Charlemount Square East. The numbers increased and in due course the company moved to a barn on Mrs. Best’s farm opposite the present hall. Mrs. Best was a member of the fellowship.
Sydney Clibborn from London had a very fruitful spell of gospel meetings in the old Tabernacle building in Bessbrook, possibly between 1883 and 1887. During these meetings a number of young men and women were saved who later were received into the assembly which at that time was meeting in Mrs Best’s barn. It would appear that the present hall was built around the close of the nineteenth century, the plot of ground having been leased from the Bessbrook Spinning Company. Some of those associated with the assembly of believers at the turn of the century were: William Smith, Samuel Gourley, James Finch, David Jemphrey, the Burgess’ sisters and the Finlay and Wilgar families. The Smith, Gourley and Finch families immigrated to America in the early 1900s.
Over the years there were numerous series of gospel meetings with much blessing and many were added to the fellowship but as time passed many of the believers were called home and others moved to other districts. The assembly remained active in the spreading of the gospel with the fellowship of brethren from the Newry assembly. Sadly the assembly ceased to function as such around the early 1980s.
A prominent feature in the life of the village is the Gospel Hall Sunday School and children’s work. Over the years the believers invested much effort into teaching children the Scriptures knowing that they make wise unto salvation. An annual highlight in the lives of many children was the prize distribution meeting which for a number of years was held in the Town Hall because the Gospel Hall was too small. The children’s work continues to the present day. Currently a Children’s Meeting is held in the hall on Monday nights from September to March and in addition, series of gospel meetings are arranged periodically.
The property was renovated and refurbished in 1991 and those presently responsible for the hall acknowledge the faithfulness of God and desire to continue to be used for the proclamation of the gospel to young and old with the Lord’s blessing. Only the Lord can assess the full harvest which will result from the precious seed of the Word of God sown in the hall.
How good is the God we adore.
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend.
Whose love is as great as His power.
And knows neither measure nor end.