The parish of St Catherine’s at Aldergrove couldn’t have chosen a better hymn than In Christ Alone to commemorate Canon Sam McComb’s 80th birthday at a Sunday morning service.
For not only is this one of Canon McComb’s favourites, but it was written by a Lisburn man Keith Getty who was born not far from Christ Church where Sam was rector for many years and is still remembered with affection.
And when Keith whose base is now Nashville from where he sets out with his singer wife Kristyn from Glengormley on pilgrimages to packed rallies all over America, heard about the birthday he immediately despatched copies of the words and music to St Catherine’s organist Peggy Farr so just in case they weren’t readily available.
Canon McComb has been senior clergyman in St Catherine’s for several years, presently serving with the current rector the Rev William Orr.
As the words and melody of In Christ Alone rang out at the service parishioners remembered that this is the hymn which Presbyterians in America are proposing to drop from their new hymn book because the Yanks don’t like a line in the lyrics which Keith and his co-writer Stuart Townsend refuse to change.
The birthday singing of In Christ Alone came as a pleasant surprise for Sam and his wife Madge after he preached a sermon in which he did mention getting older but feeling younger.
After the service tea and buns were served up along with a birthday cake in the parish hall and a presentation was made to the veteran preacher by rector’s church warden Gwynn Rainey on behalf of parishioners in St Catherine’s and sister church Gartree on the Lough Neagh shore where he is also senior minister.
“We pray that in spite of his age Canon McComb doesn’t entertain any thoughts of retirement for years,” says Gwynn. “His traditional style of conducting a service is a dying art form.”
Later Madge and son David and daughters Pamela and Jacqueline took Canon McComb off to the Dunadry Hotel at Templepatrick for dinner.