Presbyterian minister dies after long illness

Rev Dr Derek Poots INLM0413-004
Rev Dr Derek Poots INLM0413-004

LURGAN man and former Deputy Clerk of the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly Rev Dr Derek Poots has died after a long illness.

In paying tribute Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton described Dr Poots (75) as a “deeply committed and faithful servant of Christ and his Church who was an enthusiastic man of ideas with a keen sense of humour who could speak his mind when necessary but was extremely capable, loyal, caring and compassionate in fulfilling every aspect of his calling to the Christian ministry.”

As well as his ministry within the Presbyterian Church Dr Poots was also well known in the educational sector where he served both as a member and for many years Chairman of the Northern Eastern Education and Library Board and on various educational advisory panels.

Robert Fredrick (Derek) Shane Poots was born in Lurgan on 31 January 1937 and grew up in connection with First Lurgan Presbyterian Church. He was educated at Carrick Primary School, Lurgan College and graduated with a BA from Queen’s University, Belfast.

He later obtained BD and MA degrees from Trinity College, Dublin and completed his ministerial training at the Presbyterian College in Belfast.

After assistantships in West Church, Ballymena and Trinity, Bangor he was installed as minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney in 1964. His gifts as a preacher and worship leader along with his passion for evangelism was reflected in an imaginative and effective ministry which drew people to Christ and built up a strong and enthusiastic congregation.

From the early years of his ministry he served on the North Eastern Education and Library Board demonstrating considerable personal courage at a time of abstentionism by political representatives and acted for a lengthy period as its chairman. He was later awarded an OBE for his services to education.

In 1990 the General Assembly appointed Dr Poots as its Deputy Clerk and Assistant General Secretary where his experience of educational issues made him eminently qualified as one of the Deputy Clerk’s main responsibilities is as secretary of the Church’s Board of Education.

His knowledge of Church law and procedure alongside his practical common sense and ability to handle a vast number of intricate duties made him an invaluable and competent deputy to the Clerk and many ministers and church members have reason to be grateful for the wise council he was able to give them.

His love of preaching and zeal for mission meant Dr Poots was not confined to his desk at Church House and during his time as Deputy Clerk he travelled literally thousands of miles, not only to conduct services north, south, east and west but to bring hope and encouragement tosmall and scattered congregations throughout Ireland and to their ministers.

Retiring in 2002 Dr Poots’ ministry as a faithful servant of Christ and his Church was recognised with the award of an honourary Doctor of Divinity degree by Union College.

Dr Poots is survived by his wife Mildred, son David and daughters Catherine, Heather and Nichola.

Derek was buried in the graveyard of Bushvale Presbyterian Church, near Ballymoney, on Saturday morning (January 19), after a private family service.

Later that day at 2pm, also in Bushvale, there was a service of thanksgiving for his life which was attended by several hundred people including family, friends and colleagues both from the Presbyterian Church and education circles in which he had been very active.

The service was conducted by the minister of Bushvale, Rev Kenneth Crowe and the tribute to Dr Poots was given by former Moderator and life long friend of Derek, Very Rev Dr Godfrey Brown. Present Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Roy Patton led the congregational prayers. Since leaving the congregational ministry on his appointment as deputy Clerk in 1990 Derek has been a member of Bushvale.