Irish Presbyterianism had its origins in Scottish migrations to Ulster in the early seventeenth century with the first presbytery formed in 1642. In Presbyterian Christian worship, the preaching of the Word of God is central, in a setting of prayer and praise. There is no fixed liturgy. Prayers and hymns, psalms and paraphrases, Scripture reading and sermon are adapted to the needs of the occasion. Ministers and members must share in the organising and running of every aspect of the Church’s work.
The ancient seat of the Lynch family had been granted to Henry Jones, Bishop of Meath, for his services provided as Scoutmaster General to Cromwell’s Army. In 1661 Bishop Jones sold the lands to Sir Hercules Langford. The name was changed from Lynch’s Knock to Summerhill. Sir Hercules was a Presbyterian and held the position of Sherriff of Co. Antrim in 1661.
Sir Hercules Langford died in 1683 leaving a son, Arthur, and a daughter, Mary. Arthur supported a meeting house and a Presbyterian Minister in Summerhill. In 1716 Arthur died without an heir and the estate went to his sister Mary who had married Sir John Rowley in 1671. Hercules Rowley (Langford), the builder of Summerhill was described as a ‘rich Presbyterian’, hardly intended as a compliment. Dean Swift, rector of nearby Laracor, was displeased that Lord Langford erected a new church for the Presbyterian community and nailed up the windows of the building. While at Laracor Swift seems to come to some compromise with the Presbyterian members of the community as he writes to Stella about his “old Presbyterian housekeeper.” There is a letter of Swift, to Sir Arthur Langford, rebuking him for allowing a [Presbyterian] conventicle to be built on his property, and threatening to take measures to shut it up.’.
In 1683 Edward Synge, rector of Summerhill, reported that poor attendance at catechesis and evening prayer but attendance vastly improved when a sermon was introduced.
Wood, Robert (1716/17–1771), traveller and classical scholar, was probably born in the manse at Summerhill, co. Meath, where his father, Alexander James Wood (1683–1747), who came from Dunmurry, co. Antrim, was the Presbyterian minister. Few details are known of Wood’s early life and education. The first congregation in Meath was established at Summerhill by the local landlord, Lord Langford.
The earliest known minister at Summerhill was Rev. Alexander Wood who served for thirty-seven years until his death in 1747. He is buried in Agher churchyard. Here is interred the body of Alexander Wood M A 37 years Pastor of the Church of Protestant Dessenters at Summerhill. A man of approved integrity, a judicious and useful preacher, his conversation which happily varied the profitable and pleasant was Universally acceptable. He died Feb. 8. 1747 in his 64 year. Here are likewise interred the bodies of Hercules who died July 25.1729 in his second year and of Anne who died May 26. 1732 in her second year children of Mr. Wood.
In 1834 there were 672 were Presbyterians in the diocese of Meath with churches in Enniskeen, Laracor, and Mullingar.
In 1837 Rev. George Armstrong served as a minister in Summerhill. In 1836 19 Presbyterians met at the church.
Samuel Craig was a probationer from 1843 and ordained (4 February 1845) in Summerhill, Co. Meath, a tiny presbyterian congregation with only twenty communicants in 1849. Craig established a well-attended school for all denominations, but it was closed down by opponents. Though Meath was regarded as prosperous, the great famine of the 1840s badly affected the area, and in 1846 Craig became secretary of the famine relief committee in his neighbourhood. In the next twelve months he was solely responsible for all arrangements for distributing stirabout for about a thousand people daily, employing clerks, carters, and labourers. When the cholera epidemic broke out (1847), Craig set up a temporary fever hospital for sixty sufferers in outbuildings in the farmyard of a local nobleman; the dispensary doctor was too frail to attend the patients, so Craig examined them on his behalf, helped nurse them, comforted the dying, issued death certificates, and procured coffins.
Craig and two other ministers took legal action against the ministers of the (presbyterian) synod of Munster who were responsible for administering the widows’ fund; the case was heard before the lord chancellor of Ireland in January 1846, and led to an agreed settlement whereby the assets of the funds were divided between the two bodies, the presbytery of Munster and the synod of Munster. From 1856 to 1898 Craig was clerk of the Munster presbytery; he resigned his congregation in 1889, and died 21 August 1901. He married first a Miss Higgins, granddaughter of a previous minister of Summerhill; they had at least two daughters. His second wife’s Christian name was Lavinia.
During the Famine Minister Samuel Craig acted as secretary for the relief committee which was charged with feeding a thousand starving people on a daily basis. Craig still minister in 1857. By 1849 there were fourteen families and 20 communicants at Summerhill and as these numbers were maintained until the 1870s there was an attempt to establish a school. However by 1901 the community had fallen to six families and ten communicants and a decision was made to amalgamate with Lucan.