Moravians in Ireland
John Cennick, a Moravian Minister from England, was invited to Ireland on an evangelical mission. He arrived in Dublin in 1746 where thousands of people frequently assembled to hear him preach. He opened the first Moravian church in Dublin in 1747. He was also invited to preach in Ballymena, but was so severely opposed that he nearly lost his life on a number of occasions. Over the next few years Cennick founded religious centres in all of the Ulster counties except for Londonderry. Eventually from these Societies, Churches were formed at Lower Ballinderry, Kilwarlin, Gracefield near Magherafelt, Glenavy, Ballymena, Gloonen, Grogan, Doagh, Gracehill near Ballymena and in Co. Armagh, three chapels were built. N.B. There are also two churches now in Belfast, University Street and Cliftonville, with only the congregations in Belfast, Ballinderry, Kilwarlin and Gracehill still surviving in Northern Ireland today.
Education was an important part of Moravian life and in 1798 a girls' school was built at Gracehill and then in 1805 a boys' school followed. The schools quickly became recognised as some of the best in Ireland. "In Ireland the schools at Gracehill were famous. The pupils came from the highest ranks of society. At one time it used to be said that the mere fact that a boy or girl had been educated at Gracehill was a passport to the best society." Hutton, J.E. (1905).