Northern Ireland news

Protestant church reaching out to neighbours across the peace line

Brian Stewart and Sam Neeson singing at the peace line separating the Falls from the Shankill Road in west Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill
Gareth McKeown

A Protestant church on the peace line between Belfast's Falls and Shankill Roads is reaching out to its Catholic neighbours through worship.

New Life City Church last week held an outdoor communion for the first time and will hold another morning service tomorrow.

Members have also given their time in afternoons to play Christian music beside the security gates, normally used to keep Protestants and Catholics apart, with reports of German and Dutch visitors joining in.

Located on Northumberland Street, the church straddes either side of the 18ft peace wall in the west of the city and in recent weeks members have been joined by many people from the Catholic faith.

Brian Stewart, a parishioner from the Shankill Road, is one of those who has been reaching out by singing contemporary Christian music on weekday afternoons over the past two weeks.

"We call it St David's tent, which essentially in the Old Testament was a place of worship for people to come and congregate. It was situated between a sectarian divide in David's day also. We believe in standing between the divide and making light of it," he said.

"Quite a few people from the Catholic side of west Belfast are coming into our church and it is fantastic because you get some great testimonies from people who knew each other in the wrong way and maybe used to fight against each other.

"One woman who goes to our church used to throw rocks at the people she now sits and worships God with so it's an incredible journey that people go on.

"We're always doing this sort of thing, we believe in reaching out to the community, rather than staying in the building as it often doesn't help the situation."

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