Northern Ireland news

Hundreds attend Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church final service

(L-R) Convenor of vacancy Rev Ken Doherty, Moderator Rt Rev Dr Charles McMillan and Moderator of North Belfast Presbytery, Rev David Clawson pictured after the Final Service of Thanksgiving at Fortwilliam & Macrory Presbyterian Church, north Belfast yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus
Áine Quinn

AS a north Belfast church prepared to close its doors for the final time yesterday, people turned out in their hundreds to attend an "emotional" and "heart-breaking" service.

Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church on the Antrim Road has served as a place of worship for 133 years.

However a dwindling congregation means it will now amalgamate with Whitehouse Presbyterian on the Shore Road.

Rev Dr Charles McMullan, the Presbyterian moderator, attended and addressed the congregation during the final service.

"I found this morning's service incredibly emotional and draining," he said.

"It is heart-breaking in many ways to be among people who belong here as members and others who have returned to their home church.

“It was right for me to go as moderator of the General Assembly to acknowledge what was in people’s hearts and minds today. I could sense the feeling and the reactions of the congregation and it was very emotional for everyone.”

Originally called Fortwilliam Park Presbyterian, the church merged with nearby Macrory Memorial in Duncairn Gardens in 2005.

It had been hoped that the extra numbers would help the building to stay open.

The church, which is for sale, has a B+ listed status which means it is protected against demolition and inappropriate alteration.

The Final Service of Thanksgiving at Fortwilliam & Macrory Presbyterian Church, north Belfast yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus

The Rev Ken Doherty, who has been convenor of vacancy for Fortwilliam and Macrory over the past year, hopes the building will remain as part of the community.

“I’m sad about the closure of the church. I have been chatting to a lot of the folks in the congregation and they are just devastated," he said.

“But we hope that maybe there will be a future for this building in our community. It might be useful as maybe an arts centre, a community centre or a multi-purpose area.”

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