Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

The Rev DR Ronald Savage outside his Stormont Presbyterian Church GERARD SMYTH

Sign of the times as church hits 75 not out

Birthday bash for building famous for 'wayside pulpit'

Birthday bash for building famous for 'wayside pulpit'

BY ALF McCREARY

RELIGION CORRESPONDENT

A BELFAST church famous for its 'wayside pulpit' signs is celebrating its 75th anniversary this weekend.

On Saturday there will be an open day at Stormont Presbyterian Church on the Upper Newtownards Road and on Sunday the guest preacher will be the Presbyterian Moderator Dr David Clarke.

Since 1984, the 'wayside pulpit' sign outside the church has attracted widespread attention from passing motorists, overseas visitors and also politicians on their way to and from Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

The Rev Dr Ronald Savage, the minister, told the Belfast Telegraph today: "One of our most-noticed signs during the decommissioning controversy was 'We Can Hug Without Arms'.

"I was told that this caught the eye of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and that he mentioned it at Stormont."

One of the church signs was also mentioned by Monica McWilliams in a debate.

According to a Hansard Report of February 15, 1999, she said: "On the way here I passed Stormont Presbyterian Church, which I think has been sending us subconscious messages.

"It said 'God Give Me Patience - But Hurry'. That message is truly meant for members.

"We have waited long enough for this debate and it is time we made a determination to set up the government departments, the North/South bodies, and the bodies for agreements between these islands - the British Irish Council and the Civic Forum."

The sign-writing began in 1984 when the church was undergoing extension work.

One notice to passers-by was 'Conversions in Progress' and another was 'Please be Patient - God has not finished with us yet!'

Many of the signs are topical, including one during the World Cup in June which stated 'Van Nistelrooy and Crouch May Score - Jesus Saves'.

Others are based on television programmes such as Have We Got News For You which became 'Have We Got PEWS for you'.

Another favourite was 'Heels and Souls Mended Here'.

Dr Savage, who thinks up the signs, said that some of his ideas come from people who write to him or phone him.

"One man from Singapore who had been staying in the Stormont Hotel rang me up to talk about one of the messages, where he was not clear about the Biblical reference," he said.

"The idea of the signs is to try to make people smile, think about the meaning, and maybe even talk about it to others, but the intention behind every sign is to impart a moral and a Gospel message."

One of the most recent signs, at the end of the summer, was 'Whatever the Weather - Are You Using Son Block?' but this will be making way for the sign announcing the Church's 75th anniversary.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Dr Savage's ministry with the congregation.

He said: "Our records show that in the past 75 years there have been 1,343 baptisms and 786 marriages, and that in my 30 years alone there have been 622 funerals."

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