Belfast Telegraph

CoI cleric quits Armagh church he set up after split in congregation

By Brett Campbell

A controversial Church of Ireland minister who had multiple ear piercings and wore jeans to services has stepped down.

The Rev Alan Kilpatrick has officially resigned from Hope Community Church less than two years after he quit the then troubled Knocknamuckley parish in Co Armagh.

He quit as minister-in-charge with effect from June 30, meaning there is now a vacancy at the Craigavon-based missional congregation.

The Church of Ireland told the Belfast Telegraph that the church was "financially self-sufficient" and able to meet all the costs that need to be covered in having a full-time minister.

"The Rev Alan Kilpatrick resigned his post leaving the church numerically and financially healthy," it added.

"Both St Matthias (Knocknamuckley) and Hope Community Church are moving forward with the mission and ministry entrusted to them under the overall leadership of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Down and Dromore."

In 2015 the maverick cleric divided parishioners at the rural St Matthias' Church on Bleary Road near Lurgan due to his often colourful and relaxed style of ministry, which was said to rarely involve him wearing official robes or preaching from the pulpit.

The Scotsman eventually chose to step down from his role in May 2015 before officially leaving at the end of September.

But the decision caused a mixed reaction and resulted in a bitter church split.

It left members in tears as they were ripped away from lifelong friends, and his own followers were torn from the place they had worshipped in for years.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at the time, he insisted: "I'm fine, I'm good, I'm great." But he later admitted it was a mistake to drop traditional services entirely when he took up his position in 2013. Almost half of the 120 members of the congregation followed the minister when he moved his contemporary Pentecostal-style services to new premises, but his detractors in the pews at Knocknamuckley welcomed his departure.

Tensions ran particularly high on Easter Sunday in 2015 when 13 parishioners walked out of his unconventional service in which a troupe of young girls from the Zephaniah Dancers performed routines to Christian music and stories from the Bible.

A parishioner previously described his incorporation of rock music into services as "very alienating", before adding: "There's a place for rock music, but not in a church."

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