Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley death: Martyrs flock united in sad reflection and admiration

By Cate McCurry

They were Ian Paisley's own flock – the congregation he called his own and the one he was later forced to leave after making peace with his political enemies.

But for decades, his voice had boomed Biblical teaching at his disciples in the pews of Martyrs Memorial church on east Belfast's Ravenhill Road.

Despite his fire and brimstone reputation and the manner of his leaving, worshippers yesterday wanted to reflect on the poignant moments they shared with Mr Paisley throughout his 60-year reign in the church he founded.

As the congregation gathered for its evening Sunday service, many spoke of their sadness after learning of the former DUP leader's death.

"Ian Paisley is one of a kind who inspired many people through his preachings," said Chloe Brown from Belfast, who has been a member of the church from since she was young.

"It's a very, very sad loss of such an important man who did so much for us," she said.

"I will remember his preaching because he was so inspirational. I was inspired by his words, he's one of a kind.

"I will remember the Easter Conventions here and how full the church was whenever he was leaving."

Paisley founded the Free Presbyterian Church in 1951 and led it until 2008.

Just three years after he resigned as moderator, he announced he was stepping down from ministry. Just weeks after delivering his final sermon at Martyrs Memorial, Mr Paisley was rushed to hospital with heart failure.

He would not set foot in it again, but those who remembered his days there had only good things to say about the firebrand whose oratory from the pulpit prepared him well for his journey into megaphone politics.

Another churchgoer, who only wanted to be known as Margaret, said she will miss a "good friend".

She added: "We will certainly miss him. His death is sad but then he was 88.

"I've been coming here since the church started at the Ulster Hall. I've known him a long time.

"He was my good friend and was a very helpful man. He was a big part of the church and we will all miss him."

Another church member, who didn't want to be named, described how he will remember Mr Paisley through his preachings. Adding that "Big 'P' wasn't perfect", he said the preacher was often "misunderstood in life".

"You have to take everything he said and did into context at that particular time.

"I never thought at any time he was perfect, but none of us are. There's no doubt he had many good aspects, but it's questionable whether he should have stayed in the ministry and not went into politics.

"He was largely misunderstood in life in respects too, but he was what he was. He left a legacy and won't be forgotten.

"He hasn't been well and we have known how sick he was so his death hasn't come as a complete surprise. He's been called all sorts of things in life, but he had strong faith and he's displayed that in various ways.

"Big 'P' wasn't perfect but you see a lot of people bringing up different things from his past which isn't helpful."

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