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Knocknamuckley: I'm waiting for it all to die down, says trendy rector at the heart of the storm

By Una Brankin

Published 11/05/2015

Trendsetter: Rev Alan Kilpatrick has faced much criticism
Trendsetter: Rev Alan Kilpatrick has faced much criticism
Parishioners arrive at Knocknamuckley Parish Church last night
Parishioners arrive at Knocknamuckley Parish Church last night

Knocknamuckley's answer to Father Trendy is quite dishy in the flesh. Quietly spoken and self-contained, he looks like a fresher-faced version of The Strangler's front man Hugh Cornwell - studded ears and all.

He has four tiny metal spheres embedded in his left ear.

"They aren't of any special significance at all," he says in a soft Scottish burr.

"Some think they're for my for four children, but no. They haven't been an issue for for me in apartheid South Africa or in Bible-belt America. But here..."

He trails off, rolling his eyes when I ask him if 'these here parts' are even more conservative than God's own red-neck territory.

"There's been so much written about me, I don't want to comment any further until it all dies down. A lot of it has been sensationalist, and not wholly true."

I stood with the well-travelled, close-shaven minister at the top of the aisle at St Matthias, as he watched the faithful gather for his evening service, a pleasant affair, with just a little bit of hands-aloft worship, but lots of loud American folksy singing. Dressed casually in a tweed jacket and dark blue jeans, Rev Kilpatrick was joined in the service by one of his two daughters - he also has two sons - who led the singing.

The contemporary style is not to the liking of one long-serving choir member I met in the vestibule, who claimed Rev Kilpatrick has curtailed the choir's role in services and wants to do away with it altogether.

"It's all about that modern type of singing now - it's like a rock concert in there most of the time," she said. "The problem is that he's been away in Africa and America and he doesn't know the Church of Ireland, nor is he interested."

The churchgoer claimed the rector told him one day, "this is not a Church of Ireland any more". She said: "I can't understand why Rev Kilpatrick wasn't brought in as a curate, so he could learn about the church, instead of being made rector," added the choir member, who, like everyone else, didn't wish to be named.

"We haven't had an traditional evening communion service here for 18 months," she claimed. "And he never wears a collar. I think the jeans and the earrings show a lack of respect, and it's a bad example for the young ones."

So the revolutionary Scot has an uphill battle ahead of him, but he appears to be taking it in his stride. "He didn't even change out of those jeans for the bishop coming," sniffed a lady who was looking after the flowers.

From his calm, water-off-a-duck's-back demeanour, I don't think Rev Kilpatrick will be losing the jeans any time soon, or the ear studs.

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