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Knocknamuckley's Rev Tom Conway: 'If you print a picture of me I'll sue. There's a lot of hurt over what you write'

By Una Brankin

Published 01/06/2015

Covering minister Tom Conway lets rip at our photographer
Covering minister Tom Conway lets rip at our photographer
Churchgoers arrive at Knocknamuckley Parish
Covering minister Tom Conway lets rip at our photographer
Covering minister Tom Conway lets rip at our photographer

At Rev Alan Kilpatrick's Craigavon service, my colleague and I were greeted with coffee and croissants. At Knocknamuckley, we got the cold shoulder and - in the photographer's case - a right good drenching.

For a second, I thought the intermittent rain might have been falling in a funny direction.

I was standing at the church gates talking to an elderly lady when water went flying over the hedge between churchyard and the sloping road - and all over Kevin Scott, who was snapping Rev Tom Conway.

He had given me short shrift when I asked him for a comment on maverick rector Rev Kilpatrick's alternative service in Craigavon, which had attracted some 100 worshippers from Knocknamuckley parish. About 60 were expected to follow the ear-studded Scot to his cheery, music-led gathering at Goodyear Sports and Social Club.

How did Rev Conway feel about the 130 or so at St Matthias? "They were here to see what's going on and to hear the word of God. They've heard it and that's it," he declared, bucket in hand. (I've no idea what it was originally meant for.)

Anyway, Rev Tom wasn't any happier when he pulled up afterwards at the church gates, where a dripping Kevin had joined the elderly lady and me.

"If you post a photograph of me in the paper, I'll sue you," he shouted, climbing out of his small, silver runaround. "There's a lot of hurt over what yous (sic) are writing... I'll sue you both!"

Incensed, the minister took a grip of Kevin's right arm and wouldn't let go, until the photographer gave him three warnings, and pointed out we were on public ground.

With that, he took off.

The mostly elderly churchgoers were generally complimentary about the minister's "emotional" service.

A visiting Quaker couple had attended "to see what all the fuss was about".

"It's not very Christian, the way things have gone on," said one of the visitors.

"There's a bit of a move away from tradition, with these young ones, and the gay game and so on. This church has always had good numbers coming; it's not their fault I hope it all works out. It's all the one God, after all."

Another lady shrugged off the notable absences in the country church pews.

"It's their choice. I won't go with Rev Kilpatrick," she remarked. "It's not about the earrings; it's more about this Bethel church. That will cause division in the whole church."

A spokeswoman for Knocknamuckley Concerned Parishioners group expressed surprise on hearing Rev Kilpatrick had called for two minutes' prayer for the St Matthias congregation.

"That's quite… solemn. We had a lovely service here," she said. "Things are back to normal now and hopefully everything will work out."

Given the stiff breeze and the photographer's wet clothes, we could have done with another coffee, but no one was putting the kettle on.

I don't think we'll ever be offered one at Knocknamuckley, unless the wind changes radically...

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