Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church's remarkable turnaround after 1983 INLA massacre
A small Co Armagh church devastated by one of the most shocking attacks of the Troubles has gone on to thrive in the 30 years since.
On this day in 1983 republican gunmen burst into Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church, just outside the village of Darkley, and murdered three church elders who were attending a Sunday evening service.
The three elders – Harold Brown (59), John Cunningham (39) and David Wilson (44) – had been standing at the door welcoming latecomers when the horror unfolded. The massacre was later attributed to the INLA.
Pastor David Bell, who was then a worshipper at the church, was there along with his then girlfriend, now wife Sally, who was was injured in the arm and thigh.
He said the church received almost 1,000 letters expressing support and solidarity from all sections of the community.
The church was later burned down by arsonists in 1994 but was rebuilt, and despite all it has suffered, has reached out with numerous cross-community initiatives.
"We have quite a few younger people who obviously have no recollection of those events. Older people do remember, and at the time 30 years ago, I think the one factor that probably touched people right across the whole of Ireland and beyond was the attitude of forgiveness and love that came across," he said.
"We lost three very close and special friends.
"But I think the atmosphere of Christian love and faith exhibited really spoke volumes. We do a bit of cross-community work in the local area, run various outreach events, fun days during the year which are attended by all sections of the community."
The congregation in 1983 was around 60, but despite falling numbers at many churches, Pastor Bell said the number of worshippers at his church has increased.
He launched a book last month, Fire On The Mountain, about the history of the church, including the shootings.
A memorial service is set to take place this Sunday evening at Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church outside Darkley.