Belfast Telegraph

New Knocknamuckley minister answers parishioners' prayers

By Christine Carrigan

Peace and packed pews have returned to the previously troubled Church of Ireland parish of Knocknamuckley with the installation of a new minister.

The institution of the Rev Geoffrey Norman Haugh took place on Tuesday night, and far from the bitter divides of two years ago within the congregation, worshippers were at one behind their new minister.

Local UUP councillor Colin McCusker was amongst those in attendance and described the atmosphere as "very positive".

"It was very striking to me, the sheer volume of people that were in the church, both parishioners and those who just showed up, to show support for the church," he said.

"I wasn't able to get a seat in the main church or the balcony upstairs. In fact, I had to wait until the visiting clergy members had finished their procession up the aisle and then plastic seats were put along the aisle."

Knocknamuckley hit the headlines in 2015 when a controversial minister's style of evangelicalism divided the rural Portadown parish.

Scottish-born Rev Alan Kilpatrick, who ditched the traditional dress in favour of jeans and ear studs, opted for a modern approach in his teachings, which caused controversy among the parishioners.

The divide sparked a senior member of the clergy, Rev Harold Miller, a Church of Ireland Bishop, to intervene, calling multiple crisis meetings in a bid to reconcile the warring factions.

The row at the troubled rural church finally came to an end when it was agreed that Rev Kilpatrick would leave Knocknamuckley on September 30, 2015.

It was decided that the congregation would split into two, and those who favoured the minister's modern approach could join his new church. The controversial minister held the first meeting of his new church on the following Sunday morning in the Goodyear Sports and Social Club in Craigavon, reportedly attracting more than 100 worshippers. It was agreed that both churches would be under the authority of the Bishop and Diocese of Down and Dromore.

As one faction begins to flourish again, the other isn't far behind. Rev Alan Kilpatrick is now the minister in charge at Hope Community Church in Craigavon.

The church is described as "a new contemporary expression of the Church of Ireland"' and celebrated moving into its new home in December 2016. According to Hope Community Church online: "They will see revival in people's lives. We will do the works of the Kingdom as seen in the life of Jesus and the early church. We will be a church that represents Jesus well and show everyone that God is good!"

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