Belfast Telegraph

Rev McCrory's journey from stone-throwing Derry teen to Presbyterian cleric

By Alf McCreary

A Londonderry man from a Catholic background who admits to "throwing stones" as a teenager has spoken about his journey to becoming a Protestant clergyman.

The Reverend Dr Keith McCrory was raised in a one-parent family in the strongly nationalist Shantallow area of Derry.

His father died when Keith was just 15 and he was taken into care.

He describes himself as having no religious background.

"I was brought up in a tough area. I would not describe myself as a tearaway, but I had my share of throwing stones," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

He first encountered Christianity at the age of 16 when a teacher introduced him to a Crusaders group on the traditionally unionist west bank of the Foyle.

He later found his spiritual niche in Kilfennan Presbyterian Church.

Keith trained at Union College Belfast and is now the minister of a burgeoning community Presbyterian Church in Maynooth, which meets for weekend worship in a long corridor above a Dunnes store. Plans to construct a new building as an outreach church are being developed by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Keith says many of his congregation are not from a religious background.

"Like many of the new churches in the last decade, this will be a multi-purpose building, and this helps us to establish a new dynamism," he said. "Many of our members come from an unchurched background, or have not gone to church for a long time.

"We have a congregation of 90 people of all ages, but the majority are between 20 and 38 years old. About half come from the Republic, and the others are originally from various places including Northern Ireland, South Africa and the USA. We also have a strong ethnic representation.

"The church sermons are usually about four minutes long, and several speakers take part. There is no fixed liturgy. Prayers and hymns, psalms and paraphrases, scripture readings and sermons are adapted to the occasion."

The Maynooth Community Church traces its roots to 2002, in association with its parent Lucan Presbyterian Church, where Keith was an elder. It began with nine people meeting for prayer, and on September 7, 2003, the first official service of the church was held.

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