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Riddle of biblical graffiti at church demolition site in Ballymena

By Nevin Farrell

The writing may be on the wall for an old Ballymena town centre church that is facing demolition - but it appears one man wants to ensure the new building will keep the faith.

Messages in four feet high graffiti have been painted on the former Wellington Street Presbyterian Church, which has been sold and is currently undergoing redevelopment.

The letters in red paint saying 'Bless This Place Lord' stretch across the front of the building.

Eyewitnesses said a man believed to be in his 40s went into the grounds and started painting on the main wall either side of the front door.

Smaller bits of graffiti were written in black ink saying 'Bless this place Jesus my Lord Amen', and a piece of biblical scripture was also written on a white board and left on a windowsill.

The church has been at Wellington Street for 180 years, but closed in 2009.

A new place of worship - Wellington Presbyterian Church - was opened around two miles away at Sourhill Road on the outskirts of the town.

A Presbyterian Church spokeswoman confirmed the Wellington Street site was sold two months ago in a private sale.

She added: "As a result we have no comment to make regarding the graffiti incident."

One eyewitness said: "A man was walking about with a paint tin daubing the letters and appeared to be preaching at the same time. The letters are huge and it took him quite a while to do it.

"This all happened on Ballymena's busiest street in an area which is bustling with people every day.

"It was a very bizarre incident and we can only assume the man was unhappy that the site is not going to be used as a church anymore and redevelopment work has started.

"A sign at the church shows a demolition firm is on site." One town centre businessman said: "For the last few months the man suspected of doing this has been living out in the open at a bandstand slap bang in the town centre, which is passed by thousands of people and vehicles a short distance from the church at Broadway.

"He sits there with a biblical message on a board and preaches to people.

"He has a sleeping bag and other stuff, and some days you would see him bare-chested doing press-ups."

The man suspected of painting the graffiti could not be contacted for comment.

A PSNI spokesman confirmed it had received a report of the incident.

He said officers spoke to a suspect and were told the people in charge of the building did not want to take the matter any further, as the building was "being knocked down anyhow".

The spokesman added: "We received a report that somebody was painting four foot letters saying 'Bless This Place Lord'. Large letters were painted on the church but the man who owns the building did not wish to make a complaint."

It is understood the painting suspect was arrested later in the day after complaints about him allegedly being disorderly at the nearby bandstand.

An approach was made to the person believed to now own the former church site for a comment, but there was no immediate response.

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