Split row church St Matthias in Knocknamuckley advertises for new minister
A church congregation that was torn apart by a row over its controversial minister last year has advertised for a new rector.
St Matthias in Knocknamuckley, near Portadown, was split over the teachings of Rev Alan Kilpatrick, who is associated with the Bethel Church of Supernatural Ministries.
The Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Millar intervened last April after Rev Kilpatrick banned a Royal Black Preceptory church service and the Women's Group from holding meetings in the church hall.
Parishioners also raised concerns about associations with the controversial American Bethel Church after details emerged of Bethel missioners hosting a service at Knocknamuckley in March.
Bethel Church leaders talked of followers "trying to raise the dead" and witnessing "manifestations of gold" but Rev Kilpatrick insisted: "I am a Church of Ireland clergyman and I preach about the Kingdom of God.
The bishop held meetings with the women's group, vestry and parishioners to try to deal with the complaints.
In May Rev Kilpatrick formally stepped down and the church was split into two congregations - one remained in St Matthias, and a new missional congregation was set up in nearby Craigavon.
Between May and October, when he formally left his post, Rev Kilpatrick's services were carried out by another clergyman and alternative pastoral cover was provided.
Since October the post has been vacant, but the church is now advertising for a new rector to lead the congregation.
The job advertisement reads: "This parish seeks to keep God's Word at the centre of church life and reach out with the Gospel to the wider community. It is truly inter-generational, and places a particular focus on young people and young families. There is a very committed congregation, which includes an enthusiastic leadership."
When the church became riven in August, there were emotional scenes as some members of the congregation left a building that they had attended since childhood.
A spokeswoman for the Knocknamuckley Concerned Parishioners Group, formed in opposition to the minister, said: "We are happy he is leaving, but we are disappointed that the church and congregation split as a result. It's no victory for anybody."
A tearful female parishioner who supported the minister said: "It's very sad in a sense. A lot of us have worshipped here since we were infants, but we just have to keep believing that this is God's will and something really amazing is going to come out of this."
A 57-year-old man added: "You can't, in a rural parish the size of this, have one man from Scotland come in and tell us what to do, that doesn't work - it doesn't work in any walk of life."
Another female parishioner said: "I can see both sides. I don't think anybody would be happy about the decision, but I trust the bishop has put a lot of thought and prayer into the way forward."