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Dr David Lapsley: Eloquent preacher with sense of humour and ecumenical outlook

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The Reverend Dr David Lapsley, a leading ecumenist and one of the best-known ministers in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, has died after a short illness. He was 90.

David Lapsley was known for his eloquent preaching, his sense of humour and his charm, as well as his directness.

He was one of the most gifted clerics in the Church and was minister of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church off the Malone Road, Belfast from 1973 until his retirement 20 years later.

His tenure at Fisherwick coincided with some of the worst years of the Troubles when tensions were high and bridge-building was particularly difficult. He might well have been appointed as Moderator in a different and more liberal era in the history of Irish Presbyterianism.

David Lapsley's roots were in Londonderry, where has was born, and in 1953 he was ordained in First Killyleagh Presbyterian Church.

Ten years later he went to Jamaica as a missionary and his eight years in that part of the developing world affected his outlook and ministry considerably.

It was no surprise that on his return to Ireland in 1971 he worked for Christian Aid, the funding and development agency of the British churches, to which he brought his considerable insight and experience gained from his time in Jamaica.

In this Christian Aid post he continually reminded people at home of the great needs of the Third World, at a time when most people here could see no further than the Troubles.

During his time at Fisherwick, he underlined his ecumenical outlook by developing close relationships with the clergy and laity at the nearby St Brigid's Roman Catholic Church in Derryvolgie Avenue and elsewhere.

David Lapsley was also a well-known broadcaster and writer whose gift for brevity and content was much appreciated by the professional media.

He was also a gifted preacher, and his sermons and addresses were greatly enjoyed in a variety of churches and cross-community gatherings.

He was much in demand as a speaker on the church circuit and he is remembered particularly in Whitehouse Presbyterian Church for his inspired address to the Kirk Session on Romans Chapter 8.

David Lapsley was a very useful cricketer in his earlier days, as well as playing rugby and hockey.

He was predeceased by his first wife Mary.

David Lapsley leaves behind his widow Vickie and his adult children Michael and Sandra.

His funeral service will take place tomorrow at 12.30pm in Fisherwick Presbyterian Church.

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