The old evangelical slogan "Prepare to meet thy God" can still be seen in the Ulster countryside but a new exhortation from Stormont might soon replace it.
"Prepare to meet thy cuts" is the clear message coming from the lips of Health Minister Edwin Poots as the purse strings tighten for him and the Stormont Executive. Of course, we've always known that the day of judgment would come eventually and now it has. After months of debate and disagreement over a new budget programme, the Assembly elections are passed and the harsh reality of these straitened times is upon us all.
Northern Ireland may have devolution but it is not master in its own house. He who pays the piper, namely the British Treasury, has called the tune. The ministers at Stormont have the unenviable task of beaming the music into all our homes.
Edwin Poots is forewarning people that the status quo in the health service cannot continue. The money just isn't there anymore, if it ever was, to have the level of duplication in three Belfast hospitals, standing within a mile of one another.
He is coming at the problem from a different direction than his predecessor Michael McGimpsey, who was increasingly isolated in the previous Executive and accused of not addressing inefficiency and waste in the health services. McGimpsey said it was starved of funds and on the point of going bust.
The response from the DUP/Sinn Fein dominated executive was unsympathetic. McGimpsey was accused of overstating the funding crisis. We know now from his successor, Edwin Poots that the money isn't there. The closure and widespread rationalisation of hospital services is looming in the months ahead.
The current minister has a major advantage over McGimpsey. Poots has the authority of the DUP behind him. He is also unlikely to be sniped at by Sinn Fein as it is in the interests of both parties to maintain a good working relationship. Also, the season of elections to Stormont and Westminster has closed. A big window of opportunity exists this autumn and winter to push through what will be highly unpopular cuts with the general population.
There will be much gnashing of teeth over what is about to befall not just the health service, but also education and a whole range of public expenditure. After all the political posturing and never-say-die promises to oppose cuts imposed from London, the Executive has no alternative but to accept them. As a result, our public services in Northern Ireland will never be the same again.
Will Stormont have the stomach to do what is necessary? The attitude of the last Executive left much to be desired, not least in its failure to reach and take decisions. This time Stormont must lead by example. If the Executive is to achieve the many changes necessary in the next year or two to balance the books in health, education and other departments, its own house needs to be put in order.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness cannot expect much support and sympathy from the people of Northern Ireland if they do not end double-jobbing and agree on fewer MLAs. The role of special advisers, paid handsomely from the public purse, needs urgent revision as well.
Then there is the hugely expensive and over-manned civil and public service, including so many quangos, which have been nurtured over many decades. The last Executive baulked at addressing the nonsense of Northern Ireland's 26 district councils, each with its own headquarters and costly staffing. This time around there can be no excuses and no procrastination. If these matters are not addressed then the general public will be all the harder to convince of the need to close schools and medical services or make other community savings.
As the cuts bite, individual MLAs will set out their stalls for their own areas as they have done in the past. This is a strength but also a weakness of devolution. On the one hand, the local voice of a MLA is raised in protest about a reduction of services to his or her area. On the other, if every voice is listened to, nothing gets done, no savings are made and we will fail to make ends meet.
The history of Northern Ireland suggests that what one community has, the other appears to covet. That was illustrated 30 years ago when leisure centres were built across Belfast on the basis of political and religious apartheid. We might not have to close so many schools and hospitals today if we could agree to share more of our futures together. A shared future costs a lot less than a shared-out future.
A train is coming down the track wherever we live. It is fast approaching. Prepare to meet thy cuts, my friends.