The couple who saved a Belfast church from destruction
A north Belfast church has been rescued from demolition by a new Pentecostal congregation in Dublin, it can be revealed.
It is set to be transformed into a new house of worship with two front doors to welcome people from both sides of the community on the peace line where it stands.
Belfast City Council's planning committee was due to discuss an application to raze Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Church on Duncairn Gardens, and build apartments on the site. It is understood the application will now be withdrawn.
The Belfast Telegraph can reveal the building, founded in 1896, was snapped up last week by the Abundant Grace Christian Assembly. Pastor Sharon Perry and husband Pastor Paul Perry, both originally from Newtownabbey, are the driving forces behind the church, which was set up in 2006.
Pastor Sharon said they had 24 church members who live in Northern Ireland, including 14 who travel to Dublin to attend services, and felt the time was right to set up their second church in Belfast.
"We have people who travel from Northern Ireland to come to church every Sunday, and we go up and do a midweek service every Wednesday," she said. "We have a cross-island community.
"We were looking for premises several years ago and we saw the church, but it wasn't the time for us back then. Earlier this year we felt it was time. The Lord was telling us to plant in Northern Ireland.
"We found the property again and saw it was still up for lease. We didn't want to lease it, so we spoke to the owners and on December 4 the sale completed."
While the location of Macrory Memorial, straddling a notorious peace line, may have put others off, Pastor Sharon said they see it as an opportunity to promote harmony.
"We think it is very significant because we are a non-denominational church open to everyone," she added.
"This church, as we refurbish, will have two front doors. We will have the door onto Duncairn Gardens for Tigers Bay residents to come in, but we will also have a door on Hillman Street for those from the New Lodge.
"It is a cross-community church and we are excited to be on that peaceline and bring an overdue reconciliation."
Pastor Sharon said the church would open next Easter.
"It will be the celebration of the centenary of the Rising in Ireland, so we want to see other things rising as well," she added.
"We think it is a good time to see a new rising taking place."