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Tributes to James McConnell as Belfast Whitewell Tabernacle church founder laid to rest

Children in Ethiopia were among those who tuned in to watch Pastor James McConnell laid to rest in Belfast.

Tributes have been paid to one of Northern Ireland’s best-known preachers as he was laid to rest.

Children as far away as Ethiopia watched online the funeral of Pastor James McConnell at the Whitewell Tabernacle church he founded in north Belfast.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson and former DUP leader Edwin Poots were among those who attended in person.

He was a great prayer warrior who loved the gospelPastor Michael Bunting

Pastor Michael Bunting led the first of three tributes to Mr McConnell at the service on Wednesday, but said there could have been 300 more and 300 more again.

He recalled his strong faith, how he founded the Whitewell church, recalled his work overseas and impact in the USA, describing how his influence stretched from “Newtowards to Nebraska”, as well as his love for a fish supper.

“He was a great prayer warrior who loved the gospel,” he said.

Pastor Jeff Wright of the Green Pastures Church in Ballymena also led a tribute, before Mr McConnell’s son-in-law Norman Hobson delivered the third on behalf of the family.

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Mr Hobson recalled a humble start to Mr McConnell’s career, from a first meeting in 1957 to set up the Whitewell Tabernacle to how he had to patch up his shoes with cardboard.

Whitewell is now one of the largest churches in Northern Ireland.

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Pastor James McConnell (Niall Carson/PA)

Pastor James McConnell (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Pastor James McConnell (Niall Carson/PA)

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DUP’s Sammy Wilson who was a personal friend of the Pastor McConnell pictured at the funeral.
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

DUP’s Sammy Wilson who was a personal friend of the Pastor McConnell pictured at the funeral. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Evangelical preacher Pastor James McConnell (Niall Carson/PA)

Evangelical preacher Pastor James McConnell (Niall Carson/PA)

19th July 2021 
Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor McConnell lead by senior Pastor David Purse.
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor McConnell lead by senior Pastor David Purse. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 
General view of the Tabernacle during Pastor McConnells funeral.
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 General view of the Tabernacle during Pastor McConnells funeral. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 
DUP Edwin Poots pictured today at the funeral of Pastor McConnell
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 DUP Edwin Poots pictured today at the funeral of Pastor McConnell Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 21/7/2021: 
Pastor James McConnell funeral DUP MP Sammy Wilson walks behind funeral cortège after a service Whitewell Church, Belfast where he was the Pastor.
PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 21/7/2021: Pastor James McConnell funeral DUP MP Sammy Wilson walks behind funeral cortège after a service Whitewell Church, Belfast where he was the Pastor. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

19th July 2021 
Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members.
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 
Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members.Pastor Daughters Linda and Julie with grand daughter Rebecca
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members.Pastor Daughters Linda and Julie with grand daughter Rebecca Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 
Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members.
Norman Hobson son in law is consoled by Pator Michael Bunting.
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members. Norman Hobson son in law is consoled by Pator Michael Bunting. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 
Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members.
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 
Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members.
Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

19th July 2021 Pastors of Whitewell Tabernacle carry the coffin of Pastor mcConnell from the church followed by family members. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

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DUP’s Sammy Wilson who was a personal friend of the Pastor McConnell pictured at the funeral. Photo : Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

The 84-year-old died on Saturday following an illness.

He had been receiving end-of-life care at the Royal Victoria Hospital in recent days.

Mr McConnell is survived by his wife Margaret and his daughters, Linda and Julie.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson expressed his sadness at the weekend.

“Pastor James McConnell touched lives around the world,” he said.

Mr McConnell hit headlines in 2014 after calling Islam “heathen” and “satanic” during a church sermon.

He was questioned by police and was later found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks against Islam, after a trial at Belfast Magistrates’ Court that garnered worldwide attention

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