Belfast Telegraph

Vandalised church buoyed by support from community

By Jill Goligher

It was an act of vandalism which triggered cross-community outrage.

And yesterday people from all faiths in Londonderry gathered to show solidarity with the parishioners of Christ Church.

An appeal for people beyond the Church of Ireland family to come out in support of the congregation drew a huge response.

Archdeacon of Derry, Robert Miller, who is the rector of Christ Church, said the packed pews were an uplifting sight at the end of a difficult week.

"Today was very encouraging," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "We had a full church this morning - a lot of well-wishers who'd come along, basically offering to do anything they could to support us.

"In terms of public and community representatives, there has been a lot of support and encouragement - and they made an effort to come and be with us this morning."

The attack on Christ Church took place some time between last Sunday and Tuesday.

Vandals smashed their way through the historic stained glass windows, and defecated and urinated on the premises.

They ripped apart the organ and stole a crystal teardrop decanter created in memory of a little girl who had died.

Among the packed congregation yesterday was former SDLP MP Mark Durkan, Sinn Fein MLA Karen Mullan and Sinn Fein councillors Patricia Logue and Eric McGinley.

Ms Logue said: "The service certainly went very well.

"I was really pleased to be there along with my party colleagues, it shows there is solidarity.

"I felt no negativity at all. The Reverend spoke a lot about forgiveness in his sermon and that's what it's all about."

SDLP councillor Angela Dobbins, who was also present, said: "It was lovely to see all communities come together and there was quite a few people there, which was great.

"The atmosphere was very positive and I didn't hear one word of negativity."

During the service a message was projected on to the wall saying: "Thank you for your support and prayers."

Pastoral director Rev Katie McAteer said the response from local people had lifted everyone's hearts.

"It was great to welcome everyone in attendance," she commented.

"It was very encouraging to see our own parishioners as well as a lot of new faces which gave us the encouragement to continue."

Organist Ben McGonigle also welcomed the response of those who attended yesterday.

"I think at this point - now that the dust has settled - I would just like to thank the huge support from the whole community," he said.

"It's been a tough couple of days for everyone involved, but the support has been outstanding. Offers of fundraisers, donations and help to clean the church has softened the blow."

Also present at the service was local independent councillor Gary Donnelly, UUP councillor Mary Hamilton and Fr Paul Farren from nearby St Eugene's Cathedral.

Archdeacon Miller said the response from across the community had been overwhelming. "There's been a lot of communication by telephone and letters, plus offers of help and assistance - it's been quite overwhelming, really," he added.

"I think there is still a sense of shock. People are only beginning to come to terms with what has happened.

"But parishioners have been heartened and given a sense of encouragement as they realise they are not having to face the aftermath on their own.

"I myself had been encouraged by a lot of people speaking to me by phone, coming to visit.

"I thought this morning's service would be a good opportunity for people to come and visit in person and speak directly to the congregation after the attack this week."

Belfast Telegraph

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