A Royal Black service went ahead at Knocknamuckley Parish Church on Sunday, despite the rector having previously refused the use of the church building to the loyal order.
The service was taken by the Bishop Harold Millar, who intervened after a dispute that has split the congregation in two.
In his scripture reading at St Matthias Parish Church at Knocknamuckley, Bishop Miller emphasised unity and peace among brothers.
Some 300 members of the loyal order paraded to the church accompanied by a band playing traditional hymns.
The incumbent minister Rev Alan Kilpatrick blocked the institution’s use of his church, although no explanation has been given.
He has also caused disquiet among some members of the congregation due to his modern approach to services.
Some members are angry that he wears stud earrings and rarely wears his clerical robes, except at funerals – he preaches robeless. Traditionalists in the church, which is more than 150 years old, insist that he has turned away from what is viewed as Church of Ireland ways, favouring the American Bethel School of Supernatural Ministries. It is a Charismatic Movement based on healing and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The church service is an annual event among Royal Black in the area which moves from church to church on a 12-year rota, this time coming back to Knocknamuckley.
After pressure from the loyal order Rev Kilpatrick had said they could hold their service in the parish church hall.
Parishioner Stanley Harrison, who is also a member of the Black, explained how the loyal order was finally granted access to the church.
“There was a notice put on the diocesan website last Saturday evening stating that the bishop would be taking this service today at the church,” he said.
“He will be conducting and preaching at the service,” he said just before the service.
Mr Harrison claimed the rector had been “overruled” by the bishop, but said he had no evidence to prove this,
But he was glad to see the order was being welcomed back into the church, even though the rector was absent for the service. “As a parishioner, I am very pleased,” he added.
Bishop Miller read out 1 Peter chapter 3 as the basis for his sermon. “All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”