Knocknamuckley Parish Church (St Matthias) is irreparably split after the former rector’s breakaway church kicked off on Sunday.
Rev Alan Kilpatrick was given carte blanche by Down and Connor Bishop Harold Miller to conduct his style of service at Goodyear Sports and Social Club with around 100 dissidents from Knocknamuckley forming a congregation.
We are still part of the Church of Ireland, but not of St MatthiasRev Alan Kilpatrick
And at Knocknamuckley’s traditional Church of Ireland stone building, it was back to pre-Kilpatrick normal as Rev Tom Conway (one of two retired ministers filling in) occupied the pulpit. An estimated 130 attended on Sunday morning, with some returning to the fold after Mr Kilpatrick’s departure.
One traditional worshipper said, “It’s sad what has happened. Alan’s style simply doesn’t suit Knocknamuckley, but the church was split by the appointment from the start. The parochial nominators – who worked with Bishop Miller for the appointment - simply made a mistake.
“His Bethel type of worship, prostrate praying, hugging and waving of arms, didn’t suit this rural area. He spent four years in America and four in South Africa where the mode of worship is totally different from the pastoral care ethos of Northern Ireland.”
Rev Conway and another retired minister Rev Don Moore will keep things going at Knocknamuckley while they move to appoint a new rector. It will take about a year, as a large proportion of the select vestry has left with Rev Kilpatrick.
Rev Kilpatrick was joined by his wife Jan and two teenage sons at Goodyear as he conducted his modern-type worship.
He spoke of having a heavy heart over what had happened. Mr Kilpatrick will still occupy the Knocknamuckley rectory for another few weeks. He added they had been given the use of the Goodyear premises for free “by a follower of Christ”.
He said, “We are still part of the Church of Ireland, but not of St Matthias. I think I am allowed to stay in the rectory for another few weeks while I establish a new church and get a name for it. It is important we establish a new identity.”
He also asked the congregation to thank Bishop Miller personally for his support through the crisis.
Back at Knocknamuckley, one returned parishioner said. “The long-term future is uncertain. It’s a pity that friends and even families have been split, with an estimated 80 to 100 leaving. It will take a long time for the rift to heal, if ever. Every organisation in the church will be affected with this split.”