Pastor James McConnell: service of thanksgiving to be held this morning

A service of thanksgiving will be held this morning (Wednesday) for the life of the leader of Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, Pastor James McConnell, following his death on Saturday.

Pastor McConnell (84) had been receiving palliative care for a long illness before he passed away at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The service will be held at 10am at the Shore Road church, which Pastor McConnell - one of Northern Ireland’s best known evangelical preachers - founded more than 60 years ago.

A church spokesperson said: “We know many people will want to attend this service to pay respects, to support his family, and give thanks for the tremendous life of our Pastor, but we must also be mindful of the current Covid situation.

Pastor James McConnell
Pastor James McConnell
Pastor James McConnell

“The doors to the church building will not open until 9.15 am, and the sanctuary will be seated in its socially distanced manner. Please note that to maximise safety and allow us to manage capacity, stewards will show people to seats – there will be no opportunity to sit in your usual seat.

“Mask wearing for all non-exempt people is mandatory.

“Once the sanctuary is at its socially distanced capacity, the minor hall will then be filled to its socially distanced capacity. At that point, we have no further internal capacity, but speakers in the front car park area (in front of the youth centre) will relay the service people who are outside. Because there is no seating in this area please can we please ask that everyone outside socially distances.

“Please also be aware that the weather could be hot so please bring water and prepare for the unusually warm weather.

“Another way to be part of the service is to join online. Our usual live streams on the church website and Facebook will be running – there will be a full stream of the service.”

Amongst those who paid tribute to Pastor McConnell following his death was First Minister Paul Givan.

“It is with sadness we mourn the loss of Pastor James McConnell. A faithful servant of the Lord loved by many,” he said.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, said: “Pastor James McConnell touched lives around the world. Bringing the good news of the gospel and leading a ministry which personified the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“My sympathies to his family and friends who will feel his passing most dearly.”

A spokesperson for Rathcoole Presbyterian Church said: “Sad to hear that our neighbour and friend, James McConnell, has died.

“Our condolences to his family and to our brothers and sisters in Whitewell Church.

“We do ‘not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)”.

In an online message, a family member thanked everyone who had been in touch since Pastor McConnell’s death.

“We really appreciate your love, thoughtfulness and kindness at this sad time for our family,” he said.