Monday, 16 May 2011

Glenn family church reopens

Picture from The Belfast Telegraph
When you walk out of First Derry Presbyterian Church you walk straight out unto the City Walls overlooking the Bogside, Creggan and Brandywell areas of the city. Down below you can make out Free Derry corner.

It is the church that my father first got involved in the Boys Brigade an assossiationwith the organisation that would last the rest of his life. An organisation that is now being attended by the third generation of his family.

It was where my father and his father before him served as League of Church Loyalty Secretary encouraging regular attendance from the children. A role that I took on at Trinity Bangor in later years. 

One of the times I walked out of there I did so alongside my late father, brother and one other male relative. On our shoulders was the coffin of a widow of a former elder of the church, my grandmother. My cousin Rachel was playing Vivaldi's Spring on her violin as we walked down the aisle, I'd previously been up in that pulpit to give a reading.

It was Good Friday.

As a result when a few years later on another Good Friday the politicians of Northern Ireland managed to sign an agreement between them about a combined future for Northern Ireland I remembered the symbolism of that woman's life.

She spent all of her married, and much of her widowed life, in the Fountain area. That is a working class terraced housed area to the South West of the City Walls. As the protestant community largely moved to the other side of the Foyle during  the height of the troubles she was one of the shrinking number that remained on the Cityside. When she finally did have to move into the Presbyterian nursing home on the Waterside of the City over the bridge, her furniture went to a Catholic family that had recently been petrol bombed.

The fact that the public statue Hands Across the Divide should then be erected at the foot of the Fountain area, and across the road from the factory where my Grandmother worked speaks volumes to the way my family was always brought up in Northern Ireland. So that when earlier this year I stood there with the new MLA Mark H Durkan again I wasn't something that she would have been shocked by, she would have expected that of me.

With Mark H Durken
With Mark H Durkan MLA (right) at Hands Across the Divide

When the Church was reopened this weekend there was the Sinn Féin deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness in attendance and the SDLP Mayor of Derry City Council, Colum Eastwood MLA. Along with teh Chief Constable of the PSNI Mark Baggott as well as both Bishops.

After being shut for 9 years and after £1.5 million in refurbishment their presence really was a symbol as the Minister Rev Dr David Latimer said of the shared future all the people of Derry/Londonderry crave.

Picture from the Newsletter
Including f. row 2nd left Colum Eastwood MLA Mayor of Derry, Most Rev. Séamus Hegarty, Lord Bishop of Derry (RC), Rev. Dr. David Latimer Minister First Derry Presbyterian Church , Martin McGuinness MP, MLA, Deputy First Minister, William Hay MLA, Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Rev. Kenneth Good Bishop of Derry and Raphoe (CoI).
In behind the DFM is Chief Constable Mark Baggott PSNI. Also in the picture are John Hume and Mark Durkan MP

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