Ballynahinch church congregation ‘distraught’ as dispute rumbles on

Members of the Ballynahinch Congregational Church pictured in September 2013.
Members of the Ballynahinch Congregational Church pictured in September 2013.

The ongoing dispute which split Ballynahinch Congregational Church in September 2013 is continuing to leave members “distraught and devastated”, church deacon Samuel Graham said yesterday.

Mr Graham said protests against the position of the Rev George Speers and his management of the church have been ongoing at the church since September 1.

The dispute began in 2010 over the running of the church, which is based on Dromore Street in the town.

Mr Graham said Rev Speers was voted out of his position but has refused to leave.

“The man has been dismissed from the church but he will not remove himself from the church,” he said.

“He still lives in the church manse.”

Yesterday the News Letter left a message asking Rev Speers to contact them, but he declined to do so before going to press.

“We did not hold any protests on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday, but it has continued on since then,” said Mr Graham.

“The minister is still there. Every Sunday he has between 30 and 40 people in his service whereas we have between 90 and 100 in our service in the minor hall.

“His service starts at 11.30am, the same time as ours.”

Mr Graham, a trustee of the church, said the dispute is “still going through the legal process but has not reached court”.

“We are talking to our legal advisers and that is all I can say at the moment.

“Church members are distraught and devastated with what has gone on.”

At the start of the protest police were called to a disturbance inside the church.

Protestors were chanting “get out” at Rev Speers. Those who took part later said the situation had driven them to “breaking point”.