‘The church is the people’ says minister after Cairnshill arson

Parishioner Maureen Thompson in the Sunday School room.   Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Parishioner Maureen Thompson in the Sunday School room. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Arsonists will not succeed in destroying a church targeted in an early morning attack on Friday, a Methodist minister has said.

Rev Ruth Patterson said the congregation of Cairnshill Methodist in south Belfast are united in their desire to quickly repair the damage at the Ballylenaghan Road site and to carry on as normal.

DUP Cllr for the area Nathan Anderson.  Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

DUP Cllr for the area Nathan Anderson. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

“The church is the people - it’s not the building,” she said.

“We are being very positive. Fortunately it seems to have gone out before it took hold, but there is an awful lot of smoke damage, and a lot of damage to some of the furnishings so we are fortunate that the church isn’t burned down.

“The main sanctuary and the main hall have minimal damage but the rest of the suite of buildings is totally smoke damaged with a layer of soot,” Rev Patterson added.

Entry was forced to the church buildings during the night and a number of separate fires were started police said.

Severe damage was caused to the building

Severe damage was caused to the building

Methodist president Rev Brian Anderson said he “utterly condemned this unwarranted attack” on church property.

“At the heart of the Methodist identity is a saying by the Rev John Wesley in which he described Methodists as ‘the friends of all and enemies of none.’

“This has been at the heart of the Cairnshill Methodist congregation whose only desire is to serve the community among whom it is set.

“I would encourage those who may have some information concerning this attack no matter how little or insignificant they think it is to please contact the PSNI,” Rev Anderson added.

A spokesman for the NI Fire & Rescue Service said: “Two fire appliances from Central Fire Station were deployed to the scene of a small fire in the entrance lobby of the church. Two firefighters using a hosereel jet extinguished the fire.

“The fire is being treated as deliberate and the incident has been passed through to the PSNI”

A joint Sunday service for both the Belvoir and Cairnshill congregations will be held at 11am in Belvoir tomorrow. It is not yet clear when the church at Cairnshill will be hosting services again.