“I came to faith when I was 37; I was no spring chicken but I’ve been a committed Christian for the past 20 years.” So says Frazer McCammond, the 57-year-old leader of new political party Democracy First, which was officially registered early this year, and ran - but failed to secure a seat - in this month’s local elections.
(Democracy First ran in a bid for a seat on the proposed new Antrim, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council).
The party was formed by Frazer, a father-of-three and former Alliance politician, together with a group of Christians in Dromore, who were motivated by a strong sense of social justice and faith, and describe their vision of what they want to achieve as a “Northern Ireland where the needs of our people whether they be economic, jobs, welfare, health, education and justice are best served by open fair-minded and compassionate government. A society where difference is accepted and the validity of all traditions upheld and embraced as part of the one story of NI and to strive for a government not predicated along sectarian division.”
Frazer himself was a councillor for the Alliance Party in Lisburn from 1993-2001; he eventually left politics for a number of reasons, but it was around a year ago that he began to feel God pull him gently back into the direction of the political arena.
“I was born in Zimbabwe,” reveals Frazer, who is married to Marie and father to daughters Melanie, Susan and Louise, and currently lives in Dromore.
“My parents were both from Belfast and they got married in 1955.”
After Frazer was born, the family returned to Northern Ireland and he spent his childhood growing up on the Antrim Road in north Belfast.
“I went to Ligoniel Primary School as it was then and Duncairn Presbyterian Church Sunday School right up until I was about 10 or so,” he continues.
“In 1967 when the Troubles were kicking off we moved to Lisburn. I had no church involvement whatsoever from then on.”
In 1981 he married Marie, and says they started going to church again as a couple “to get married”, so to speak.
“I wouldn’t have been a church goer before that,” he adds.
However back in 1979 he had had what he describes as a “wee bit of an experience” with God whilst on a holiday in Canada when he visited a Bible Camp in New Brunswick - “which was not my cup of tea by the way!”, he laughs. Many years later Frazer had another uncanny experience whilst working in the Ulster Bank on the University Road in Belfast and a pastor came in and waited in the queue to see him and invite him to his church.
Then in 1992 his youngest sister Hazel died after a lengthy battle with cancer.
“She had been sick for a long time,” he says. “She was only 27 and had a wee boy of a year old. For some reason or another I got down on my knees beside her bed and I prayed - I prayed to a God I have never prayed to before, and at that time it was just to deliver my sister from the pain and agony in her body. I had this amazing sense of somebody else being in the room with me.
“She passed away and I was at her funeral a few days later and I saw this man with a dog collar on.”
The man turned out to be Charles McMullan, the pastor at Legacurry Presbyterian Church between Lisburn and Annahilt. Frazer discovered he had been friends with his late sister, and this “sparked a curiosity in him.”
He adds: “I went to his church the following Sunday and do you know I never stopped going to it.”
However it was almost a year later that he made a commitment to Christ, and came on the heels of a terribly sad family tragedy.
His other sister’s little 18-month-old son had died in an accident, and Frazer dreamt that the toddler came to him and told him he was alright.
After that, he attended church and heard a “fairly strident” sermon being delivered by Pastor McMullan about a lack of attendance at a Festival of Faith the church had held.
“I went home and I felt this real sense of guilt on me,” he recalls. “I was determined that I would go back that evening. A man from Ballymena was preaching that night and don’t ask me what was preached, don’t ask me what was sung, but the only way I can describe it is that every mortal defence I had was broken and I knew I was in Jesus’ arms.”
Frazer was asked by the pastor to teach Sunday School, and he knew this would be beneficial as “it was the best way to learn - straight from the Bible.”
He adds: “I was thrown in at the deep end, and I did that and enjoyed it. I started doing bits and pieces for the church and I was also getting involved in politics at that stage.”