The pastor of a south Armagh church that was riddled by republican gunfire in 1983 believes that prayer during the shooting jammed a terrorist’s weapon and ended the attack.
Pastor David Bell of Mountain Lodge church was speaking to the News Letter yesterday just before the launch of his new book about the 60-year history of the church.
Three elders died in the attack and nine other members were injured. The men who died were David Wilson, Harold Browne and Victor Cunningham.
The book, ‘Fire on the mountain – the true story of the Darkley church’, covers the history of the church from 1953.
“After the shooting we had around 1,000 letters of support from every denomination,” he said.
David was in the church that night, aged in his mid-twenties.
“It was reported that the gunmen came in but they never did. They stood outside and fired in through the closed door.
“One of the elders, David Wilson, ran in and shouted for everyone to drop to the floor before he died of his injuries.
“Afterwards, the gunmen reloaded and started walking around the church, spraying us with gunfire. Then Pastor Bob Bain stood up and took authority over the situation.
“He shouted ‘in God’s name stop’ and one of the gunmen’s weapons jammed. Shortly after they fled. I do believe it was a supernatural intervention.
“The local GP who arrived on the scene said they were astonished to find peace and serenity in the building.”
His wife’s elbow was totally destroyed by a bullet but she later recovered 98 per cent use of it.
“The orthopaedic surgeon said ‘a higher power was obviously at work’,” he added.
“Everyone, whether gunman or someone who stole some rubbers from school, are born as sinners,” the pastor said. “But anyone who turns away from their old life towards God can find new life.
“It is much easier to move forward in forgiveness and faith than in a life of bitterness.”
Nobody was ever arrested or charged with the attack, claimed by the Catholic Reaction Force, a cover for the INLA, in supposed retaliation for loyalist murders.
But the pastor says to sceptics that God can still be in the midst of tragedy.
“We live in a fallen world full of man’s unkindness to man. But God provides us with forgiveness and comfort to deal with the past.
“God is a God of forgiveness. If any of the men responsible come forward and show remorse we would offer them the hand of forgiveness.”
l ‘Fire on the mountain – the true story of the Darkley church’ is launched today, priced £9.99, from www.ambassadormedia.co.uk