Bishop to lead Royal Black Knocknamuckley church service

Rev Alan Kilpatrick (right) with the Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller
Rev Alan Kilpatrick (right) with the Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller

A previously banned loyal order church service will go ahead next Sunday after the Bishop of Down and Dromore offered to personally lead the worship.

The Rt Rev Harold Miller has intervened to ensure the Royal Black Preceptory can hold its traditional service at Knocknamuckley parish near Portadown.

I grieve to see division and will help in any way that I can

Rt Revd Harold Miller – Bishop of Down and Dromore

St Matthias’ minister, the Rev Alan Kilpatrick, blocked the institution’s use of his church, and has been accused of breaking a number of other established traditions by adopting a very modern approach to his duties.

Further complaints followed his decision to invite representatives from the controversial Bethel Church in California to the parish.

Tension between the minister and a number of concerned parishioners has not been resolved despite a series of meetings.

Rev Kilpatrick – a father-of-four originally from Scotland – joined the Knocknamuckley congregation in November 2013 having previously been a vicar in the US, England and South Africa.

Upper Bann MLA Sam Gardiner has spoken to both the bishop and Rev Kilpatrick over the decision to ban the Black service.

The Ulster Unionist representative, who is also a senior member of the institution, said he welcomed the bishop’s intervention.

“He doesn’t fully understand, in my opinion, the teaching of the Orange or Black institutions.

“It has caused disruption, and Knocknamuckley is a great parish church,” Mr Gardiner said.

“Hopefully the barriers are coming down – it could still be a good news story,” he added.

In a statement, Rt Revd Miller said the well-publicised difficulties in the parish had caused a “great deal of pain and hurt”, and revealed he will be setting up a small “theological commission” to report on the difficulties.

Bishop Miller said the rector “has agreed on this particular occasion, to give permission to the Tandragee District of the Royal Black Preceptory to use St Matthias’ church on Sunday May 10,” and added: “I had already planned to be at the evening services on that Sunday, and have decided that, as bishop, in the context of this painful time, I will also conduct and preach at the afternoon service.”

He added: “I grieve to see division and will help in any way that I can.”