Funeral today for well-known preacher Pastor McConnell

A service of thanksgiving will be held today for one of the best-known preachers in Northern Ireland, following his death on Saturday.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 7:01 am
Evangelical preacher Pastor James McConnell leaving Belfast Magistrates' Court after being found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks during a sermon in which he described Islam as "heathen" and "satanic". PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 5, 2016.

The service for Pastor James McConnell will be held at 10am at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle he founded more than six decades ago in north Belfast.

Pastor McConnell had been receiving end-of-life care at the Royal Victoria Hospital before his death at the age of 84.

Details about the service of thanksgiving were announced by the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle yesterday.

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A spokesperson for the church said that while “many people will want to attend this service to pay respects, to support his family, and give thanks for the tremendous life of our pastor”, coronavirus rules would still be in place.

“The doors to the church building will not open until 9.15 am, and the sanctuary will be seated in its socially distanced manner,” the spokesperson said.

“Please note that to maximise safety and allow us to manage capacity, stewards will show people to seats – there will be no opportunity to sit in your usual seat. Mask wearing for all non-exempt people is mandatory.

“Once the sanctuary is at its socially distanced capacity, the minor hall will then be filled to its socially distanced capacity.

“At that point, we have no further internal capacity, but speakers in the front car park area (in front of the youth centre) will relay the service people who are outside.”

Whitewell also announced that a live stream of the service would be available on the church website and on its Facebook page.

Mr McConnell hit the headlines in 2014 after calling Islam “heathen” and “satanic” during a church sermon.

He was questioned by police and was found not guilty in 2015 of making grossly offensive remarks against Islam, after a trial at Belfast Magistrates’ Court which garnered worldwide attention.

The trial provoked fierce debate about freedom of speech and freedom of religion in Northern Ireland

Amongst those to pay tribute to Pastor McConnell following his death on Saturday were the DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and the First Minister Paul Givan.

Mr Donaldson said Pastor McConnell had “touched lives around the world”, while Mr Givan described him as a “faithful servant of the Lord loved by many”.