Incoming moderator: Our eyes met across the room, it was almost love at first sight

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has chosen the Reverend Charles McMullen as its next moderator following a vote on Tuesday evening. The 57-year-old, who was born in Omagh, County Tyrone, is currently minister of West Church in Bangor, County Down.'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has chosen the Reverend Charles McMullen as its next moderator following a vote on Tuesday evening. The 57-year-old, who was born in Omagh, County Tyrone, is currently minister of West Church in Bangor, County Down.'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

In 1990 at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s General Assembly Rev Charles McMullen met his wife to be.

Nearly 30 years later he will return to the General Assembly in June to officially take over the reigns as Presbyterian Moderator.

Rev McMullen told the News Letter about some of the key moments in his life to date, including meeting his wife Barbara and the men in the pulpit who inspired him.

The 57-year-old, who has been minister at West Church in Bangor since 1999, explained how he met his wife: “We had a mutual friend at that stage who shared a house with Barbara. The mutual friend invited me along to a dinner party that Assembly week in 1990.

“Barbara was sitting in the Assembly trying to work out who this guy was that was coming to the dinner party – she spotted me, smiled across a crowded room at me, and I looked over my shoulder assuming she was smiling at someone else.

“We met then at the dinner party – I think I was only there to make up numbers.

“That was June, we started going out in September, we were engaged within six weeks and got married the following May.

“I’m normally a very cautious person. It wasn’t too far off love at first sight.”

He added: “She has been totally supportive and encouraging – 100% behind me all the way. Sometimes she would bristle at the idea of being introduced as a minister’s wife. She would quickly add, ‘and a person in my own right’.”

Born and educated in Omagh, Rev McMullen, along with his family, worshipped at the town’s Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Mr McMullen graduated with Joint Honours in French and German from Trinity College, Dublin in 1982 and was awarded his MA in 1985.

Asked if he ever considered a post further afield given his language degrees he said: “I’ve always been very much a home bird. I love travelling but my language skills have got very rusty now.”

Rev McMullen and his wife Barbara have three children – Lydia, 23, who is training to be a midwife, Samuel, 21, who works as mobile analyst for PWC in Leeds and David, 20, who is studying theology at Queen’s.

“Not necessarily following in my footsteps,” Rev McMullen said of his son David with a smile.

“Myself and David would go to Ulster games together. It was even more special for me as an Ulster fan and a minister when Ruan Pienaar and Johan Muller were at the club.”

He said the players’ strong belief in God combined with their sporting attributes made them excellent role models.

Of the current trial involving Ulster players he said: “It’s a terrible tragedy what is happening at the moment.”

As well as a love of rugby, Rev McMullen said football rivalries added a bit of “needle” to the household.

“David is a passionate Liverpool supporter, Samuel supports Man U, and I’m Chelsea. We’ve a very divided house.”

Of leaving West Church he said: “I love my congregation. It will be a very big wrench to be away for a year.

“I’m very aware that this has been a call and I’m responding to that. What has been right for me will be right for West Church. I know the congregation will support me 100% in every way.”