It will be a sad day if the Belfast marathon moves to Sundays

Morning View

Proposals to move the Belfast marathon to a Sunday from May 2019 seem likely to get the go ahead.

The DUP Alderman Brian Kingston has said that his party has concerns about the impact on 21 churches along the proposed route for the annual race. But he said that the final decision on the date will rest with the organisers, and they want to hold it on Sunday.

The idea of holding the popular marathon on a Sunday has been mooted for many years, but it will be a sad day when it finally happens.

The traditional Christian Sunday that prevailed in Britain and Ireland has been chipped away at slowly over the decades. Lots of people think that this is a sign of modernity and science and scepticism and freedom of choice — that it is part of consigning the shackles of faith to history.

But there is another way of looking at it that even irreligious people might endorse: Sunday is the one day of the week that is markedly different. Its mornings are quiet for everyone, be they at church or asleep or playing sport or walking on a path.

And while it is true that tens of millions of people in the UK never now go near a church, many non believers can still recognise the heritage of a country where that was once true. In any event, church attendance rates in Northern Ireland are higher than in Great Britain.

Cannot Sunday mornings at least, even if not the rest of that day, be one brief period in the week when the still strong Christian tradition has an advantage, be it in the form of major shop closures or, for example, in the subject matter discussed on programmes such as the BBC’s Sunday Sequence?

A number of major events disrupt Sunday in Belfast each year, including the Gran Fondo and the half marathon. Not long ago we ran a letter from a reader who missed a Sunday service at St George’s Anglican church due to the triathlon.

Do we really need to add the marathon to this list of Sunday disruption, when it already works so well on the May bank holiday Monday and is closely associated with that date?

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