Organised by the RUC GC Foundation, which was established in the year 2000, to mark the sacrifices and honour the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the annual Thanksgiving Service is held on the first Sunday in June.
For the second year running, however, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the service will take place virtually, with the Moderator hosting it from the Weir Chapel in PCI’s Assembly Buildings in Belfast.
The Most Reverend John McDowell, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Rev Dr Tom McKnight, the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and Rt Rev Monsignor Christopher O’Byrne of the Roman Catholic Church, will also take part, along with representatives of the RUC GC Foundation.
The four main churches have participated since the first service in 2003.
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Speaking ahead of Sunday’s service, Dr Bruce said, “For too many families the length and breadth of Northern Ireland, to have a day in the year that acknowledges, remembers and honours the sacrifice of their loved ones is, I hope, a genuine comfort and an opportunity to remember with pride.
“While we cannot be together physically and pay tribute to loved ones, for me it is a great privilege to be able to take part in the service, at a time when, in the words of Her Majesty The Queen’s George Cross citation, we ‘recognise the collective courage and dedication to duty’ of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The service can be viewed online via the Foundation’s website www.rucgcfoundation.org.
From the RUC’s formation in 1922 to the year 2001, 312 police officers were killed in terrorist attacks. Over 10,000 officers were injured, some 300 being severely disabled.
During this time policemen and policewomen received 370 individual gallantry awards.
In April 2000, The Queen presented the George Cross personally to the force at a special ceremony at Hillsborough Castle.
Speaking about tomorrow’s service, Dr Bruce said that he would be preaching on verses from the Gospel of John (15:9-17), when Jesus talks about love for others and the nature of sacrifice.
“During the service, we will remember the men and women who served, and especially those who laid down their lives. This is not only appropriate, but a good and necessary thing to do, as it is an annual reminder of the price that was paid by so many,” Dr Bruce said.
“Their sacrifice points us to the greatest example of such love, which is Jesus Christ. Just as his sacrifice has produced the fruit of a better world with the hope of heaven, so we pray that the fruit of the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the service of others would be the peace and stability we long for, and the healing of wounds which have scarred us and divided us for long enough.”
The chair of the RUC GC Foundation, Stephen White OBE, will welcome those joining the online service with a message recorded in the Weir Chapel. Foundation Trustee, Sandra Best, will read the RUC GC Prayer.