Free Presbyterians stage protest against ‘absolutely terrible’ Belfast Marathon decision

Ray Wallace of First Presbyterian Church in Belfast city centre was unhappy the marathon was moved to Sunday
Ray Wallace of First Presbyterian Church in Belfast city centre was unhappy the marathon was moved to Sunday
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Free Presbyterians continued to voice their disapproval at the decision to move the Belfast Marathon to a Sunday with another protest yesterday.

It took place facing Cooke Centenary Presbyterian Church, close to the entrance of Ormeau Park, where protestors sang hymns, prayed, preached and gave out different Gospel tracts, entitled, ’Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy’.

At Martyrs Memorial FPC, Rev Dr Ian Brown said Sunday School had to be cancelled and the church bus could not do its usual Sunday pick-up.

In the city centre numbers were down at several churches due to road closures.

Ray Wallace of First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street said yesterday: “The congregation is well down.

“I think it’s an absolutely terrible decision to move the marathon to a Sunday. I think it’s a mistake.

“The reason they had it on the Monday was that it was a public holiday, people were off. There’s a lot of church goers who would like to do the marathon or spectate and they’re torn now.”

Asked if the church had considered moving its service, Mr Wallace said: “We only have a 10.30 service on a Sunday. The congregation has been here for 375 years, we’re not going to let a marathon stop us.”

Organisers said it was “a record year for the event” which saw the highest numbers ever for the marathon (5,000) – a 60% increase from last year.

There was also an increase in team relay participants, with around 2,400 teams signed up this year.

Close to 18,000 overall participants took part in yesterday’s event.