Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: Shankill Gospel Hall

shankillgospelgiftsThis week Fr Martin Magill makes a welcome return with a post about his latest adventures in ‘ecumenical tithing.’ He dropped into the Shankill Gospel Hall after noticing its open door when he was out cycling. He describes a number of new experiences, and being given a gift of a King James Version bible after the service.

Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: Shankill Gospel Hall

This weekend I happened to be cycling to another church in North Belfast for worship when I noticed Shankill Gospel Hall with a member of the congregation coming out the door and on the spot I decided to worship there.
I was very warmly greeted and the member was clearly delighted when I told him I had seen the open door and would like to worship with them.  He immediately showed me into the small worship area where there were some people already there.  I sat in the back row and was warmly greeted by some of the ladies in the hall – I noticed all the ladies wore hats – some of them very stylish or at least they seemed so to me as a male who knows little about hats.  Before the service began a number of people from the congregation came to greet me and make me welcome.  The member who brought me in suggested I bring my bike into the hall of the church which I duly did.
The meeting was led by two men who were visitors to the church – they welcomed everyone and especially any visitor if this was his or her first time – I seemed to be the only visitor!   We sang  a number of hymns from what I learned was called the “Believers’ hymn book”.  These hymns dated back to the previous century and were not familiar to me – each of the hymns chosen and sung (without any instrumental accompaniment) took up the theme of eternity which was the theme for the service.
After the singing of two hymns, the first visitor gave the announcements and then asked us to turn to various places in the Bible for scripture verses he was going to read.  Immediately one of the women in my row loaned me her Bible – it was my first time to pray with the King James translation of the Bible. The man leading the service suggested about 6 different passages mostly from the New Testament with a few Old Testament references.

He then spoke about time and eternity and the need to be saved if we have not already been saved – the time was now, the time was getting short.

He made it clear that after death, there were only two options – hell or eternity – no reference to Purgatory here!  He left us in no doubt that for those who died in their sins, there was the eternal punishment of hell.

I found it interesting that he also spoke about God’s mercy – this was very poignant because for Roman Catholics, this was Divine Mercy Sunday and on the previous evening in Rome, Pope Francis had been giving details of a special Holy Year of Mercy.

The second speaker also invited us to look up some scripture verses and he also took up the theme of being saved and again warned about the danger of procrastination and going to hell where there was no mercy – it was too late then.   This was my first time to worship in a gospel hall and I found it interesting when one of the preachers told us that the world was 6,000 years of age.  I would have to say both men spoke with great passion and deep sincerity.
We finished at 8pm by singing one verse from another hymn not at all familiar to me.  There was an opportunity for conversation with a number of the congregation.

As I was leaving, I was presented with a large array of books and leaflets, including my own King James Translation of the Bible.

When I sat down at the very start of the “meeting,” as it was called, the woman in front of me greeted me with these words: “I hope this won’t be your last time in this church”.
After tonight, I don’t intend it to be.


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