Yesterday Fr Martin Magill visited Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in North Belfast in his weekly exercise of ecumenical tithing. This fits well with a theme of this blog for the past week, which has focused on Pentecostal and charismatic churches in Northern Ireland.
Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, Belfast
After a very enjoyable meal with my friend “Team Mitch,” Mitch drove to the Tabernacle where I was to worship this Sunday evening. If the building looked splendid on the outside it looked awesome on the inside. There were warm hand shakes on the way in. I think five different people shook my hand before I got to my seat.
The 100 strong robed choir were singing away as we took our places and continued to do so until the service began. I saw at least three cameras around the building which I presume were there to record the service for those no longer able to come to church. As we waited to start Mitch explained the choir had their own pastor who had overall responsibility for the choir.
Pastor McConnell told us that there were between 1400 and 1500 people in the church for the service – no mean achievement on what was a gloriously sunny evening outside.
After opening hymns, we had announcements of prayer meetings and a Bible study, though I was left uncertain whether the prayer meeting on Friday 12th July was on or not. When it came to the collection, Pastor McConnell asked people to give generously and to dig deeply. Looking around the whole complex, it would seem they have been good at that over the years.
After more hymns, Pastor McConnell read the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10 beginning at verse 25. He then preached for just under 38 minutes on the parable inviting the congregation to see themselves on the highway of life in need of Christ to journey into eternal life. Jesus would be the Good Samaritan for those left robbed and wounded on the highway of life. He described the 7 things the Samaritan did for the wounded traveller and suggested that the Redeemer would do these for the wounded brother or sister. Pastor McConnell left us in no doubt that he believes the Second Coming of Christ is fast approaching and we need to be ready when Jesus comes again. He then extended an invitation for people to identify if they were wounded, anxious or needing to be forgiven and he prayed for the 12 people who put up their hands.
Mitch gave me a quick tour of the building which seemed like a 6 star hotel – amazing place. Afterwards we looked around the youth facility which like the rest of the complex was amazing.
- As I reflect on this week’s worship experience it was very clear that Metropolitan Tabernacle has superb buildings and resources and a very well organised way of being Church.
- It was clear there has been an intensive amount of financial support and fund raising to have made this possible, which leads me to say that to develop Church there needs to be generosity of time, talent and treasure.
- For the wider Belfast area, it would seem to me the city doesn’t need any more churches but a greater sharing of the resources we already have.
(Image of Whitwell choir sourced on http://www.metropolitan-tabernacle.org)