PANIC AT SUNDAY CHURCH SERVICE

CHURCH-goers in Ballymoney were left terrified after a man burst into an evening service and shouted abuse at those present.

Many were reduced to tears as the intruder made his way to the pulpit area and attempted to address the congregation about the war in Afghanistan before accusing them of being ‘hypocrites.’

One member who was present at the service – held on September 30 - described the situation as “extremely scary”.

“We heard a loud banging at the door and then this man entered the church and made his way up the left hand side of the aisle towards the pulpit. He wanted to talk about the war in Afghanistan, but then started on the congregation calling us hypocrites.

“A lot of people especially the young ones were crying and it’s fair to say it was a terrifying experience. There was a lot of panic.”

Church elders at Trinity (pictured right) moved quickly to subdue the man before police arrived to take control.

“We calmed him down and got him a cup of coffee. He was obviously in a very excited state and cried with us and with the police,” a source said.

He added: “The man was in his 40’s and may have had a military background. He certainly knew his scriptures and was able to quote a number of verses to us.”

It is known that senior members of Trinity treated the man with dignity and did their best to avoid any moves that could have exacerbated the situation.

It is also understood that the man may have caused disruption to a meeting the same evening at Ballymoney Town Hall. He could have been going around looking for an opportunity to speak at a religious gathering, the source said.

While not wanting to introduce measures that would see locked doors at churches, the incident has prompted church officials to ask for police patrols during services.

“The last thing we want to see is flashing blue lights or anything like that. Churches are meant to have open doors, but we do recognise the need to be vigilant and our priority is always the well-being of the congregation,” our source added.