Moderator leads tributes to Rev Dr Derek Poots

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FORMER Deputy Clerk of the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly, Rev Dr Derek Poots, O.B.E., has died after a long illness.

In paying tribute, Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton, described Dr Poots (75) as a “deeply committed and faithful servant of Christ and his Church who was an enthusiastic man of ideas with a keen sense of humour who could speak his mind when necessary but was extremely capable, loyal, caring and compassionate in fulfilling every aspect of his calling to the Christian ministry.”

As well as his ministry within the Presbyterian Church Dr Poots, of Boyland Road, Ballymoney, was also well known in the educational sector where he served both as a member and for many years Chairman of the Northern Eastern Education and Library Board and on various educational advisory panels.

Robert Fredrick (Derek) Shane Poots was born in Lurgan on 31 January 1937 and grew up in connection with First Lurgan Presbyterian Church. He was educated at Carrick Primary School, Lurgan College and graduated with a BA from Queen’s University, Belfast. He later obtained BD and MA degrees from Trinity College, Dublin and completed his ministerial training at the Presbyterian College in Belfast.

After assistantships in West Church, Ballymena and Trinity, Bangor, he was installed as minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney in 1964.

His gifts as a preacher and worship leader along with his passion for evangelism was reflected in an imaginative and effective ministry which drew people to Christ and built up a strong and enthusiastic congregation.

From the early years of his ministry he served on the North Eastern Education and Library Board demonstrating considerable personal courage at a time of abstentionism by political representatives and acted for a lengthy period as its chairman. He was later awarded an OBE for his services to education.

In 1990 the General Assembly appointed Dr Poots as its Deputy Clerk and Assistant General Secretary where his experience of educational issues made him eminently qualified as one of the Deputy Clerk’s main responsibilities is as secretary of the Church’s Board of Education.

His knowledge of Church law and procedure alongside his practical common sense and ability to handle a vast number of intricate duties made him an invaluable and competent deputy to the Clerk and many ministers and church members have reason to be grateful for the wise council he was able to give them.

His love of preaching and zeal for mission meant Dr Poots was not confined to his desk at Church House and during his time as Deputy Clerk he travelled literally thousands of miles, not only to conduct services north, south, east and west but to bring hope and encouragement to small and scattered congregations throughout Ireland and to their ministers.

Retiring in 2002 Dr Poots’ ministry as a faithful servant of Christ and his Church was recognised with the award of an honourary Doctor of Divinity degree by Union College.

Dr Poots is survived by his wife Mildred, son David and daughters Catherine, Heather and Nichola.

North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey extended his sympathy to the Poots Family.

Commenting after attending the Service of Thanksgiving Cllr Storey said: “It was with sadness that we learned of the death of the Rev Poots. Mr Poots was someone that made an immense contribution to the life of many people. Not only as a minister of the gospel, where he faithfully carried out what he saw as his calling and not just his duty but also in the service that he gave to education.

“It was in that role latterly that I particularly came to appreciate his skills and dedication and appreciated much of his advice and counsel. I had the privilege to sit on the Board of Governors of Ballymoney High School along with Rev Poots where he gave leaderships and commitment that was an example to us all.

“Rev Poots will be missed by us all, but particularly by his wife and family. It is to them that we extend our sincere sympathy and assure them of our continued prayers as they face these difficult days.

“Having the great assurance and comfort from God’s Word that “underneath are His Everlasting Arms”.”