GRIEF engulfed 1st Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney, on Sunday morning as the congregation struggled to come to terms with news of the sudden death of their well respected minister, Rev. Warwick Smart.
Many people, from teenagers to pensioners, openly shed tears for the clergyman who was only in his 30s.
Tributes have been paid to Rev. Smart who was described by his grieving wife Andrea as “larger than life”.
Rev. Smart was a father to two young children, Nicholas and Daniel.
The popular churchman died at his Charlotte Street Manse at the weekend and on Sunday morning a restricted service went ahead as a mark of respect to the minister who made such a big impact in his short time in Ballymoney.
Mrs Smart said her husband was “larger than life” and she said they were due to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary on December 15.
On the internet, Rev. Smart had written about himself: “I was born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa. I am an Irish citizen (thanks to a Granny form Castlerock) which made moving to Ireland easy.
“I grew up in Plettenberg Bay on the South-East Coast of South Africa. I was raised in a non-religious home and first attended church while reading law at university. I came to faith and was baptised (aged 19) in a non-denominational campus church.
“I think that being a local church pastor is the best job in the world. I serve First Presbyterian Church Ballymoney, one of the oldest Presbyterian Churches in Ireland. It is a great church filled with wonderful, sincere, folk trying to make sense of what it means to follow Jesus.”
Rev. Smart was chaplain to Alderman Frank Campbell, when the councillor was Mayor of Ballymoney.
Ald. Campbell paid tribute to Rev. Smart.
He said: “Rev. Smart really pulled 1st Ballymoney together and increased the numbers in the congregation. I feel sadness for the family especially coming so close to Christmas - it must be a very sad home.
“Two years ago my first meeting with Warwick was when I left my wife Jean in to church and I asked him if he would be my chaplain and he said he would be delighted and that year he made friends in the Council and with others like members of the footballing fraternity at the Milk Cup.
“He really did have a wonderful way with him which helped him get so established in Ballymoney and a colleague in the Council told me he had met many clergymen in his day but that Rev. Smart really stood out.
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