Presbyterian return to Derry welcomed

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A decision by the Presbyterian Church to hold their General Assembly in Derry during the City of Culture year shows the city is open to everyone, a local councillor has said.

More than 1200 Presbyterians from across Ireland will converge on the city during the first week of June 2013 after delegates at this weeks annual Assembly in Belfast voted to accept an invite from the Presbytery of Derry and Donegal.

Sinn Fein councillor Michael Cooper says bringing the Assembly to Derry is welcome news for the city.

“Derry is rich in Presbyterian history and the recent reopening of the First Presbyterian Church is testament to that history.”

He says improved relations between denominations in Derry has been gathering momentum over the past twelve months.

“The relationship between the Presbyterians and their Catholic neighbours has improved immensely over the past year.

“Presbyterian clergy have shown incredible leadership by attending a memorial to the victims of Bloody Sunday and the attendance of leading Republican and Nationalist politicians at the reopening of First Presbyterian Church are just some of the tangible effects of those improved relations.

“I am confident that the people of Derry will give a huge welcome to the Annual Assembly and look forward to many more being held in his city in the future.”

The General Assembly is held during the first week of June each year and is regarded as the church’s governing body.

2013 will be the first time since 1991, when it was held in Dublin, that the Church has held its Assembly outside of Belfast.

Speaking after delegates at this year’s Assembly had agreed to come to Derry, Clerk of Assembly Dr Donald Watts said, “As a church we sometimes underplay the importance of culture.

“By accepting this invitation we can share in an exciting way who we are as people, what we believe and what we can contribute to the life, not just of Derry/Londonderry but to the whole of society.”

It is expected that the meetings of the Assembly will be held in the Millennium Forum during the first week of June.