Rev. David Latimer to retire in new year

Rev David Latimer.
Rev David Latimer.

A Protestant churchman from Derry whose friendship with the late Martin McGuinness has been hailed as ‘truly inspirational’ is to retire.

Rev. David Latimer is to stand down as Minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church on January 31, 2020.

2011... Rev Dr. David Latimer chats to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA at the re-opening and re-dedication of First Derry Presbyterian Church.

2011... Rev Dr. David Latimer chats to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA at the re-opening and re-dedication of First Derry Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Latimer, who first arrived in Derry almost 32 years ago, says he is retiring from day-to-day ministry with a “heavy heart”.

“I’ve fallen in love with Derry over the past 30+ years,” he told the ‘Journal’. “It’s a wonderful city and it has a very special place in my heart. I’ve forged some really lasting friendships during my time here and I’m truly grateful that things have worked out the way they have.”

Rev. Latimer (68), who hails from Co. Down, says that he and his wife, Margaret, will continue to live in Derry after his retirement.

“It’s become our home,” he says. “We love living here and we have so many good friends here. I also intend to remain involved in a number of projects that are close to my heart, most notably those peace-building and society-shaping initiatives involving students who attend schools and colleges across the nine counties of Ulster.”

It was the Presbyterian minister’s remarkable relationship with the late Martin McGuinness that turned heads both nationally and internationally.

Rev. Latimer became friends with the former IRA commander in 2007 when he asked him for help in stopping attacks on his church which overlooks the Bogside.

He later spoke at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Belfast in 2011.

David Latimer says he cherishes his “truly unique friendship” with Mr McGuinness which evolved and developed over more than a decade.

Indeed, the closeness of the bond between the two men was underlined when Rev. Latimer delivered a moving eulogy at the Sinn Féin leader’s funeral in 2017.

The Presbyterian minister tells the inspiring story of his relationship with the veteran republican in his best-selling memoir, ‘A Leap of Faith’.

The story has received a ringing endorsement from former US President Bill Clinton who says it underscores the “importance of building bridges between faiths if we are to truly share the future”.