Metropolitan Tabernacle Pastor James McConnell Plans Rally for Andersonstown

Situated in Catholic West Belfast, the Andersonstown Leisure Centre isn’t the venue you would expect for a Christian rally featuring the charismatic Pastor James McConnell of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, known by some as a pastor to Iris Robinson.

The event is called ‘Hope: Now and Forever’, and will feature ‘a message of hope by Pastor James McConnell,’ a worship band, choir, and drama team.

McConnell’s last rally, held in September at the Ravenhill Rugby Grounds, attracted 12,000 people.

Rallies are a hallmark of Protestant evangelicalism, popularised by American evangelist Billy Graham. In rural areas of Ulster, it has long been an evangelical tradition to set up large tents during the summer months to host itinerant gospel preachers.

I grew up in an evangelical Protestant tradition, so these events seem normal to me. They don’t necessarily seem normal to Catholics, as evidenced in a 1999 publication called ‘The Great White Tent’ from Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI, now the Centre for Contemporary Christianity). In this volume, nationalists were invited to reflect on their perceptions of unionist identity and many wrote of their puzzlement at those large gospel tents.

Even as a child I understood that one of the main reasons why these rallies are held is to convince people to become converted or ‘born again.’ This was one of the main ways people from my tradition became Christians. Before his Ravenhill rally, Pastor McConnell told the Belfast Telegraph that he hoped the rally would convert at least 1,000 souls.

I reckon that it is usually people from Protestant backgrounds who attend McConnell’s rallies, like the one in Ravenhill. Critics might say that the Andersonstown event is an attempt at ‘sheep stealing,’ trying to lure Catholics to a different form of Christianity. But the title of the event, ‘Hope: Now and Forever’ could be a generic (even ecumenical) Christian one.

Whatever Pastor McConnell’s motivation, it is a bold step that, more than his events in other parts of the city, risks being met with hostility or indifference.

‘Hope: Now and Forever’ is scheduled for Thursday 27 January at 7.45 pm in the Andersonstown Leisure Centre.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    And I hope many attend and that he is welcome. Religion is not politics.
    I see no problem.


    Aye, just what Northern Ireland needs, more religious people.

    I like the idea of tempting Catholics away from their own church but not if it’s just going to be into another church, we need Protestants and Catholics deconverted, full stop.
    Let’s have a secular atheist Northern Ireland, and see how we get on.

  • leftofcentre

    I see the catholic church already planning a protest:


  • Turgon

    I agree entirely. I have attended many tent missions especially the Portstewart Convention. I have always been a bit dubious about the wisdom of using tents here even in summer but it usually presents relatively few problems.

    On a semi related note can anyone explain Novenas to me Are they a similar concept withion Catholicism?

  • Turgon, nine days prayer. The Catholic equivalent of these rallies are missions or retreats, which have largely died out since Vatican II.

  • circles

    Andytown needs Pastor James and his Tabernacle as much as it needs a week of rioting.

  • Neil

    LOL. Good luck to him and I hope it works out ok. But given my experiences I fear a few local youths may weigh in to start mayhem for the fun of it.

    I anticipate very few locals will be in attendance, other than possibly some hoods.

  • andnowwhat

    Could this result in the Felons being converted in to an Orange Lodge?

  • On a slightly related note, but on the other side of the spectrum, I recently put up pdfs of Clonard Missions (for the conversion of Protestants) from the 1950s.

    The National Union of Protestants has since evolved into

  • The Word


    “Religion is not politics.”

    This is still Northern Ireland. A mass demonstration of shallowness such as this, where they rant and rave about the Bible and then say Jesus Christ a few times may appeal to some, but I sense a man trying to play tricks with people by drawing them away from the substantial religion of Catholicism to what might even be termed a “Neo-Aristotelian Sisyphusian” version of a shallow political religion.

    Was the invite signed by a Sinn Fein MLA, as we often see Sinn Fein attacks on the Catholic faith in these quarters. Catholicism mustn’t make sense to them anymore. Must be the word Catholic!

  • Rory Carr

    I see that The Word believes that it is a Provisional Revivalist Meeting. Should be good fun. I wonder will this fellow turn up to enliven the proceedings:

  • Brian

    What a bunch of clowns.

  • MichaelMac

    “LOL. Good luck to him and I hope it works out ok. But given my experiences I fear a few local youths may weigh in to start mayhem for the fun of it.

    I anticipate very few locals will be in attendance, other than possibly some hoods.”

    Couldn’t agree more, this has stupid written all over it.

  • The Word


    How you mock the black people of the USA, most of whom would know more about Christ than any white man, even the Irish, because of their own struggle for liberty.

    You’re all confused, Rory. Perhaps they don’t merit a big word.

  • Rory Carr

    Taht, Mr Word, is an insult too far and I call on you now to withdraw it and apologise.

  • Johnny Boy

    It’s all nonsense no matter which particular brand of fairy story you buy in to.

    I’m most concerned that any of these religious nut cases have influence over NI’s political leaders.

  • An internet search indicates that Peter Robinson is a member of Metropolitan Tabernacle church. Perhaps Peter and Martin will welcome Pastor McConnell to the ALC if Gerry isn’t available. I’ve seen a photo of Gerry in the pulpit at Clonard Monastery.

  • The Word

    “Peter Robinson is a member of Metropolitan Tabernacle church”

    Does anyone get the impression that Peter Robinson thinks he sees weakness in Sinn Fein in relation to their, shall we call it connectiveness, to the Catholic Faith? First its our schools, now his Church is expanding into West Belfast.

    Does Sinn Fein really believe that their Neo-Aristotelian Sisyphusian wing, or Greek republicans, (anything but Christianity) will resolve the deeper crises in their heartlands, the failure of cynicism?


    Good try, but you put up the video.

  • youngbluewoolyjumper

    Pastor McConnell has recently lost a large chunk of his congregation in a rather vicious split. Not to sound too cynical but the coffers are emptying, and what with the price of chandelier polish on the rise…Churches like this are concerned with putting bums on seats and ensuring a legacy. Branum did it, Roberts did it, McPherson did it and Hinn still does it. Sadly this is not so much a “come get saved” mission as a “come to Whitewell and fill our balcony” one.

    There are true, honest chuches out there who preach and live the gospel, sadly Whitewell hasn’t been one of those for many a year.

  • The title could be ecumenical, but somehow I doubt that there will be anything remotely ecumenical about it!

  • The Word, your remarks surprise me. The ‘Stepping Stones’ peace process was essentially a Catholic Church/Sinn Fein initiative. Others were invited to lend a hand.

  • Brian

    The Word

    The “One, Holy Catholic and Apolistic Church” is it’s own worst enemy. Well, that and the education of the masses.

    Here in Washington DC the local Church is mostly full or aging white couples and uneducated hispanics.

    In a couple generation’s time more than half the churches will be closed or abandoned. And they wont have the billions they spent covering up child abuse and paying off legal suits to help them.

  • The Word


    “The ‘Stepping Stones’ peace process was essentially a Catholic Church/Sinn Fein initiative.”

    The initiative of an almost broken priest who directed Sinn Fein in the direction of the SDLP, the “others” you refer to. Funny how everybody ended up supporting the SDLP position. Maybe you’re thinking that the priest, and therefore the Church was used to get Sinn Fein out of a tricky situation. Any how the SDLP were ready when they came.


    If the “One, Holy Catholic and Apolistic Church” is finished, the others never really started. But America is not a good position to view Christianity from, given the violence of its patriotism and the severity of its capitalism. Some people need to stop and think if all their rightwing “Christian” outbursts really reflect a belief in God.

  • The Word, Hume and the SDLP were lesser players in the process I mentioned. I’d rate the Irish government and its officials as having a more significant role than the SDLP within the Nationalist family. Reid’s colleagues and Vatican officials played an important international role. Trimble had to remodel the earlier Hume analysis to include the Unionist aspiration and the other political relationships across these islands.

  • Mark

    How much are the tickets to this rave ?

    I might get the old dungarees out and head up .

  • The Word


    Throwing about half-true comments might serve an agenda, Nevin, but it fools nobody.

    Your continuing jealousy of Hume and the SDLP irritates me. How come everybody conceded to John Hume in the end. And Trimble, what did he ever do other than big up the guns of the Provos?

    Fr Reid and his colleagues just made it easy for Adams to make a fist at repentance.

    BYW, are you that fanatic who writes to the papers about Israel and the accuracy of the story of the three wise kings?

  • The Word, I spelt out the limitations of the Hume analysis in the early 90s and, funnily enough, I managed to incorporate the Unionist and Nationalist aspirations. As I’ve pointed out earlier, Ray Davey of Corrymeela has been my role model.

  • The Word

    “funnily enough, I managed to incorporate the Unionist and Nationalist aspirations”

    I don’t want to be rude, Nevin, but how come nobody noticed this?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Is Peter is still a member of Whitewell? The talk was last year he hadn’t been seen there in years.

  • The Word, perhaps they did; both aspirations are incorporated in the 1998 Agreement.

  • Driftwood

    Pastor James’s church advertises its links to Elim and other evangelical hellfire quackery. One of his colleagues is blaming the Queensland floods on not being pro Israel enough:

    These kooks are very funny for those who can observe from a reasonable distance. The fact that Robinson is part of this nonsense shows what a freakshow we have in regional government that matches Kentucky.

    I’m sure the locals will treat this circus/freakshow with disdain. Unless Iris appears as a guest speaker, complete with sinful Andytown leisure centre! surely the best possible comeback, the crowds would love it.

  • Driftwood

    Gerry could introduce his new DUP friends to the Children’s Hospital!

    Make it a DUP/SF love in..

  • Drumlins Rock

    Drifty, so far as I can see there is no direct connection between Whitewell and the Aussie nutcase, so try to make your anti-religion rants at least relevant to the situation, otherwise I could start comparing you to Pol Pot, chairman Moi, Hitler, etc. (claiming a Goodwin’s Law exception here! ).
    McConnell isn’t really my style, too American, but the choirs are usually great, the Andytown folk should go for the crack of it, or stay at home if not interested, I supposed they have the right to stand outside with “Down With This Sort Of Thing” posters but I dont think it is really worth the effort. Chill out, live and let live Drifty, you don’t have to be angry all the time like High Priest Dawkin’s.
    PS used to love “Psalty” when I was wee, course was only on tapes then, hope the old old version was better than that!

  • Drumlins Rock

    Try these, maybe they will convert you!

    a bit more scriptural…

  • Drumlins Rock

    oh I love this bit! quite Phytonesque …

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Converting Falls Road Catholics….perhaps a sign of normality. Few remember Maura Lyons.

  • Driftwood

    Come off it Drumlins (not your pulpit), It’s attempting to be ‘glitzy’ pseudo american gospel without the effort (or the talent). You don’t have to be an Oxford Professor to see through the tawdry cheesiness. And I’ve heard McConnell, he’s just as mad as a box of frogs as those American/Aussie thumpers. The better read in WB would do well to watch this guff for entertainment, but I want to make the point it’s a few light years away from ordinary (non-DUP) unionist thinking. The day I went there were a few decent looking birds though, so maybe not a total waste of time.

  • Driftwood

    Oh, DR, was Chairman ‘Moi’ a freudian slip?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Drifty, think it was more to do with posting after midnight.
    Don’t really disagree with you that much, been a few times and even as an evangelical could see when you stripped away the style much of the substance was iffy, saying that have also met loads of people who are members and on the whole found them very genuine and quite sane.

  • Greenflag

    @ Rory ,

    Thanks for that Elmer Gantry piece . Even an atheist like myself can appreciate the eh ‘uplifting ‘ singing of the folks .

    The ‘end scene ‘ in Gantry is somehow more pertinent in this day and age .

  • Greenflag

    @ driftwood,

    ‘And I’ve heard McConnell, he’s just as mad as a box of frogs as those American/Aussie thumpers. ‘

    Here’s Father Dylan Moran talking the episstles to the Australians . About 9 minutes in he gets down to ‘belief’ after a warm up in which he takes the michael out of various nationalities .

    And he continues with the danger of having too much faith in ‘politicians ‘

  • Drumlins Rock

    no one else a veggie tales fan?

    BTW, would love for one of our republican commentators to go along soem night ad give a review of the meeting 🙂

  • chewnicked

    Is it fair to deduce that you won’t be heading to Andytown, Marcionite?

  • Driftwood

    The funniest part of the show are the ‘testimonies’. Drug addicts/Loyalist gangsters/criminally insane young males of limited intellect try to compete with each other on just how baaaad they were before finding Jesus. Impossible to keep a straight face. You get the impression they’re hoping their probation officer is in the audience.


    Marcionite, is mummy ignoring you today?


    My barber says that you could plonk NI in the middle of the Mississippi and it would fit right in. He then cut my hair.

  • Mark


    Your’re assuming he knows her name .

  • Rory Carr

    Which church, I wonder can Marcionite tell me, caters for thick, stupid, lower-middle class people who are so dumb that they post entries on a blog using atrocious spelling and abysmal punctuation in order to complain about the intellectual capabilities of another set of people ?

  • Gladys – you’ve prompted me to dig out our copy of The Great White Tent. Some fascinating stuff in there – might do something here around parts of the Gerry Adams interview in a week or two!