The Reverend Dr David Latimer delivered the Bloody Sunday annual lecture in North West Disability Centre tonight.
Rev. Latimer of the First Derry Presbyterian Church is one of Derry's most prominent clergymen who retired last weekend after 32 years' service.
He came to prominence in the last decade through his friendship with Sinn Fein politician and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness.
In attendance were some Bloody Sunday families, Ballymurphy families and McGurk’s Bar families who have stood in solidarity with each other over the years.
Event Chair Paul McFadden said the choice of Rev Latimer had been described as “bizarre” in some quarters and it would prove to be either the worst, or best, casting imaginable.
During the event Rev Latimer said his unlikely friendship with Martin McGuinness drew harsh criticism from members of his congregation and he “lost” a number of them who left in protest.
Their friendship began following an attack on his church when he appeared on Radio Foyle to highlight the issue and appealed to a man with “authority” to help. Sinn Féin contacted him and a meeting was arranged.
Scones were baked, butter was donated from the former Tower Hotel and Martin McGuinness made the tea on arrival. “We talked, and when I look back it was a beautiful moment in my life,” Rev Latimer recalled.
“Here I was with a former IRA leader and me still with a British army uniform (he was an army chaplain). You couldn’t make it up, but we talked like two people from the same street.
“We just clicked, I never thought we would go on this journey together.”
Mr McFadden remarked that when news broke the Reverend must’ve “got some s***”. In response he said: “I still have resistance in my church but you have to ride the waves.”
After questioning whether the unlikely friendship was damaging his church, he was reassured when an older member of the congregation said, “if you hadn’t reach out it would be closed”.
He noted that some of those “professing to be evangelical” have been strongest in their opposition - “I wonder what book they are reading,” he added.
“Myself and Martin got to know each other, like each other, love each other. Love is reaching out and my life has been better for meeting Martin.”
See the full story in Monday's edition of the Derry News.
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