Dr Mawhinney was speaking after he had met the senior officers and staff at the PSNI’s headquarters at Brooklyn, in East Belfast, where he is currently paying a week-long visit to one of the Church’s three local presbyteries in the city. PCI’s principal public representative also honoured the memory and sacrifice of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross and PSNI when he visited the Memorial Gardens.
“While presbytery tours are primarily pastoral visits to encourage local congregations, while seeing how they are bringing the love of Christ to the neighbourhoods they serve, the tours also have strong civic and community elements to them,” Dr Mawhinney explained.
“In coming to PSNI headquarters with my colleagues, we wanted to convey to the senior leadership team the thanks of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the strong support that there is in our denomination for the difficult work that police officers do. While we recognise the huge pressures that the senior team has been under in recent weeks, and the obvious concern around some of the recent challenging issues, we also wanted to encourage them as they themselves serve the community.”
Dr Mawhinney continued, “There are many police officers who worship in our churches and are a part of the Presbyterian family across Northern Ireland and I hope the senior team were encouraged to know that our people pray regularly for the PSNI, including the senior team. With more changes on the horizon, we pray for wisdom and guidance as the Police Service moves forward.”
During his visit, Dr Mawhinney met Chief Operating Officer, Pamela McCreedy along with Assistant Chief Officer, Mark McNaughten, and Assistant Chief Constables Bobby Singleton, Chris Todd, Ryan Henderson and Melanie Jones. He was accompanied by Rev Marty Gray, minister of Knock Presbyterian Church, Rev Dr Colin Burcombe, minister of Mersey Street Presbyterian Church, and Clerk of Presbytery, Rev Stephen Moore, minister of Gillnahirk Presbyterian Church
During their visit to Police Headquarters, the Moderator and his colleagues were shown around the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Memorial Gardens, which commemorate the service and sacrifice of both PSNI and RUC police officers.
“The Memorial Gardens are special places and a poignant reminder of those who served the community in very difficult times, thinking more of others than they did of themselves. While each inscription details just one name, behind every one are many who have mourned down the years, and those who continue to feel the loss of a much-loved family member, or friend, as if it were yesterday,” Dr Mawhinney said.
Having found two familiar names in particular, the Moderator continued, “I remember standing on our street in Ballycastle watching the funeral of my good friend’s brother, Robert Laverty. I was 10 and he was an 18-year-old a constable in the RUC; it is something that has never left me. In fact, like so many churches, our small Presbyterian church had three plaques in memory of RUC officers murdered by the IRA. I also found my friend John McCambridge, who was also killed in the 1970s. He lived in our street and we were in the Boys’ Brigade together.
“As we continue to pray for those who mourn such painful loss, we recognise that the threat is still real, as the murders of Constables Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr remind us, as does the attempt on the life of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell in February of this year. We must continue pray that hearts are turned away from evil and violence, for those who serve to keep us safe, and for lasting peace,” he said.
Photos: (1) Pictured in the RUC GC Memorial Garden at Police Headquarters in East Belfast, the Moderator looks over one particular memorial that bears the names of two police officers, murdered in the 1970s, who he knew growing up. It was part of a visit that included a meeting with the PSNI's senior leadership team (2) left to right: Dr Mawhinney, Rev Dr Colin Burcombe, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Melanie Jones, Chief Assistant Chief Officer, Mark McNaughten, ACC Ryan Henderson, ACC Chris Todd, ACC Bobby Singleton, Rev Marty Gray, Rev Stephen Moore, Clerk of the Presbytery of East Belfast, and Chief Operating Officer, Pamela McCreedy.