Sunday the 5th of June 2016 will see the second edition of the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia in Northern Ireland with some 4000 participants cycling on police-closed roads along a 175 km planned course.
This year the route will run directly past Carryduff Free Presbyterian Church resulting in the road on which the church is situated being closed from 10:45am until 3:15pm. This means that the congregation will not be able to get to church for their regular Sunday worship. There is no other way to the church but along this road. We were not consulted about this, but simply told that the Killynure Road was being closed.
We have consulted with the Police, and public representatives who have been as helpful as they can be, but at the end of it all, the event is going ahead and we are having our religious freedom curtailed. We have moved our services forward, but we have had to defer our annual children’s day and our monthly communion service. We have verbally expressed our views to the Shadetree Sports representative without much effect. We therefore must protest at the organisers disregard of the local population and particularly of a local church. Surely if they must have a race on a Sunday they could schedule it down a road without a church at the time church services are being held?
However, as a Reformed and Protestant church, we also voice our opposition to the organisers arranging of this event on the Lord’s Day. Co-operation Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourism, and Shadetree Sport’s scheduling of this event is another testimony to the disdain in which the Sabbath is held in our province. It is obvious that times have changed in the realm of sporting fixtures. Rare is the spirit of Eric Liddell who refused to take part in the 100m competition at the 1928 Olympics because the heats were planned on Sunday.
The fourth commandment states, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”, (Exodus 20v8). The moral thrust of the 4th commandment is – one day in seven belongs to God so man is morally obliged to keep it. Its moral nature is seen in that it is an inseparable part of the moral law. The Ten Commandments form a unit, James 2v10 called it the “whole law” and violation of one part constitutes violation of it all.
This sporting event and others held on the Lord’s Day are a blatant dismissal of this command. This Gran Fondo was planned without any thought for, or consultation with, the local church community. It impacts greatly on our right and freedom to worship at a time of our choosing. We will be placing a banner outside our church on the Killynure Road to display our opposition to this dishonouring of the Lord’s Day.
“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14v34
Rev. David McLaughlin