Statement by Rev. David McIlveen on funeral arrangements

Original article published by the NewsLetter, Monday 15th September 2014

A retired Free Presbyterian minister has said he believes the decision the former First Minister took, prior to his death, to have a private funeral service “was taken out of love for his family”.

Rev David McIlveen, who arrived at the Paisley’s home a short time after Dr Paisley passed away, said he had no input in arranging his “close friend’s” funeral service.

“As I understand it, it was a family decision and I was not part of that,” he said. “It was a very thought out decision by both Dr and Mrs Paisley. It is what they wanted and I think personally they have to be commended for that.

“I think most people in their life aspire to what we call in Ulster ‘a great send-off’ and maybe hope large numbers will attend the funeral out of respect or out of appreciation.

“I know many people who have appreciated Dr Paisley’s life and influence , and it has been announced there will be an opportunity at a later date to identify with that expression of grief. But on this occasion his burial and his funeral service will be very much a family time.”

The retired Free Presbyterian Minister said he did not see the decision to hold a strictly private family service as “any sense a reflection of what has happened in the past”.

“I think this is something that would have been done irrespective of what was in the past or the recent past,” he added.

“This is purely and simply a decision they have made and I think it is going to be a difficult time for a family who has lost – Mrs Paisley, a dear husband, his children, a dear father and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Dr Paisley was very family orientated and his was a unique home to go into.

“It was a very special home.

“If you went into that home they recognised that this was a very special home where the family were a united source of strength to each other and very much centralised on their faith which they were catechised in by their father and mother.

“That respect of mother and father is very much diminishing in our society but it was very much protected within the Paisley household and that sets a great example to all of us.”

Paying tribute to Dr Paisley, the retired Minister said he was “a man of tremendous faith and that governed his life in every sense whether it was his private life or his public life”.

“He was very gracious, very generous, very compassionate in his day to day life. It was a privilege to work with him in the Ministry. He was a great source of inspiration particularly at how he dealt with people in their times of need.

“I take the quotation from Romans XII that he wept with those that wept and rejoiced with those that rejoiced and that kind of Ministry was very much his gift and it was a tremendous gift to have. He would go into his home saturated with sorrow and grief and to bring comfort and hope was remarkable. It does not come easy to any person but I believe in his case it was a very special gift that he will be remembered for in many homes throughout Northern Ireland.”

He said be believed the Paisley family would have been able to draw condolence from his words to other people, after his passing.

“Just to reflect on things he said at times of bereavement when he was in homes that a death had entered and to recollect on the words that he gave and to apply them to this situation that involves him is a great source of comfort,” he said.

“I think all of us will reflect on things he said in times of bereavement.

“I think the tributes that have been paid to Dr Paisley and the family from all over is very much appreciated, but at the end of the day it is a family that is grieving like many other families throughout the world and that loss is just as keenly felt even though there is that strong faith which brings great comfort. But nevertheless we are human, have a sensitive side to us and the universal language is the language of the tear and we can understand the tears of grief and sorrow.”

He added that Dr Paisley’s “greatest legacy is not the political but the spiritual”.

“His preaching of the Gospel to me remains his greatest legacy where hundreds of people were converted to the Lord Jesus Christ who is our saviour,” he said.

“To me he could only see himself as a channel, he didn’t see himself as converting people but he saw himself as the channel that led to the conversion of others.”