It looked like the coffin was floating on the shoulders of the people. There was thunderous singing of Amazing Grace. I realised God was among us.
Published: 25 Oct 2012 15:30
Aged only 30, and about to embark on what was meant to be his tenth morning worship at Enniskillen Presbyterian Church, he had been preparing for a christening when he heard the bomb go off as he sat in his study at his home. He was to later learn that six of his congregation had lost their lives.
He concedes the events were "difficult". "It wasn't as difficult after ten weeks as if it had happened after 10 years because I had not formed the emotional bonds or friendship with the people who died. I had been in their homes. The fact that I wasn't close friends at that point and to have a sufficient measure of detachment made me able to carry out my duties. Don't think that ministers carrying out funerals are robots who do not care. Of course we are emotionally involved. If people had been really close friends it would have been impossible for me to retain enough inner calm to carry out my duties," he said.
In the aftermath of the bombing, people had gathered in the Presbyterian Guildhall on the Queen Elizabeth Road, just metres away from where the bomb had gone off. "I suppose the first moment my faith was tested was the fear of how I was going to handle the situation. An important moment occurred when I walked inside the church hall," he recalled.
"I walked into a scene of emotional devastation, an indescribable atmosphere. People were ashen grey, sitting in a state of shock, crying. There was a high level of tension and fear and anxiety. It was confirmed that Johnny Megaw had died," he said.
A Book of Sermons he had been reading came to his mind as he was struck with the realisation of what had happened.
"I remember walking through the church hall door for the first time the enormity of what had happened began to dawn on me. I could physically feel my body begin to weaken, feeling going weak at the knees. I had been reading a Book of Sermons and thought of the story of Jesus calming the sea. You stand there and say the situation is not going to control me. God is in control. That point came to my mind when I was standing there in the church hall. I remember standing looking at the ceiling thinking I feel like panicking but my faith is going to make the decision not to panic. It was a most important moment for me," he said.
The moments that Johnny Megaw's coffin was carried aloft on a sea of humanity from the morgue in the Erne Hospital were particularly memorable.
"An unforgettable moment for me was at Johnny Megaw's service at the Erne Hospital. The crowd began singing Amazing Grace. It looked like the coffin was floating on a sea, bobbing up and down on the shoulders of the people carrying it. There was this huge, thunderous singing of Amazing Grace.
"I realised God was among us. There was a bigger picture where God will get the final victory," he said.
The morning of the bomb he recalls hearing the wail of sirens after the blast.
"I got in my car and went down Holly Hill. I remember Joe Kilpatrick, saluting at the old war memorial, straight as a ramrod. Standing in a white overcoat, saluting, unmoved. Belmore Street was cordoned off. I met Nan Lynch and she told me what had happened".
Hours were spent at the Erne Hospital trying to uncover news about members of the congregation. He later carried out the baptism, due to take place earlier at the morning service, at the baby's home.
An evening service was held at his church.
"I remember saying Psalm 46:1 'God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble' and read out the names of the dead and injured, breaking down in tears in the pulpit," he recalled.