Light has been shed on the mystery of an obscure religious ceremony in Glenarm, the Times can exclusively reveal.
In November a witness spoke of six men, dressed in white robes, singing and dancing on a headland above the Madman’s Window picnic area. Stones in the shape of a cross were left behind at the scene of what was believed to be a Christian ceremony.
Eyebrows were raised again last Friday when two coaches carrying a large group – nearly 100 men, women and children – also dressed in robes arrived in Glenarm.
After receiving a flurry of calls from villagers, the Larne Times went along to investigate.
On arrival it emerged that the visitors belong to the Friday Apostles, a Christian organisation based in Sheffield. Its members, many of African origin, pray for an end to natural disasters such as earthquakes.
A grassy spot above the Madman’s Window was chosen because the group is travelling to the “four corners of the UK” to pray at sites which broadly form the shape of a cross. The other venues are in Newcastle, Portsmouth and Scotland.
The group’s leader, Father Isaiah, who gave the name Leonard Radzokota, told the Times that the 98-strong party had arrived early on Friday morning before making their way to the outcrop on the landward side of the Coast Road which overlooks the coast.
Worshippers, all swathed in white and wearing sandals, walked up the side of a hill to the headland and removed their footwear before gathering in a circle for several hours of prayer.
Speaking to the Times after the ceremony, Fr Isaiah said the organisation was formed in Zimbabwe in 1931. The group spotted in Glenarm last year was a scouting party, looking for a suitable prayer site, he added.
Some of the group are from the sub-Saharan African country while others come from all over the UK. “Our groups are all over – in America, some in Australia, in the UK and New Zealand. In Africa there are plenty.”
The group, he explained, are travelling throughout the UK to pray against natural disaster. “We were told to come to Northern Ireland, then go to Newcastle, then go to Scotland, then go to Portsmouth – then it forms a cross,” Fr Isaiah said.
Several of participants made reference to the earthquake which shook large parts of the country in February. The epicentre of the 5.2 magnitude quake – the biggest to hit Britain in 24 years – was in Lincolnshire.
Mother Ottilia Gamuchira Nreta said: “We are holding some prayers for these natural disasters which are happening, like the earthquake. We have been told to pray in the four corners of the country.”
Apostle Chris Rautkin added: “We are praying to our Lord to stop natural disasters happening in the UK and Ireland.”
Back in the coaches – emblazoned with ‘Wizard’ on the side – the group travelled to Larne, where they visited Murrayfield shopping centre and Broadway. Shoppers in the town centre were treated to the sight of dozens of robed worshippers singing and dancing at the Broadway bandstand on Friday afternoon, before the group rturned to Sheffield.