Tributes are being paid to Presbyterian minister and missionary Rev Dr Paul Bailie who has died suddenly at the age of 54.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick has said the Church has lost 'a very wise, gifted and talented Christian leader.'
In a statement Dr Kirkpatrick said :
"Paul was at a meeting of a General Assembly Committee in Assembly Buildings only yesterday morning and I am told he played an active part and was in great form. It is very difficult to take in.
"His sudden calling home has been such a shock as we have lost a very wise, gifted and talented Christian leader. I have known Paul for a number of years and on behalf of our entire Presbyterian Church I would like to offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to his beloved wife Anne, their wider family, his friends and indeed his colleagues at Mission Africa. He leaves an aching gap in the lives of so many who will feel his loss so keenly."
Dr Bailie was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, Newtownards in 1995 where he was an assistant to the minister until 1998, when he left for Kenya. Here he served PCI directly as an overseas missionary with his wife, Dr Anne Bailey, teaching the Presbyterian College of East Africa.
He returned to Northern Ireland in 2005 and began working for the charity Mission Africa, one of the oldest inter-denominational evangelical missions in the UK. His work as Chief Executive brought him regularly to Nigeria, Kenya and other nations on the continent. In this role he also held the position as being 'a Recognised Minister' in PCI, and was the last person to be appointed as such.
At Union Theological College Dr Bailie taught various aspects of Old Testament and will be remembered by many of his students, past and present, along with those he taught at Belfast Bible College.
He also played an active part in the life of the Church and its committees, attending his last committee on Tuesday morning. In his home presbytery, the Presbytery of Ards, he served as the convenor of the vacancy of Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church and was deputy clerk of the Presbytery.
Dr Kirkpatrick concluded by saying :
"Paul was not always in the public eye, but he enjoyed broadcasting and had a great aptitude and voice for it. He often commentated (on the radio) and one morning he talked about a formidable 19th century English cricketer turned missionary to Africa, Charles T Studd. Paul quoted a poem by the missionary when he wrote, 'Only one life 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.' Paul's life passed too quickly and so suddenly, but the outworking of his love for Jesus and what he did in His Name will be without measure. He will be greatly missed."