They say ‘you can’t keep a good man down’, which is true in the case of Pastor Irwin Rea.
For over a quarter of a century Whitewell has been his ministerial home, a place where he’s always been widely regarded as a man who puts his whole heart into his work, especially of late.
Many people are probably unaware that Pastor Irwin suffers from degenerative coronary heart disease and is on a two-year programme of medication; unaware, because in Pastor Irwin’s case, it just seems to be business as usual.
He says, “It was a shock when I was first told about the heart problem just over a year ago, but I’ve kept going. I was told to slow down and lessen the work-load, but the truth is I’m busier than ever”.
That’s hardly surprising as these days Pastor Irwin appears to be involved in almost everything at the Tabernacle.
Aside from his daily pastoral duties, when he visits hospitals and family homes, Pastor Irwin is also responsible for overseeing the distribution of food to needy people in the church. Helped by Jewel Lindsay, he collects thousands of items of food and clothes and gets it packaged at the warehouse in Co. Down.
Pastor Irwin added: “I’ve always tried to give quality time to new converts and regular members of the church during visitations at homes and hospitals. I believe this is important, however feeding the needy is also something which is vital these days, especially in light of our current economic climate as there are many families struggling at present”.
He insists “Many people have proved to be faithful members of the church for years giving of their tithes and offerings, so it’s essential that our church doesn’t fail such people at this decisive time”.
And, if that’s not enough activity to be getting on with, the pastor is also helping to co-ordinate a church trip to Israel in October 2013, a vacation which has generated huge interest in the church. Pastor Irwin says, “Bookings for the trip have been amazing and there’s actually a waiting list. We expect this to be one of the most fascinating trips ever to take place from Whitewell, given the sacred locations we hope to experience”.
Pastor Irwin, who regularly holds funerals and weddings as part of his pastoral duties, is required to attend no fewer than five meetings per week at the Tabernacle. He’s a natural born worship leader with a great gift to sing and regularly helps out leading choruses at the Lord’s Table and mid-week meetings. He’s a regular preacher too at nursing homes and other churches around the province and even speaks occasionally at the Tabernacle.
Yet, not content with all of that, the diminutive, but dynamic pastor, is getting ready for his fourth trip to Kenya in a few weeks time, amazingly having just missed out on a chaplaincy stint in, of all places, Afghanistan.
“I couldn’t get insurance to go to Afghanistan, but would have loved the opportunity to minister to the troops. Nevertheless, as long as I have the heart for it, I will remain in the Lord’s work here at Whitewell”, says Pastor Irwin.
And who could argue with that!