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Obituary: Dr Alan Cairns (1940–2020)

February 2021 | by John Tredgett

Free Presbyterian minister and seminary professor Dr Alan Cairns has died aged 80 after contracting coronavirus last October.

The fifth of six children, Alan was raised by Christian parents in a working-class home in Belfast. An interest in music led the young Ulsterman to get involved in local Salvation Army meetings, where at the age of 8 he was converted to Christ.

He attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution in his teens and then briefly worked at an insurance broker’s in the 1960s. Here Alan began to feel called to share his faith with more than just his work colleagues, and duly became more involved in the evangelistic endeavours of Mount Merrion Free Presbyterian Church in southeast Belfast. By age 20, Alan felt called to enter ministry full time.

He pastored churches in Dunmurry and Ballymoney before moving to America to minister at Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He ministered there for 25 years.

Dr Cairns was also Professor of Theology at Whitefield College in Gilford, County Down, and lectured at the Geneva Reformed Seminary in Greenville. He spoke at conferences, founded the radio ministry ‘Let the Bible Speak’, edited the periodical Truth for Youth, and authored books including Dictionary of Theological Terms.

Following retirement in 2007, Dr Cairns returned to the UK, living in Ballymoney and attending Hebron Free Presbyterian Church.

Mervyn Storey, elder at Hebron and DUP Member of the Legislative Assembly, paid tribute: ‘We had the joy of having Alan as a member of our congregation during those years of retirement. The ministry wasn’t a job to Alan Cairns, it was his life and his passion because he preached the gospel in all its fulness.’

Dr Cairns is survived by his wife Joan, son Frank, and three grandchildren.

John Tredgett

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