Prayers have been said for tragic honeymooners John and Lynette Rodgers at the church where they exchanged vows little over a week ago.
Assistant minister Stephen Lowry said the close knit congregation at First Holywood Presbyterian had been plunged into “intensive grief”.
Addressing almost 200 parishioners, many of whom had known the 26-year-old bride since she was a child, the minister told of their immense heartache at a “terrible loss”.
Reverend Lowry said: “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform the church of the sudden and tragic deaths of John and Lynette Rodgers.
“John and Lynette were married here last Saturday, October 17 and both were sadly killed in a drowning accident whilst on honeymoon in South Africa. Lynette grew up here among us in this church family and many of us will remember her in the GB (Girls Brigade) and as she played in the faith band.
“Our prayers are very much with Lynette’s mother, Eva Reilly and her brother, Graham and the parents of her husband John, Billy and Joanne and their extended families and friends at this time.”
Rev Lowry was standing in for full time minister Nobel McNeely who conducted the wedding ceremony last week.
In a sermon delivered from the pulpit he said the pressure of the double tragedy could spark a crisis of faith for some.
But the minister pledged pastoral and practical support for relatives of both victims, in particular Lynette’s widowed mother Eva, as they struggled with the despair during the difficult in the months ahead.
Prayers were also said for friends of the young couple who, eight days ago had toasted their wedding but were now in mourning preparing for their funeral.
Rev Lowry added: “We as a church continue to offer our support in any way that we can, with our love and our prayers.”
There was no sign of the wedding celebrations which had taken place last week at the sizeable church on the edge of the Co Down town. Afterwards people huddled together in small groups, speaking in hushed tones about their shock.
One man said: “It is so tragic, these are just terrible circumstances.”
In a statement Rev Lowry, who met with the Reilly family this morning, said the deaths had left everyone reeling.
“It has come as a great shock to both the Reilly and Rodgers families and our church community of this sudden and tragic event in South Africa which took the lives of John and Lynette.
“The happiness and joy of their wedding last Saturday has been truly replaced by grief and loss.”