By Paul Ainsworth

ONE of the North’s biggest buddhist organisations is planning a move to South Belfast. The Black Mountain Zen Centre, located in the city centre, is hoping a move to the south of the city will help accommodate the group’s booming membership numbers.

Last week, the South Belfast News revealed one of the area’s most iconic local churches – the First Church of Christ, Scientist on University Avenue was up for sale. A spokesman for Black Mountain Zen said the building – designed by one of Europe’s most famous church architects – would make a “perfect” home for the group.

Frank Liddy who has been a practising buddhist for over two decades, said the group had “outgrown” their current base, and were aiming to make multi-cultural South Belfast their new home.

“We are very interested in the building and think it would make a perfect location for us, so we’re looking into it,” Frank said about the iconic church which was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis. It is understood a number of other Christian organisations are also looking at the building as a possible home for their own churches.

“As it is we definitely need a bigger premises. We have been in Donegall Street for 14 years, and with our overall membership between 500-600, we have to move.”

South Belfast is already home to a growing buddhist community, with the Potala Centre based on the Ormeau Road. Frank said the Black Mountain group, which practises an alternative form of buddhism focussed on contemplative meditation, would fit right in. He also revealed how the numbers of buddhists in the North has grown since the ceasefires here.

“A lot of our members are from South Belfast, and it’s a great place for a group like ours as we hold a lot of retreats and workshops, and need somewhere suitable. Obviously we are in the early stages of any move, but are looking at all our options,” he added.

“As society changes here, people are more open minded and are seeking alternatives to what has gone before. Since the peace process we have found that more people are turning to Buddhism than ever before.”

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