Church as ‘doing life with all kinds of people’: Review of ‘On the Brühl’

On the Brühl, a documentary short profiling the work of Carrickfergus native Rev Barry Sloan in the German city of Chemnitz, has won the best short film documentary at the 2020 Burbank International Film Festival. The film is framed by images of far-right anti-immigrant protests in Chemnitz in 2018. Between the scenes of police in riot gear, On the Brühl juxtaposes those violent events with the warm, welcoming community-based meeting hub, ‘Inspire’, that Sloan helped establish in the city in …

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Love’s Betrayal: The Decline of Catholicism and the Rise of New Religions in Ireland by Peter Mulholland: New Insights on Recent Religious History

In Love’s Betrayal: The Decline of Catholicism and the Rise of New Religions in Ireland (Peter Lang Publishers, 2019) Peter Mulholland offers a frank and often bruising account of the decline of the authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland since the middle of the twentieth century. Mulholland follows in the footsteps of ground-breaking studies, such as those by Tom Inglis (Moral Monopoly, 1987, 1998) and Louise Fuller (Irish Catholicism Since 1950, 2002). What sets Mulholland’s work apart is how …

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Religion, Spirituality and the Search for Meaning during the Covid-19 Pandemic

According to many accounts, there has been a modest resurgence of religious practice in Ireland and the UK during the covid-19 pandemic. Nationally representative surveys commissioned by the Iona Institute and Tearfund found that surprisingly high numbers of people were accessing religion virtually, and that people were praying more. My own survey of faith leaders on the island of Ireland confirmed these trends, as have further polls by Christian Aid, Catholic Voices/York St John University, Dublin City University, and Durham …

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Féile Discussion: British or Irish or both? Unionism, Protestantism and the national question …

The Virtual Féile is well underway, with events continuing through Sunday. Monday, I took part in a lunchtime discussion on unionism around the theme of ‘British, or Irish or both: unionism, Protestantism and the national question’. It was chaired by Prof Jennifer Todd and my conversation partner was Prof Christine Bell. The conversation was framed in this way: Until the late 19thcentury, it was commonplace for unionists and Protestants of all varieties to see no problem in identifying as Irish. The …

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Will genuine reconciliation ever be possible?

Alex Kane is never short of opinions; after all, that is his job. One of his latest tweets has gotten people talking: I’ve spent many, many years, reflecting on the possibility of genuine reconciliation between unionism and republicanism (either in NI in UK, or in a united Ireland). My conclusion: it will never be possible. The chasms are now unbridgeable. — Alex.Kane (@AlexKane221b) July 6, 2020 Alex does get stick for being a pessimist, but I prefer to think of …

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Integrating society, creating shared spaces, enabling conversations

Integrated education should not be perceived as a threat to anyone’s sense of identity, but the sector needs to consider how it promotes itself across all of the community, says Roisin Marshall, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE). She was talking in the latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust. “Integration isn’t about dumbing down anyone’s identity,” she says. “It’s about enabling people to have conversations which are sometimes about not agreeing with each …

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‘My coping mechanism is talking, seeking peace and reconciliation’

  Alan McBride’s personal journey is well known, but remarkable nonetheless. It was in 1993 that his wife Sharon and her father Desmond Frizzell were killed in an IRA bomb attack on the family fish shop in Belfast’s Shankill Road. But with immense dignity, Alan has since dedicated his life to reconciliation and progress, as well as campaigning on behalf of victims. He is the latest interviewee in the Holywell Trust Forward Together podcasts. Alan admits that initially after Sharon …

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In review: why the abortion debate landed where it landed

To begin with, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 specifically authorises Parliament to make laws for Northern Ireland (Section 5(6)) and, in return, the Northern Ireland Assembly to amend laws made by Parliament to the extent that they affect Northern Ireland, provided that the matter has been “transferred” (devolved – see section 6). In theory, there could be an unending game of ping pong as the Assembly asserts its will and Parliament asserts its sovereignty.  Thus the Sewell convention, which is …

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Re-placing Christianity After Lockdown

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near.” – Mark 1:15

“ We will not save a place we do not love. We cannot love a place we do not know.” – Baba Dioum (Senegalese Environmentalist) Ched Myers’ writing on Watershed Discipleship advocates for a Christianity that recognises we are in a watershed moment of interlocking crises of climate, consumption and ecological degradation. He calls for a refocussing of radical Christian discipleship on a bioregional basis of environmental …

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The problem with opening churches too early…

The Minister for Agriculture, Edwin Poots has recently called for churches across NI to reopen following a graduated easing of restrictions, citing novel methods of worship outside of the traditional mass congregation. Surely this is a fine position to take considering around 93% of the NI population identify as Christian? No, no it’s not. It is exactly this siloed approach that underwrites the nature of Stormont’s power sharing Executive and gives out of touch ministers, like Poots, a platform to …

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Church during Lockdown? – From Virtual Religion to Bronagh Lawson’s ‘Belfast: City of Light’

Earlier this week, the DUP’s Edwin Poots suggested that churches could reopen as part of a process of exiting the Covid-19 lockdown. Poots’s comments have provoked debate. Fr Paddy McCafferty of Corpus Christi parish, Ballymurphy, told BBC Radio Ulster that if reopening could be safely achieved ‘we should certainly look at every possible way of achieving that’. Poots’s DUP colleague Paul Givan made a case for opening of churches with large buildings, arguing that social distancing could be achieved in …

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