A Report from the Newry Disrict Inter-Church Forum on Its Recent Activities
by Brian Eggins, Co-Chair NDICF.
THE politicians at Stormont are having great difficulty in developing a realistic approach to a Shared Future. These things need to be developed at grass roots community level. That is what the Newry District Inter-Church Forum is working at. We launched our initiative in October 2010 with a Saturday morning symposium addressed by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rev Dr Norman Hamilton who discussed the short-comings and problems with the then Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) document produced from Stormont.
Also speaking was Fr Peter McVerry who works with the poor in Dublin. It was attended by about sixty people. Since then we have had up to around one hundred people involved in our events, including Presbyterians, Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Quakers and Salvation Army members.
Our 2013 Annual Symposium is on Saturday 19th October from 10-1 pm (buffet lunch) in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, Newry. The topic will continue to address Spiritual Aspects of Sharing and Sectarianism. One speaker will be Mr Eugene Boyle, co-editor of ‘Adventures in Reconciliation’ and ‘The Catholic Evangelical Initiative’, formerly a Trustee and Member of the Christian Renewal Centre in Rostrevor and involved in running Alpha Courses. The Right Rev Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore is the other speaker who will develop the same themes. Greetings will be given by the Mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council.
During the last year the main events in the Newry District have continued to be the monthly Theological Discussions, attended by up to twenty five people. After a discussion of good and evil we had two sessions considering different types of fundamentalisms. There was a session discussing what St Patrick meant to each of us. We then moved on to having visiting speakers from different traditions, starting with Mr Ross Chapman and Nigel Hampton from the Quakers, followed by Rev Norman Hutton from the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and in June our visitor was the Rev Dr Michael Barry from the Presbyterian Church. Our next Discussion was on Tuesday 1 October on the topic of Miracles, a theme which will continue in November.
Our Management Committee has met once a month. A Community Relations Audit was held in October 2012. The group is strongly and actively supported by the Community Relations section of Newry and Mourne District Council.
Members have taken part in local events such as Women’s Day of Prayer with the Salvation Army, a Christian Unity Week service at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Church addressed by Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor Diocese. Aneta Dubek and Jenna ran a course called ‘A Stitch in Time’ on how to combat racism. Some of our group have visited Dundalk and Coleraine to share our experiences. A group from Coleraine will be joining with us for the November Discussion session
Marie has been running a course TEAM. (Together we Achieve More) Group. They were a group of young from the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland traditions who met since October 2012 and followed a Peace and Reconciliation programme devised by Youth Com, called New Day. She is hoping to involve another church grouping in the programme, next academic term.
We regularly send delegates to CONNECT meetings with other Inter-Church Fora. Three of us attended the launch of the new Irish Churches Peace Process in Belfast last Friday 27 September, chaired by Bishop Donal McKeown and attended by about eighty people including several bishops, the Presbyterian Moderator, two junior Stormont ministers, Jennifer McCann and Jonathon Bell as well as two other MLA’s.