Faith Matters

Unpacking the impact of the Troubles

Dr Gladys Ganiel, co-author of Considering Grace: Presbyterians and the Troubles, with Rev Tony Davidson. An online conference will today consider the themes of the book

THE latest chapter in a Church project to explore the legacy of the Troubles and how the past can be dealt with moves online today.

'Considering Grace' started in 2016 as an initiative of the Presbyterian Church to explore the impact of the Troubles on the denomination but has also expanded its focus to include wider society.

Its work has included a book containing powerful interviews with members of the Church sharing how the Troubles affected them.

Rev Dr Tony Davidson, convener of the Church's peace and reconciliation panel, said that when Considering Grace began in 2016, "our aim was to tell a wider story than had been available to date".

"We wanted to acknowledge both what is good, but also to reflect upon the times when Presbyterians failed to be faithful peacemakers," he said.

"With so much unfinished business around the legacy of our past, it is our hope that the book together with this online event will contribute, over the longer term, to an important wider discussion on dealing with the past, reconciliation and forgiveness.

"If we are to move on as a society, this is essential."

Today's online conference - 'Considering Grace - Unpacking the Impact' - will include keynote addresses aimed at the denomination as well as wider society.

The Very Rev Professor Stafford Carson, principal of Union Theological College, will unpack the challenges for ministry and witness within the Presbyterian Church; Canon David Porter, the Belfast-born chief of staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury and a member of the Eames-Bradley independent consultative group on the past, will be the other speaker.

Prof Carson and Canon Porter will take part in a panel discussion with Dr Gladys Ganiel and Dr Jamie Yohanis, the co-authors of the Considering Grace book, and Dr Nicola Brady, general secretary of the Irish Council of Churches.

Dr Ganiel, a sociologist at Queen’s University, Belfast and research fellow at the Mitchell Institute, said that while Considering Grace contributed to the historical record of people's experiences during the Troubles, "it is foremost a book about the future".

"More than two decades on from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, a generation has grown up without the day-to-day lived experience of the conflict, and for that we are all thankful," she said.

"But they have grown up in a society that is still affected by its past and has yet to find a way of addressing it.

"In our research for the book we found an eagerness of so-called 'ordinary' people to talk about forgiveness, although the views expressed were complex and varied.

"However, I think this signals that there is a societal need to open a conversation about forgiveness, and its related virtues such as mercy, grace and hope."

'Considering Grace - Unpacking the Impact' begins at 2pm today. Details here.

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