Faith Matters

Church leaders share centenary reflections in podcast series

REFLECTING: Today's Service of Reflection and Hope at St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh has been organised by the leaders of Ireland's main Churches

TO coincide with today's Service of Reflection and Hope in Armagh, Ireland's Church leaders have released a podcast series exploring various aspects of the centenary under the theme of 'Identity and Belonging: Past, Present, Future'.

Together, the five podcasts - each hosted by a Church leader - help to give a fuller idea of the breadth of their engagement with the issues arising from the "centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland", as they have carefully described it.

The sensitivities around today's event are already well documented - not least in commentary around President Michael D Higgins's decision not to attend - but the podcast conversations don't attempt to dodge the issues with which society must grapple with, including reconciliation, identity and the legacy of the Troubles.

In his episode, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin reflects on the particular challenges marking the centenary pose for the Catholic, nationalist community.

He is joined by Irish language educator Linda Ervine who shares her experience of working to cultivate an appreciation for the Irish language in the Protestant, unionist community.

"I feel a sadness that courageous people [like Linda] who just gently try to inch us forward meet with such misrepresentation, misunderstanding," says Dr Martin.

"But I do believe that when people want to do good things, to bring people closer together, to build reconciliation, that the Lord will be with them."

Presbyterian Moderator Dr David Bruce's episode considers the impact of violence and our duty of care to those living with the trauma of its aftermath.

He discusses the issue with Beryl Quigley, whose husband was murdered in 1984, and Dr Gilly Carson, who worked in A&E during some of the worst years of the Troubles.

Dr Ivan Patterson, President of the Irish Council of Churches, talks about how "the future is in the hands of our young people... we need to engage with our youth and bring them into those spaces where they can engage and cross borders".

He is in conversation with two youth workers from Youth Link NI, Chris Clague and Aoibhin McNeill.

Methodist President Dr Sahr Yambasu - who will preach at today's service - talks with Bishop Sarah Groves of the Moravian Church about the importance of inter-church relationships and respect for diversity.

"Because we are leaders there are many in our churches who actually trust us and who look to us for leadership," he observes.

"If we do cooperate. If we send a message not just by word in the pulpit but through the way we engage with others and encourage our parishioners and our congregations to engage with others, I think we can have a huge amount of influence."

In a podcast to be released tomorrow, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell talks about the challenges of Brexit with Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.

The podcasts can be accessed on or by searching for 'Church Leaders Group Ireland' on podcast providers.

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