Last year, I reviewed Siobhan Garrigan’s book, The Real Peace Process: Worship, Politics and the End of Sectarianism. In a largely enthusiastic review, I concluded:
‘Garrigan ends on a positive note, urging Christians on this island to begin ‘the process of worshipping our way beyond sectarianism.’ Considering the ideas on offer in her book could be a good first step on this journey.’
I thought that Garrigan offered thoughtful analysis and a number of intriguing proposals. I hoped that her book would be read more widely among clergy, religious practitioners, and the proverbial punters in the pews.
So I was heartened to read a recent review of the book by Rev Steve Stockman, the minister at Fitzroy Presbyterian. His review is more critical than mine, and raises a slew of questions. I’m also impressed that the book seems to have stimulated his thoughts towards action. For example, he writes:
So I would love a long chat with Soibhán Garrigan about her data and her stretched theories but I would also love to join her in the premise of the book. I do think that we cannot ignore the fact that the liturgies in our Churches and the words, songs and Eucharists we use have played their part in the sectarianism rampant in our society. The ultimate question though is not how that has been effecting worship in the past but how can we mould and shape our worship to break down the walls and model reconciliation. The book made me want to bring all the hymn writers I know together for a summit on the issue. It also made me critique what we do in Fitzroy and again consider bringing our writers together and see what we might conjure.
Garrigan, a Senior Lecturer in Religions and Theology at the University of Exeter, will be among the speakers at a conference on ‘Protestant-Catholic Conflict: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Realities,’ 5-7 September at Stranmillis College in Belfast. Her talk is titled, ‘Using Ritual Studies to Understand Religious Difference.’
It’s the sort of conference where people like Rev Stockman – not just academics employed by universities – can ask those sorts of questions of the speakers on hand.
The conference is one of the crowning events of the Open University’s ‘Protestant-Catholic Conflict,’ research project, headed up by Prof John Wolffe and in partnership with the Institute for Conflict Research in Belfast. The overall research project considers Protestant-Catholic conflict beyond Northern Ireland, including historical studies of Birmingham and Liverpool.
I will be delivering a plenary lecture on ‘Religion and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland: How Can the Churches Contribute to Post-Violence Reconstruction?’
(If anyone has any bright ideas on this topic – your contributions would be appreciated and acknowledged!)
Registration for the conference is still open, although the early registration date (2 July) has passed. The full conference programme and registration forms are available here.