Protestant-Catholic Conflict: Debating Siobhan Garrigan & Stranmillis Conference 5-7 September

image1,238802,enLast 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.

Click here for a direct link to the conference programme.

4 thoughts on “Protestant-Catholic Conflict: Debating Siobhan Garrigan & Stranmillis Conference 5-7 September”

  1. ” 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. ”

    I’d love to know how the prayers of the Catholic Mass could in any way be seen to support such claims as these. Have a look at the Roman Missal here:

  2. Thanks for drawing attention to the conference in September – I hadn’t heard about it at all. I’ve just printed out the the draft schedule and am thinking about attending at least part of it. would you place a direct link to the full programme from your blog?

    Like Martin I’m also wondering about the “words, songs and Eucharists” in the Mass contributing to sectarianism.

  3. Hi Martin,
    I’ve added a direct link to the conference programme.
    I hesitate to comment on a direct quote from Steve Stockman 🙂 about the ‘words, songs and Eucharistists,’ but the way I read what he wrote is that ‘eucharists’ doesn’t necessarily have to exclusively mean the Catholic mass in this case (though it might). He is also probably referring to Protestant communion or eucharistic services.
    I would think, though, that as the Catholic Eucharist is unavoidably exclusive, to the point that other Christians are not permitted to take part, that this sends at least a symbolic message that somehow they are not ‘real’ Christians. This doesn’t do much to transcend sectarianism. One thing I really appreciate about masses I have attended at Holy Cross Monastery in Rostrevor is that in their prayers during Eucharist, the monks always pray for the leaders of the Protestant churches and the Protestant churches, along with the leaders of the Catholic Church. It’s not breaking any Vatican rules, but at least it is communicating to the listeners that Christians outside of the Catholic Church are ‘real’ Christians too.

  4. Why does the Church practice closed Communion? If unity is caused by sharing in the Lord’s Table, then why not let everybody receive, whether they are Catholic or not?

    Because unity is not caused by sharing in the Lord’s Table any more than a marriage is caused by intercourse. For those who are out of full communion with the Catholic Church, the spiritual unity must happen first (by entering into full unity with the Church through the rites of initiation), just as those who are not married must be married before they can enter into bodily unity. In both cases, the physical unity naturally flows from the spiritual unity. Eucharist strengthens the unity of the Body of Christ, just as the marriage act strengthens the sacrament of matrimony. But we must do first things first!

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