Last week I was invited to speak about my latest book, Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland: Religious Practice in Late Modernity,’ at the Annual General Meeting of the Fermanagh Churches Forum (FCF) at the Bridge Centre, Enniskillen.
FCF was one of the main case studies in the book, so I was delighted to be able to speak with people from the group in such an inviting and open environment. During my research, I had observed activities and conducted interviews with people associated with FCF. The group served as a prime example of ‘extra-institutional religion’ – a small, flexible organization on the margins of ‘traditional’ religion that is trying to promote reconciliation between Christians on this island.
You can click here to read the full talk: fcf-transforming-talk
The talk includes my definitions of ‘post-Catholic Ireland’ and ‘extra-institutional’, as well as examples of how FCF contributes to personal transformations, promotes reconciliation, and has contributed to a normalization of ecumenism in the wider community.
One aspect of my research on FCF which was particularly interesting was how concerned they were to maintain good relationships with the ‘institutional churches.’ In response to an earlier draft of the chapter in the book, one member had emailed me this feedback:
I think there is undoubtedly a valuable place for the ‘extra-institutionals’ but I think their greatest strength could be in revitalizing the institutional church, which is what I believe nearly all FCF would support. . . . Our institutional churches provide us with a spiritual home where the support of others who are also struggling along their spiritual paths helps enormously. All of our churches are flawed and need change but to me their central importance remains.
At the conclusion of the AGM, a local clergyman remarked that my findings were especially challenging for people in his position – representatives of the institutional churches. I hope the book can help serve as the start of constructive conversations between representatives of the institutional churches, and committed Christians who feel they must work outside of the institutions in order to effectively live out their Christian vocations in areas such as peacebuilding, reconciliation and social justice.