Aa panel of clergy has responded to a series of questions on the subject of Celebrating Diversity while Embracing Community.
The Larne Tuesday Group hosted the discussion at its November meeting.
The panel for the group’s best attended meeting consisted of Rev Tommy Stevenson (Methodist), Fr Aidan Kerr (Roman Catholic), The Ven. Stephen Forde (Church of Ireland) and Rev Dr Colin McClure (Presbyterian) and was chaired by Tuesday Group chairman Rev Dr Ivan Hull, who put the discussion in the context of Christ’s prayer in John 17 where He prayed for the observable unity of His followers and its impact on the world
Rev Hull said that this unity is compatible with diversity and finds its supreme example in the diversity and unity found in the community of love at the heart of the divine Trinity. The problem comes when lack of love turns diversity into division.
Beginning with diversity, the panel shared three things that distinguished their churches and all began by emphasising the primacy of scripture.
After that starting commonality, the questions challenged the issues that emphasised diversity at the expense of community, beginning with the tendency of Protestants to split from one another, as evidenced by the number of Protestant denominations in the Larne Borough.
Other questions dealt with the extent to which each regarded the other as Christian, whether by praying and working together and even take Holy
Communion together. It was agreed that we have come a long way from the polemics of a former era, which were influenced very much by the cultural and political context of Northern Ireland.
It was also agreed that today there is greater mutual respect and a movement towards greater community, whilst respecting the integrity of historically rooted denominational disciplines.
It was important for all to relate more to each other and engage more in whatever people’s conscience would allow in prayer and cooperation, in showing love and compassion in a world of need.
The session concluded with recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
The response of many afterwards was that the meeting was helpful and showed an honest, welcome and timely airing of a subject that has been at the heart of the work of the Tuesday Group since its inception – building bridges, not walls.
Taking the Tuesday Group into Christmas and the New Year are: Christmas meditation in Drumalis at 10.30am on Tuesday, December 16 with Captain Sue Whitla of the Salvation Army; Unity Service in the McNeill Theatre at 3pm on Sunday, January 18 with Rev Fiona Forbes, minister of Cairncastle Presbyterian Church.
Newcomers are always welcome.