Canon Shane Forster will be installed tomorrow as Dean of Armagh and Keeper of the Robinson Library. He is married to Kathleen and they have two adoptive children, Timothy (13) and Emma (9).
Q. Can you tell us something about your background?
A. I was born in 1972, in Belfast, the year often referred to as the worst of the Troubles. Both my parents are from Church of Ireland backgrounds, my father Tom in Co Cavan and my mother Carolyn in Belfast. I have a younger brother, Mark. I was educated at Downey House and Methodist College Belfast before continuing my studies at Queen's University and Trinity College Dublin. I was ordained in 1996 and served my curacy in Drumglass Parish, Dungannon, before becoming rector of the parochial group of Donaghmore and Donaghmore Upper in 1999 and then rector of Ballymore Parish, Tandragee, in 2006. I have been chaplain to four successive Archbishops of Armagh and I am a Canon of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
Q. What about your family life?
A. I met my wife Kathleen in Dungannon when I was curate there and she was the organist. Kathleen was a primary school principal until we adopted our two amazing children, Timothy (13) and Emma (9). Both were born in St Petersburg in Russia and came home to Northern Ireland when they were babies. When we were approved as adopters, we opted for inter-country adoption. It just turned out that Timothy was in St Petersburg and, when we decided to adopt again, we asked that the child would be from the same city, hence we landed back in St Petersburg to adopt Emma.
Q. How and when did you come to faith?
A. My parents are both active church-goers, as were their parents before them. I was baptised and confirmed in Belfast Cathedral and was also a chorister. Faith and Church have always been part of my life.
In the cathedral, the scriptures and prayer, alongside liturgy and music, shaped my theological thinking. When I was 16, I felt a very real sense of God's call to ministry and was ordained at 24.
Q. Does this faith play a real part in your life, or is it only for Sundays?
A. My faith in God gives me direction, fills me with hope and strengthens me for the journey. It's simply part of me and shapes how I think and see the world and other people.
Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith, or a gnawing doubt about your faith?
A. I have had moments where I have had questions and struggles, but have never given up on my faith. God has also never given up on me.
Q. Have you ever been angry with God and, if so, why?
A. Not angry, but at points I have not fully understood why certain things happened. Often, on looking back, the bigger picture was revealed.
Q. Do you ever get criticised for your faith and are you able to live with that criticism?
A. I have encountered people who didn't understand how faith could be such a central part of someone's life. Yet, those occasions have often provided great opportunities to talk about God.
Q. Are you ever ashamed of your own Church, or denomination?
A. Having grown up in the Church of Ireland and served in ordained ministry for nearly 25 years, I am aware of its failings and achievements. As a denomination, I think it has been prepared to acknowledge its imperfections and humbly and realistically accept the challenges before it.
Q. Are you afraid to die, or can you look beyond death?
A. I have no fear of death and live in the moment, but I always look to the future. I trust in Jesus Christ as my saviour and redeemer. I believe in the resurrection and a life hereafter in the nearer presence of God, which will be life without pain and sorrow, but filled with love and light.
Q. What about other denominations and faiths?
A. I have had the privilege of working with the Church leaders in Northern Ireland for many years and the opportunity, through the Church, to visit places as diverse as North Korea and Burkina Faso. I have learned much through listening and shared conversations.
Q. Would you be comfortable in stepping out from your own faith and trying to learn something from other people?
A. It is always important to engage with others, even if they have a different vision of the world. Jesus himself loved to talk and listen to all He met on the road. That engagement with others didn't change His message.
Q. Are the Churches here are fulfilling their mission?
A. The Churches are collectively and individually trying their best, in a rapidly changing world, to fulfil the mission to spread the Gospel.
Q. Why are so many people turning their backs on organised religion?
A. We are quickly losing our sense of community and how we relate to others. Many people still have some sort of sense of God, but in the busyness of life, they have stopped thinking about things eternal.
Q. Has religion helped or hindered the people of Northern Ireland?
A. The 18th-century poet Alexander Pope wrote: "To err is human; to forgive, divine." The Church, through its various denominations, has made many mistakes, due to being made up of sinful, mortal beings. And yet it has also brought reconciliation, healing and light into the midst of division, suffering and darkness.
Q. What is your favourite film, book and music?
A. I always have a crime novel on the go, alongside a biography and something theological. I enjoy action adventure movies and my musical taste ranges from Bach to Abba.
Q. Where do you feel closest to God?
A. In a quiet church building that has been a spiritual home for generations of people.
Q. What inscription would you like on your gravestone, if any?
A. He walked by faith, lived in hope and acted in love.
Q. Finally, have you any major regrets?
A. With the knowledge and experience I have now, I would love to have adopted more children. Adopting my two children has been the best experience of my whole life.