In a previous article for this column, I referred to an initiative by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), which led to the publication of Considering Grace, a book which explored how Presbyterians responded to the Troubles.
To prepare for my contribution this week, I had a phone conversation with Rev Tony Davidson, from First Armagh Presbyterian Church, who is the chairperson of Dealing with the Past, the group within PCI which came up with the idea for the book.
Tony explained to me the approach which the committee took to the project, which included exploring the past - truthfully, therapeutically and together. He also explained how they went about finding people to contribute to Considering Grace.
The book itself, by Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis, is, in my opinion, a "must-read".
It was written by Gladys, with Jamie having conducted the majority of the interviews and transcriptions, as well as providing feedback on the drafts.
I won't say I "enjoyed" it, because the authors "spoke to more victims than any other category", or group, and it was painful to read about their suffering, which for some continues to this day.
I commend the Presbyterian Church In Ireland for the courage and commitment in the way they went about the book, knowing that the Church, as an institution, would not at times come out well in it.
At times it doesn't.
In her foreword to Considering Grace, the journalist Susan McKay writes: "Many people feel the Church was too timid in the face of the aggressive scorn poured on it by Ian Paisley in his belligerent days as leader of the Free Presbyterians."
There were also comments critical of PCI for its lack of support of its own ministers involved in peace and reconciliation.
Two ministers working in north Belfast said this: "We didn't feel supported by the Presbyterian Church as such.
"No one centrally contacted us during tense periods and that was hard."
The issue of peacemaking is touched on throughout the book, with a certain theme running through the comments well captured by this statement: "Quiet peacemakers persisted, because they believed Churches could contribute to peace. But for this to be fully realised, they believed Churches must make peacemaking central to their missions, rather than treating it as an 'optional add-on'."
Standing back from the project, and while acknowledging the criticism of PCI, I believe the Church needs credit for doing so.
As I look at our society, so many organisations resort to spin and presenting themselves in the best light; here we have PCI having the humility to embark on a project which would bring to light criticism from its own people.
How many other organisations have done the same? Let me throw this out: what about some of the other Churches adopting a similar approach and see what comes of it?
Considering Grace presented various challenges, such as how does a worshipping community respond when a traumatic event happened in the previous week.
Several people gave examples of violence taking place in their community and no reference made to it at the Sunday worship.
Aaron (not his real name) had this to say about dealing the past: "Somebody needs to have some vision and take some leadership on how to deal with the past, because it's not going away, is it?"
In this well-written book, we have the example of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland showing leadership and offering one way of dealing with the past.
This week's scripture verses come from the book and were quoted by people who spoke to Jamie or Gladys.
Fr Martin Magill is parish priest of St John's, Belfast
Apt Bible readings
Some Scripture suggestions for the week ahead:
Monday: Matthew 28:20
Tuesday: Ephesians 3:20
Wednesday: Philippians 4:7
Thursday: Proverbs 3:5
Friday: Romans 12:19