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We could all learn thing or two from clever and respectful young leaders

Fr Martin Magill


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New dawn of young Church leaders is full of hope

New dawn of young Church leaders is full of hope

PA

New dawn of young Church leaders is full of hope

during the week, I took part in a Zoom call with a number of young Christians from various denominations. These discussions take place on a monthly basis, with the theme of '"Faith in the public square'.

The host of the meeting, a well-respected member of the Belfast community, asked me to talk about how my fellow columnist and friend, Rev Steve Stockman, and I had met and how the 4 Corners Festival came to be established. It was then over to the younger members on the call to ask questions and comment.

We had a wide-ranging discussion, including the issue of how Churches have responded during the pandemic, the influence of Church leaders in the public square and the contribution of the Charismatic Movement to building relationships among Catholics and Protestants.

We discussed the part that Churches have in bringing people together and also the prophetic role Church leaders could have in society today.

One of the group suggested the Churches could address together the evils of poverty and, on the pro-life issue, how they could offer material support to young mothers struggling with a pregnancy.

I loved the fact that we were able to talk about sensitive issues, such as the Northern Ireland Protocol and the possibility of a border poll.

We also talked about the danger of some voices not being heard and the need to address fears and concerns with regards to these.

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The discussion of a border poll brought up the wider matter of how politicians relate to one another here and there was agreement that there is a considerable amount of talking at one another.

We spent some time reflecting on the importance of listening and its value and acknowledging how some sections of our community do not feel heard at this time.

Our host shared a quotation from the author David Augsburger: "Being heard is so close to being loved that to the average person they are almost indistinguishable."

A number of those present believed that Church leaders underestimate the power of their voices and were keen to encourage these leaders to exercise this power to promote the common good.

I was very struck by these words, which one of the young female participants said during the meeting: "Too often and for too long, the political debate in Northern Ireland has focused on ends rather than means; this allows us to overlook the fact that often the way we talk about something matters more than any decision we may take as a result.

"As Brexit takes effect, political tensions are growing and legitimate constitutional questions are once again to the fore; it is, therefore, imperative that we resolve to conduct any present and coming conversations about the future of Northern Ireland with a deep respect for one another and our differences.

"Regardless of where we come from, or what our views are, by definition we are in this place together, so how we treat each other today matters more than where we end up in any of our tomorrows. On this one, the journey is more important than the outcome; surely we can agree on that?"

As I reflect on the meeting with these up-and-coming young Christian leaders, it fills me with a sense of hope.

Not only were they were respectful in the words they chose, but also by the way they asked questions and said things.

It strikes me that those of us who are older in our various roles in life might learn from them.

Fr Martin Magill is parish priest of St John's, Belfast

Apt Bible readings

Some Scripture suggestions for the week ahead:

Monday: 1 Timothy 4:12

Tuesday: Mark 9:7

Wednesday: Exodus 3:5

Thursday: Proverbs 11:17

Friday: Luke 10:16


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