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Church of Ireland General Synod: motion on responding to Troubles trauma approved

19 May 2023

Church of Ireland

Archbishop Jackson welcomes the motion on responding pastorally to the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland

Archbishop Jackson welcomes the motion on responding pastorally to the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland

Troubles legacy

RESOURCES to help parishes minister to those scarred by the Troubles in Northern Ireland were badly needed, the Synod heard on Saturday. The discussion began after the Revd Raymond Kettyle (Down & Dromore) moved his motion, which requested the Church and Society Commission to draft such resources.

He did not have first-hand experience of the devastation of the Troubles, but he did have experience of trying to provide pastoral support for people who had been hurt and traumatised by what they saw. As an assistant curate in East Belfast, he had served with a former police officer whose best friend had been shot and killed in front of him. The pain that this man still experienced was as visceral as when the incident had happened decades earlier, he said. “I wanted to do something, but nothing in my training had prepared me to pastor him.” The man struggled with coming to church because of his feelings of anger and resentment.

Later, Mr Kettyle had served in a mixed parish of Nationalists and Unionists, where many knew victims from the Troubles. The Church must not be complicit in treating the Troubles as a kind of “dark stain on the carpet of our history” and pretend that this was all behind them, he said; there were probably people in every Northern Irish parish affected by the Troubles.

The Revd James Boyd (Connor) seconded the motion, and recounted how his teenage daughter today studied the Troubles in history at school, while, at the same age, his wife had experienced her father’s murder by the IRA. “No one wants to return to the violence of the past, but we need to deal with the legacy of the Troubles,” he said. The Church should help people not simply to survive this trauma, but to thrive.

The Dean of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, the Very Revd Stephen Forde, supported the motion, saying how personal it was for so many in the Church of Ireland. Moving on should not mean forgetting those caught up in acts of violence, he said; remembrance was powerful, and the motion would help ministries assisting people to move from being victims to survivors, and to remember well.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said that all Synod members would be moved with compassion on hearing these stories. Time after time, the Church served families who could not talk or hear about things which had been unaddressed from the Troubles. He supported the motion, and said that the Commission would continue to consult with the Synod on how exactly to produce these resources if it carried.

The motion was carried.

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