A unique book exploring how Presbyterians responded to the Troubles was launched in the City Hotel in Derry on Wednesday night.
The first of four regional launches, “Considering Grace” covers the years 1968-2000 and is the result of a three-year project by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI). This sensitive undertaking has involved interviews with 120 people, including 50 women and 77 people from the border counties and North West in general, who tell their stories of how they coped with unimaginable trauma and tests of faith. The launch, heard from the PCI’s Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, and Rev Tony Davidson, Minister of First Armagh Presbyterian Church, who led the PCI’s Dealing with the Past Task Group that commissioned the book.
During the evening there was a reading from the book and a personal response to the new publication by the Bishop of Derry, the Most Reverend Donal McKeown, “Considering Grace” co-author, Dr Gladys Ganiel, was also on hand to talk about the book and to sign copies.
The 264-page book takes its title from a comment that Rev Terry Laverty of Portstewart Presbyterian Church made when talking about the murder of his brother.
It includes the stories of other Presbyterian minis- ters, victims, members of the security forces, those affected by loyalist para- militarism, ex-com- batants, emergency responders and health-care workers, peace- makers, politicians, people who left Presbyterianism and ‘critical friends’ of the Presbyterian tradition.
“Our publisher, Merrion Press, describes 'Considering Grace' as a ‘A moving and deeply personal book, that resonates with wider human experiences of anger, pain and healing and forgiveness.’ The book is all of those things and we have not tried to cover up the variety of views among Presbyterians about the past. The stories are heart breaking and tear jerking, heart-warming and grace filled, while some are heart-challenging and deeply disturbing.” Rev Tony Davidson said.
“From the outset, our aim has been to tell a wider story than has been available to date, to acknowledge both what is good, but also to reflect upon the times when Presbyterians failed to be faithful peacemakers.
“As a denomination we have listened carefully and prayerfully to the voices of people who up to now have not had an opportunity to tell their story publicly. In examining our history pastorally and offering what emerges for the benefit of PCI, the wider Church and the common good, 'Consider- ing Grace' is just one contribution to our response to dealing with the past,” Mr Davidson said.
The first book to capture such a full range of experiences of the Troubles of people from a Protestant background, the book also features leading public fig- ures, such as former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, and former Victims’ Com- missioner Bertha Mc- Dougall.
Moderator, Dr William Henry said, “I would like to personally thank the co-authors Dr Gladys Ganiel and Dr Jamie Yohanis, for this important piece of work, and all who made this book possible, not least those who provided moving personal testimony and often poignant insights in to this particularly tragic period in our history.”
“Considering Grace: Presbyterians and the Troubles” by Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis is published by Merrion Press and is available in bookstores, via www.presbyterianireland.org and other online suppliers.
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