Inter-church Fora grew from tentative inter-church work originating in the 1980’s when the violent conflict in N. Ireland was ongoing and communities were deeply divided. Many Fora emerged in locations where The Irish School of Ecumenics delivered modules of its ‘Education for Reconciliation’ programme.
In 2007 the Irish School of Ecumenics appointed a Support Officer to aid the development of Fora and ensure sustainability.
Fora involve both clergy and lay representatives from local churches and offer opportunities for church communities to give a united lead and play a significant role in their local area. They encourage reconciliation within and between church communities enabling relational networks. Fora are primarily focused on ways in which the churches can cooperate on reconciliation issues and they find a unity through the practice of social ethics, while learning from one another’s faith traditions.
Church Fora have emerged in provincial towns and rural communities some of which were associated with religious and political conservatism, but which are now the locus of creative outreach initiatives and courageous witness. One of the strengths of the Church Fora is that they take seriously the context in which they find themselves, including the ‘brokenness’ of relationships in communities. The Fora are models of Christians doing ‘relational’ and community theology.
The bi-annual regional CONNECT conferences are opportunities for shared learning, for strengthening and nurturing local Fora and engendering inspiration for new developments.
The Church Fora Newsletter provides information and exchange on current good relations challenges and is a platform where Fora representatives can reflect on their experiences. It is a vital means of support for the inter-church groups and for strengthening networks.