Presbyterian World Mission supports efforts for reconciliation, renewal and service in Ireland through partner churches and organizations and through our mission personnel. Belfast, Northern Ireland, is also one of the international sites for the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program.
Northern Ireland is perhaps best known for its tragic history of violence and inter-community conflict. These “Troubles,” as they are commonly known, have left behind serious economic, emotional and spiritual needs. Violence has reduced significantly in recent years, but deep sectarian division remains a feature of Northern Irish society.
Rapid economic development over recent years in the Republic of Ireland has brought new challenges and opportunities for the churches there. Once an overwhelmingly Christian and strongly Roman Catholic nation, the Republic is rapidly becoming much more secular. Increases in immigration and migrant workers are also leading to a much more multiracial and multi-faith population. In all parts of the island, society and the churches have to wrestle with various living-with-difference issues.
Doug and Elaine Baker
Doug is the PC(USA)’s regional liaison for Ireland and the United Kingdom. In this role he helps grassroots Presbyterians from the United States become involved with and learn from ministry in Ireland and the UK and maintains relationships with partner churches. The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program is one way in which this is done and also trains leaders for the PC(USA). The YAV program is for people between the ages of 19 and 30 who serve in communities of need for one year. YAVs are placed in 11 sites in the United States and 5 sites overseas. Doug coordinates the Northern Ireland site, where volunteers support work with youth and children and perform other ministries in congregations. They also spend part of each week with community projects addressing the legacy of decades of civil conflict. As coordinator, Doug mentors YAVs as they learn to live in an intentional Christian community, serve the church’s mission, and engage in vocational discernment. Doug’s wife, Elaine, assists in the ministries with YAVs and also helps facilitate group visits from the United States.
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has more than 240,000 members belonging to 545 congregations across 19 Presbyteries throughout Ireland, north and south. Irish Presbyterianism had its origins in Scottish migrations to Ulster in the early 17th century. The Church government emphasizes the individual and corporate responsibility of members. Ministers and members share in the organizing and running of every aspect of the Church’s work.
Corrymeela works alongside fractured communities and groups who are finding their relationships difficult, as well as addressing relational, societal, structural and power dynamics. Corrymeela has a residential center on the north coast of Ireland that hosts groups, as well as a community of volunteers and staff. Corrymeela also has a dispersed community of more than 150 members who commit to living out Corrymeela’s principles of reconciliation in their own communities. Corrymeela’s program staff travel to work with school and community groups throughout Northern Ireland, as well as hosting groups on site.
Irish School of Ecumenics
ISE’s teaching and research is centered on understanding conflict and the possibilities for peace, reconciliation and dialogue in many different contexts. The school’s Masters programs in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, Intercultural Theology and Interreligious Studies and International Peace Studies attract students from around the world who wish to further their knowledge and careers in these areas. Our evening diploma in Conflict and Dispute Resolution Studies draws in students who wish to further these skills in the workplace. Our international cohort of PhD students draws on the supervisory expertise of our staff and benefits from the opportunity to work in the School’s inter-disciplinary environment. Our alumni are working in many diverse settings, including international NGOs, diplomatic corps, public bodies, social entrepreneurship, religious and social leadership and education.
New Hope Presbytery [PC(USA)] and East Belfast Presbytery (PCI) have a longstanding partnership which encourages two-way study and service trips for both youth and adults.