THE FIRST shared church to be built in the Liverpool archdiocese was given the go-ahead last week. And a paper on plans for shared churches is to go to the Catholic bishops meeting in Low Week.
By Easter 1982 Anglicans and Catholics in Widnes will have the use of St Basil and All Saints' church if building work starting this summer keeps to schedule. The Catholic archdiocese is paying f170.000 to build the church which it will own. Both churches will pay for its upkeep.
The new church is the fruit of 14 years' cooperation between Fr Patrick Conefrey and the Rev William Broad in the developing Hough Green area. Fr Conefrey put the idea to Mr Broad after he had been given approval for the scheme by Archbishop Warlock.
There are more than 60 churches in England and Wales where Catholics share the use and costs with Anglicans. Some are run under a sharing agreement where the church continues to belong to its original denomination and its use is the responsibility of a joint management committee. At Walsall a Catholic church is being stared with Anglicans who needed better premises op an expanding estate.
To set up a joint management council it is necessary to get the initial approval of the local Anglican and Catholic bishops and of the Church of England parochial council. The use of Anglican churches by Catholics on a regular footing was allowed by an Act of Parliament in 1969. On the Catholic side, guidelines were issued by the Ecumenical Commission in 1972.
At Thamesmead, Catholics can worship in a church side by side with Anglicans, separated by a glass partition. "In the event of unity," a British Council of Churches official commented, "these can be removed."
At Pin' Green, Stevenage. Hertfordshire, in the Westminster diocese, All Saints church is also shared with the Methodists and at Broadfield. Crawley. Sussex, in the Arundel and Brighton diocese, members of the United Reformed Church also use the newly-built church.
The Anglican priest at Cippenham, Buckinghamshire reported after the setting up of a shared church there: "The users of the church include the local Anglican and Roman Catholic worshippers, the Polish cornmunity in Slough who have a Mass there every Sunday, a nursery school, old people's luncheon club, a trade union branch, a table tennis club and a choir who use it regularly, and many members of the local community who increasingly find it useful for weddings, wedding receptions, meetings, dances and parties.
"The local Anglican Synod has met there and there have been Salvation Army band concerts, music recitals and an exhibition of paintings by a local artist." THERE is never a dull year in Northern Ireland and 1981 will be no exception. Ian Paisley is well down the Carson trail and another hunger strike has begun in the Maze prison, Dr Paisley's campaign reaches its climax at the Carson Memorial in Stormont grounds on September 28 — the sixty-ninth anniversary of the original Carson "Solemn League and Covenant". Bobby Sands will be on the threshold of death and folklore immortality within recognisable reach of the Easter Rising.
Those who do not learn from history are condemned to live by its mistakes. The people of Northern Ireland. both Catholic and Protestant, are trapped in the web of history. They are locked into a system and cannot disentangle, Robert Kee in his television history of Ireland hopes that the British and Irish will one day walk away from their prison, The distinguished Irish historian F. S. L. Lyons points his finger to the way ahead for peace and justice: To understand the past fully is to cease to live in it, and to cease to live in it is to take the earliest steps to shape what is to come from the material of the present.
Dr Paisley and the hunger strikers look to the past for their inspiration; Dublin and Westminster now look to the future. There are new political moves afoot between Mrs Thatcher and Mr Haughey which move out of the past of hostility and into an unexplored territory of co-operation. Will the future or the past gain ascendency in Northern Ireland in 1981? The dice is heavily loaded in favour of the men of No Surrender and violence and if they win then Ulstermen ultimately have only themselves to blame.
Neither Paisley nor the IRA want the continuing Westminster-Dublin talks to succeed and so are determined to wreck them by every possible means to drive a wedge between the two governments. They have succeeded up to now if one is to gauge by the illinformed comments of some of our Westminster MPs who echo Paisley's language of a "sellout". A little knowledge of Northern Ireland with no firsthand experience of grass-roots feeling is a sure recipe for disaster. Irish intransigence coupled with British ignorance are the twin warheads in The Troubles.
If Dublin and Westminster fail to move into new common territory then they will be saddled indefinitely with the problem.
They will continue passing the smoking bomb to each other with the fear that eventually it will blow them both up. Northern Ireland must, and will, be isolated as a problem in its own right only if, and when, Britain and Ireland are linked together closer than two foreign countries. Their destinies and economies \ are interwoven. Ireland and Britain will still remain independent of one another, but what Irishman is considered a foreigner in Britain in the sense that a Frenchman or German is. The closer Dublin and Westminster become the more Paisley and the IRA will be squeezed out.
What does this co-operation mean for politicians and church men in Britain and Ireland? Those who preach sectarianism, whether of politics or religion, have nothing to offer our countries as independent nations or together. The desire for a Catholic Ireland with an inbuilt bias in its constitution is as divisive as Paisley's brand of Protestantism. Intransigence in dogma can he as violent and more sinister than mob oratory which preaches hatred of its ecclesiastical enemies.
The churches in Northern Ireland can atone for their past sins if they lead their people out of the fortress of entrenched opinion into neutral territory where human rights and dignity do not depend on one's brand of churchrnanship. The history of the churches in Northern Ireland gives little cause for hope. Of all those locked in to the system churchmen and politicians are the gaolers as well as the prisoners. If one Church leader or politician with sufficient vision and courage could be found then the system would be broken, but where is he?
Closer Anglo-Irish cooperation will mean a patently obvious loosening of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy's hold on the Dublin government, and an awareness by the Northern Irish Protestant that his Reformation mentality is an anachronism and spiritual disease.
Compromise is necessary for co-operation but our ecciesiologies are not only divergent but inflexible. We can so easily be Catholic or Protestant zealots and in the process lose out on being Christian. There can be no peace between the two countries or peoples until there is peace and reconciliation between the churches.
Paisley mixes religion and politics as a dangerous cocktail. It is folly to underestimate his present Carson play, It is nothing less than a determined bid to install himself as "Mr Ulster." a name which he proudly claims for himself. His main enemy is the Official Unionist Party from which he has more to fear than from the IRA. The latter regards him as an indispensable ally in keeping the pot of discontent on the boil.
Paisley with his Bible and his not-so-private army hopes to stand as a Colossus astride any partnership between Westminster and Dublin. "Humpty Dumpty" Atkins feels the lash of his oratory much more than "Charlie is me darlin' " Haughey. His public meetings are a curious mixture of politics and revivalism and the loudest cheer is reserved for the moment when he tells the assembled crowds that he called "Humpty Dumpty" a liar to his face.
Anyone who doubts his power of 'persuasiveness' should attend his rallies. It is, I can assure you, a unique experience. His curious distinction between professedly excessive loyalty to the Queen and his distrust of Westminster is swallowed hook, line and sinker by his followers.
Recently I went to Northern Ireland to discover what support he had. Typical of a growing attitude among the Protestants is that of a former. leader of youth among the Peace People. "I'm voting for Paisley this time." he said, "because I am tired of words. We want action and I'm not prepared to be dictated to by Dublin and Westminster."
A similar attitude was reflected by a young man from the Divis Flats who told me: "We're not going back to Stormont and if needs be we'll fight for our freedom. I'm against violence but if it has to be, then it had better be sooner than later."
The Protestants and Catholics are on the march again in Northern Ireland.
Paisley and the hunger strikers have a lot in common. Now is the time for Dublin and Westminster to play it cool because they alone seem to be coming out of the past into the future. A steady nerve is needed if the hopes for the future are not to be outweighed by the fears of the past.
Michael J. Buckley