For 20 years I have watched, and wrestled pastorally and missionally with what I have seen, as the spiritual landscape of Ireland changed out of all recognition. There is a generation under 40 who are no longer there in institutional Church worship on a Sunday morning.
What happened? Where have they gone? Has anything taken the place of the Church? What is the future of the Church on the island?
This is a book for the day that the Irish Church is in. It is essential reading for anyone involved in Christian Church leadership in Ireland in 2016.
I’ll be speaking about the book this Sunday 5 June at 7 pm at Fitzroy Presbyterian. There will be plenty of time for questions as well.
He also writes:
Gladys has a keen sociological eye on Irish Church life. She has a wonderful grasp of the Irish Church; it’s breadth and depth (or lack of depth). She is interested in new emerging forms of Christianity. In all of this her passion for reconciliation weaves through.
In Transforming Catholic Ireland Ganiel brings together her knowledge of the institutional Church, the thoroughness of academic research skills and her ability to make sense of it all. She does so at a vital moment in Irish ecclesiology.
It does not take any kind of robust research to be aware of the decline in institutional Churches in Ireland, north and south. Whether the Catholic Church’s influence in the Republic or the declining numbers and power of the mainline Protestant Churches in Northern Ireland, something significant has happened in these last 40 years.
What might not have been so well documented is the increase in what Ganiel terms extra-institutional groups. These groups suggest an individualising of religion. However in Ireland for whatever reasons these groups still have links with the institutional church. These links might vary in weakness and strength but they are still there.
Ganiel with her fellow researchers have looked for, found and spent time with a variety of such extra-institutional groups. From Catholic Parish Councils, to Churches Forums, to charismatic groups, to African centred Churches to Monastic Brothers there are detailed interviews and analysis of what is going on across Ireland in Christian terms. I guess part from the title, which never convinced me described the book, my only critique would be that I would have loved a study of a new extra-institutional Belfast group like Redeemer Central or The Village.
Ganiel asks if these groups might just be the transformers of the old institutions but also asks if they the most potent spaces for reconciliation to take place. These new groups are more dynamic and might be more energetic in every way from spiritual formation to social transformation.