Prominent clergy from the cities of Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast came together at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, on April 20 for the annual meeting of the North West Triangle.
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, was a key figure in arranging this meeting which brought together Christian leaders from a number of churches and organisations.
The North West Triangle meetings began in the mid eighties and grew out of a recognition that the sectarian violence Belfast was experiencing at the time could be replicated in cities like Glasgow and Liverpool.
The current economic crisis formed the focus for the day’s discussions, but clergy also had the opportunity to tour Parliament buildings and sit in the public gallery and watch First Minister Peter Robinson in action during a debate in the Assembly Chamber.
Guest speaker at the North West Triangle meeting was Sir George Quigley, who addressed the genesis, causes and impact of the current financial crisis. Sir George is Chairman of Bombardier Aerospace and Lothbury Property Trust and is also a director of Independent News and Media (UK). He was welcomed by Bishop Abernethy and introduced to the gathering by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, the Most Rev Noel Treanor. Sir George’s talk was well received and prompted a number of questions.
The economy, education and social justice were among the topics the clergy raised with MLAs representing the Assembly’s political parties who were invited to address the meeting. Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP; Brian Wilson of the Green Party; Mervyn Storey, DUP; John McCallister, UUP and Trevor Lunn, Alliance, all spoke to the meeting about their vision for the future of Northern Ireland and how churches could contribute to shaping that future.
The Most Rev Tony Farquhar, Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor, has been attending the North West Triangle meetings for many years. He said: “The reason this has kept going for so long is that we realised this was not a question of dioceses but of three cities with so much in common. When tensions were very high here in Belfast people realised that these tensions could have split Liverpool and Glasgow in a similar way.”
He said the Stormont meeting had made the television images of Northern Ireland much more real for the visitors. “Something I have noticed at every meeting has been a shared pastoral care dominating and that has come through at this meeting as well,” he said.
The Auxiliary Bishop added: “If I am ever in Liverpool or Glasgow I would always contact people who belong to this group. There is a lovely friendship and spiritual relationship between people and a very strong sense of the communities they are called to serve.”
Belfast representatives at the meeting were the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor, and the Rt Rev Harold Millar, Bishop of Down and Dromore, both Church of Ireland; the Reverend William Davison, Methodist Church; The Rev Dr Donald Watts, the Rev Wilfred Orr and the Rev Ron Savage, all Presbyterian; The Most Rev Noel Treanor, the Most Rev Tony Farquhar, the Most Rev Donal McKeown and the Most Rev Patrick Walsh, all Roman Catholic; and Major David Jackson, Salvation Army
Glasgow representatives came from the Church of Scotland, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Scottish Episcopal Church and the United Reformed Church.
Representatives from Liverpool hailed from the Anglican Church; Baptist Union; Roman Catholic; Methodist; Salvation Army, and the United Reformed Church.