Despite inclement weather the annual Discussion Forum held at St Mark’s Parish Church, Lisburn attracted a record attendance.
The event always takes place on the Tuesday of Holy Week, in this case March 26, and was once again chaired by Mr Richard McReynolds, Vice–Principal of Laurelhill Community College.
The Panel of guest speakers was made up of Councillors Ronnie Crawford and Pat Catney from Lisburn City Council; Mrs Kathleen Rogers, Young Parents’ representative of the Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Connor and the Venerable Gregor McCamley, former Archdeacon of Down.
A good–humoured and lively discussion took place with plentiful participation from the floor. The questions fielded by the members of the Panel included the topical issues of integrated education, the role of the Press in a free society, the perception of the Church in an increasingly secular community and the impact of sport on society.
The Chairman and Panel members were welcomed by the rector of St Mark’s, Canon George Irwin. “This Forum is an opportunity for the Church to take the initiative in promoting debate and creative thinking about issues affecting the life of the whole community and to challenge Church members to focus on the sense of social responsibility which is part and parcel of the outworking of a living faith,” Canon Irwin said.
The annual Discussion Forum at St Mark’s has grown over the years from very modest beginnings during the Decade of Evangelism in the 1990s when Bishop Samuel Poyntz encouraged parishes in the Diocese of Connor to make more effective contact with the local community by encouraging debate on spiritual and social issues.
Canon Irwin said: “St Mark’s has been at the centre of the Ballymacash / north Lisburn community for well over a century and has always been a place where politicians and community leaders from a wide spectrum have been made welcome.
“In recent years three parishioners have served on Lisburn City Council and two have held the Office of Mayor.”