Report by the Rev Clifford Skillen
The historic setting of Bangor Abbey, regarded as one of the most important early Irish monastic centres of learning, was the venue for a recent meeting of the Retired Clergy Association (Northern Ireland).
The day began with a service of Holy Communion, celebrated by the rector of Bangor Abbey, the Rev Canon Ronnie Nesbitt, assisted by the RCA (NI)’s chairperson, the Rev Canon Ken Smyth.
Following light refreshments, Canon Smyth introduced the guest speaker, the Rev Harold Good, a former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, describing him as a ‘household name … highly regarded and respected’ for both his work of reconciliation and the role he played, along with Fr Alec Reid, in the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons under the Belfast Agreement.
In a wide-ranging and illustrated talk based on his extensive personal experience, Mr Good recalled his Methodist roots, his ministry and cross-community reconciliation work in Agnes Street Methodist Church and the Corrymeela Centre, culminating in the part he played in the decommissioning of IRA weapons in 2005 which represented a vital part of the NI peace process. To this end, he emphasised the ‘importance of trust’ at all times.
Mr Good went on to describe how his experience of decommissioning in Northern Ireland was called upon to assist with similar processes with ETA in the Basque country in northern Spain and FARC in Columbia. He ended his talk with the assertion that ‘we have showed the world that we have found a better way.’
Following a time for questions, members were served a light lunch in Bangor Abbey’s halls, at the end of which Canon Smyth made a presentation to Mr Good on behalf of members as an expression of their appreciation of an enlightening and thought-provoking talk from a quite remarkable person.