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Connor Diocesan Young Adult Forum

On Friday 14 November, Norman McKeown and I braved rush hour traffic to head off to the wilds of Fermanagh for the Connor Diocesan Young Adults Forum, held in the Share Centre in Lisnaskea. Arriving slightly late (during the Bishop's opening remarks), we were greeted by the faces of 120 Young Adults from around the Diocese along with the Orwellianly titled 'Senior Clergy and Laity Group' - euphamistically known as the 'Scary but Caring, Loving Geriatrics'. Almost immediately we were thrust into the midst of a charismatic praise meeting, which while it undoubtedly appealed to many, left your scribe feeling slightly off colour.

After that we repaired to our 'chalet groups' - a group of 12 Young Adults facilitated by two not so young adults - in my case Rev Billy Holmes of Billy Parish and Church Army Captain Neville Barnes of Monkstown. In these groups we discusses a number of issues relating to the theme 'belonging' - what it means to be a young adult today, to belong to God, to the Church and to the community, which spread to what it means to belong to Northern Ireland society. I would recommend this format in future as it enabled us to get to know each other and our capabilites in a small space of time much better than would have been possible in open debate.

The only moment of tension came when some group members suggested that the 'Perfect Church' should have a 'saved' minister with compassion for the 'unsaved'. I, in characteristically Anglican fashion, objected most moderately, supressing my urge to say that the 'perfect church' should have a priest devoted to upholding the Catholic traditions of Anglicanism and devoted to the veneration of the blessed sacrament. We eventually settled on the term 'a minister with a lively faith'.

The chalet groups reported back on each topic to a full session of the Forum, often by means of a collage - something which I have to say I was sceptical of at first, though it actually worked well. The final session was a full plenary on Sunday morning.

On top of this we also had a number of optional seminars - from drugs and sex to vocations and evangelism without cringing. For me the pick of the bunch was 'The Family Circle - The Church in the Future' by Rev Geoffery Whithers of Monkstown, where he showed us how all our churches could become 'New Testament' churches regardless of churchmanship.

While our noses were kept fairly heavily to the grindstone, we did get the opportunity to put the 'Clergy Under Fire' - the Bishop gave a very good answer to a slightly different question than the one I had asked. We also put on a concert with each chalet group performing a piece. Many took the opportunity to participate in many of the Share Centre's exciting activities - Archery, Gorge Walking and Viking Longship Sailing. After a hard week at work I took the more sedentary option of watching Ireland get thrashed by the All Blacks.

There was also regular worship throughout the weekend, culminating in Holy Communion concelebrated by the Bishop and Canon McCollum of St. Peter's on the Antrim Road. Thus strengthened, we departed to our various homes on Sunday afternoon.

This was an excellent weekend which raised a whole host of issues and showed how much energy and commitment there is among young members of the Church of Ireland. Whilst planned as a one-off, I hope this event becomes a regular in the calendar of the Diocese of Connor, if not the whole Church of Ireland.

Gerry Lynch

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