Evangelical Journeys: Choice and Change in a Northern Irish Religious Subculture (UCD Press, 2011), by Claire Mitchell and Gladys Ganiel, was launched on Tuesday 1 November at East Belfast Mission. Glenn Jordan, director of the Skainos Project at EBM, shared his reflections on the book.
Glenn is the author of the 2001 book, Not of this World? Evangelical Protestants in Northern Ireland. You can listen to Glenn’s remarks in full here.
A selection of Glenn’s remarks is reproduced here:
The evangelical community which has helped shape me to a large extent … [has] … been picked over and studied by so many people, as the abundance of the studies referenced [in this book] … bear reference to. … Academics … have pinned [evangelicals] wriggling to the page and picked them apart. Many of those studies have done that analysis, fixed them to the formulated phrase, without much by way of sympathy or the understanding of an insider. …
[But] what’s obvious to me … once you reach … the stories of the people … the book really does take off. And what I learned from this … was here were two researchers who had a deep sympathetic understanding of that community … and also an ear for a good story. It’s made up of stories of people who spoke incredibly honestly about their experiences of faith, some of which have been very painful. …
You [Claire and Gladys] are to be commended for what is a first class contribution to the sociology of religion, yes, but also to the understanding of this often much maligned community in Northern Ireland.
You reminded me of the gentle goodness of so much of evangelicalism, but also of the fear that constrains it so often, and also the social awkwardness of the community that sometimes holds it back and expresses itself in anger and disaffection.
… You captured some of the complexity of the evangelical community, demonstrating for me that there is no single coherent narrative that captures the journey of people, of evangelicals. Evangelical expressions of faith are as varied and different as the people that tell those stories. … For people outside that community that is a message that desperately needs to be heard.
… I think above all what you have done in the book is that you have dignified the stories themselves. You have respected those stories. Whilst you have the objectivity of the academic you have not coldly pinned those stories … you have dignified the stories, reminding me as I read of the heroic nature of the ordinary stories of everyday people who have had to face extraordinary events that have been part and parcel of growing up in Northern Ireland through the history of the Troubles. Stories that don’t make the headlines, but nonetheless are extraordinary ones. Extraordinary stories of people who have sought to make sense of faith, through a conflict here, through the framework of their faith.
…[To those of you here who were interviewed for the book, Claire and Gladys] have respected your stories, which is a serious and deep contribution as well.
[You are to be commended for] respecting and dignifying the stories of ordinary people trying to hold on to faith in extraordinary circumstances.
Claire and Gladys are deeply grateful for Glenn’s complimentary remarks.
They thank him and everyone who participated in the production of the book, all those who attended the launch, and Prof Geraldine Smyth, Head of the Irish School of Ecumenics, who helped host the evening on our behalf.