A Journal for The Contemporary Church

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Looking for Light: the Lessons of the Exile


the present situation
Matthew Arnold in his poem Dover Beach uses the image of the sea of faith going out to evoke the gradual decline of Christian faith in England in the nineteenth century. Something similar has happened in Ireland in the past few decades. The tide has ebbed much more quickly in Ireland, leaving believers stranded and disorientated. Inevitably, we look around for answers as to how the present situation came about. There is much talk about a crisis. The term crisis implies a traumatic event which demands an immediate response. It is often used in medicine in this way. For instance, a patient’s temperature rises to a dangerous level. This is a crisis and calls for intervention. The present situation of the Church in Ireland is more ongoing, so I think that it is better to see it as part of a process.