23 February 2018

A new book brings
back memories of
many cups of coffee

Patrick Comerford

The Interfaith Working Group of the Church of Ireland has organised a consultation on interfaith matters in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, next Friday [2 March 2018].

The consultation is being introduced by Bishop Kenneth Kearon of Limerick and Killaloe, who chairs the Interfaith Working Group, and the speakers include Bishop Toby Howarth of Bradford and the Revd Suzanne Cousins of Moville, Co Donegal.

Bishop Toby Howarth has worked extensively on interfaith relations in the Church of England.

Before his appointment as Bishop of Bradford, he was Inter-Faith Adviser to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs and National Adviser for Inter-Religious Affairs for the Church of England.

In the morning session, he is speaking on the report Generous Love: the truth of the Gospel and the call to dialogue, produced by the Anglican Communion Network for Interfaith Concerns, and on how the Church of England approaches interfaith issues.

I have been invited to chair the afternoon session when the Revd Suzanne Cousins will present her dissertation, Generous Love in Multi-Faith Ireland, which is being published at a book launch in CITI later next month [14 March 2018].

Her book is the published version of her MTh dissertation for TCD, which I had the joy of supervising at CITI. While she was working on this dissertation in 2015-2016, Suzanne also received the Oulton Prize for Patristics, which enabled her to join me at the summer school in Sidney Sussex College organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. The topic of the summer school that year was ‘Christian Faith, Identity and Otherness: Possibilities and Limitations of Dialogue in Ecumenical and Interfaith Discourse’ [31 August to 2 September 2015].

She quotes me in a number of places in her book, and she is generous when she says in her acknowledgements (p 5): ‘I am especially grateful to my academic supervisor, the Revd Canon Patrick Comerford, for generously sharing with me his time, wisdom and expertise, and for his example of living engagement.’

This dissertation was a journey for both of us. It took Suzanne to many places I too enjoy, from Istanbul to Cambridge. Reading it this week brings back many memories of the process of supervision, many cups of coffee in Dublin, and even discussions in cafés in Cambridge and in Sidney Sussex College.

Memories of a summer school in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph; Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Ireland Gazette today [23 February 2018]carries this news report on Suzanne’s new book on the back page:

Forthcoming Braemor Studies book
looks at Christian-Muslim engagement
in the Church of Ireland

Generous Love in Multi-faith Ireland: Towards mature citizenship and a positive pedagogy for the Church of Ireland in local Christian-Muslim mission and engagement is the title of a new book to be launched in March by the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson.

Written by the Revd Suzanne Cousins, the book is the eighth in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute’s ‘Braemor Studies’ series and is published by Church of Ireland Publishing (CIP).

It straddles the fields of Missiology and History of Religions, and is influenced by [Jurgen] Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, [Miroslav] Volf’s Theology of Embrace, and by the biblical hermeneutics and theological ethics of [Paul] Ricoeur (inhabiting the text, equivalence, superabundance and economy of gift).

The author reflects on the creative approach of the fourth-century-saint, Ephrem the Syrian, to interpreting Scripture and teaching orthodoxy. The question of the oneness and plurality of God as a theological concern for some Christians is explored, and whether the referents ‘God’ and ‘Allah’ are to the same God though differently understood is discussed, along with the contribution of Volf and others to this debate.

In addition, the theology and eirenic praxis of Christians who engaged with Muslims in the early Islamic world, including Francis of Assisi, are examined, while the desire of present-day Christians to be faithful in their allegiance to Jesus Christ – to his uniqueness, divinity, and status and identity as Lord – while engaging locally in Christian-Muslim encounter, is also explored.

Finally, the book identifies theological and pastoral challenges and concerns for clergy assisting their parishioners in everyday Christian-Muslim relationships.

In keeping with the inter-faith theme of the book, was extended to Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, the Head-Imam of Al-Mustafa Islamic Education & Cultural Centre Ireland, has accepted an invitation to attend the launch which will take place on Wednesday 14th March at 6.00pm at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin.

Copies of the book will be available for sale at the launch and thereafter through the Church of Ireland’s online bookstore and through the Book Well in Belfast for €6/£5.

A book that brings back memories of many cups of coffee and discussions in cafés in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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