We are living at a time of significant religious, political and economic change in the Western world. Churches are no longer at the centre of power in the public square and have been pushed, or exiled, to the margins of civic society. This is now the experience of Irish churches, which is also an experience of the collapse of moral authority and belief systems.
The biblical experience of exile provides a rich metaphor for those grappling with the changing social context and the challenges to faith presented by this new reality. For the Hebrew people the exile was an experience of dislocation and redefinition, death and re-birth, endings and fresh beginnings. It became an experience of enormous creativity and re-imagination.
This historical experience as a model for doing theology and being church in the Western historical and socio-political context is what makes this book distinctive. The challenge for contemporary church is to be a counter-cultural movement, which in humility dares to embody otherness in the secular and public here and now. Drawing on the primary motif of the biblical exile, and by exploring diverse models of church from the past and the present, the potential for a creative and subversive faith is offered.
This is a book that moves beyond confessional, scholastic and pietistic theologies and theological practice, which has contributed to a history of domination, violence and sectarianism. From the margins of exile, hope and creativity, more authentic expressions of faith are possible in a critical time.
Cathy Higgins is a native of Portstewart. She is currently a Senior Researcher, Writer and Educator, with the Ethical and Shared Remembering Project of the Junction, Derry/Londonderry. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin. This book was written while she was a lecturer in Community Theological Education with the Irish School of Ecumenics, Belfast, and developed out of her design and engagement with the Women and Peace-building programme. Her areas of interest include feminist theology and contemporary expressions of church that are committed to collaborative engagement with the ethical challenges for social justice and peace-building.