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REPORT FOR EDMONTON

NORTHERN IRELAND MIXED MARRIAGE ASSOCIATION

1998-2001

Since the conference in Geneva NIMMA has undertaken an evaluation of its role and purpose. Funding had remained at a static level for six years and the development which grew from the original funding in 1994 had come to a frustrating halt.

An application for increased funding brought a rise from £8,000 to £16,000 per annum for three years. This was not enough to do all the outreach work that we wanted to do, but has enabled us to employ a development worker, and this has allowed us to extend our range of work. Philomena McQuillan, who had been a member of NIMMA for several years, was appointed and she was joined in the office by Meryl Spiers.

In December 1998 a film called ‘A plague on both your houses’ was screened by the BBC in Northern Ireland. It took four Northern Ireland couples, including Anne and William and told the story of their journeys within an interchurch marriage. The film had a very positive impact and showed dramatically how much help and support some couples needed, particularly in a divided community. It certainly persuaded the funding body to double the grant because NIMMA was not meeting the need. As a result Anne and William were asked to write a booklet called ‘Interchurch Marriage in Ireland’ by a local group, which is publishing a series about sectarianism in Ireland. This was a plea for looking at church unity through the medium of people coming together in the marriage of different traditions. The Chair of NIMMA, Nigel, wrote an item for the Community Relations Council News, which has a mailing of over 2000. It featured on the front page of the publication and was responsible for one of the best pieces of writing about interchurch marriages in Northern Ireland by another journalist on the Irish News.

NIMMA has harnessed the energies of actors and writers to promote the challenge of mixed marriages. Two locally well known writers Martin Lynch and Marie Jones, had put on an innovative play called ‘The Community Wedding Play’ which was an immediate sell out at the Belfast Festival at Queen’s which moved actors and audience from house to house, from church to hotel across the city. During Community Relations Week Martin and Marie along with other local celebrities read love poems for a lunchtime event in an old and endearing little theatre, organised by NIMMA. NIMMA got a lot of publicity through this event.

The Annual Conferences have been very popular and we enjoyed a visit from Kev and Bev Hinks from the Australian ICFA. The 2001 Conference was entitled ‘Double Belonging’ and time was spent looking at the future. Tom Layden SJ gave a very inspiring on the subject of Double Belonging and he facilitated a very helpful sharing session too.

The Annual Conference, the Summer BBQ and the Christmas social evening are core events for couples and families to meet informally. The hard work of helping couples and changing attitudes towards interchurch marriages goes on remorselessly between these gatherings.

Having secured funding for a new computer from the National Lottery, Richard son of Nuala and Stirling has worked hard on our website www.nimma.org.uk and we also now have email! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

While we are happy with these achievements both recently and from our founding in 1974, we are aware that we have a long way to go to provide improved support for those in difficulties and to improve the attitudes of some clergy and of our society in general. Many people still consider different Christian denominations to be different religions. Our future plans include a mail out of our new poster and introduction leaflet to all priests and ministers, inviting them to join a Pastoral Network. This idea was inspired by an AIF England publication.

Being part of a worldwide movement gives us confidence to keep up the struggle to improve things for those who suffer more than most, just because they love someone ‘different’! We are grateful for the prayers for our sister organisations around the world and we know that we can rely on them to continue to support us in this way.

May God support and sustain you and fill you with joy in your own work and plans.

Anne Odling-Smee