in-the-shelter-2When I heard Rachel Kohn’s interview with Pádraig Ó Tuama on the ABC, I was impressed by his gentle humour and his compassion, so I ordered his book. I was not disappointed.

The title comes from an Irish saying “It is in the shelter of each other that people live”. Pádraig is  the leader of the Corrymeela Community in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation.

In the Shelter is a collection of memories, anecdotes, poems and reflections which follow  Pádraig’s journey from a time of confusion about religion and identity to a place of acceptance. The style is informal, and like the very best told stories, engages the reader, mind, heart and spirit.  Although the stories flow easily, the lengthly references at the end of the book reflect the author’s careful scholarship and high regard for his many sources which include the Bible, Lord of the Rings and Leonard Cohen’s song lyrics.

I admire Pádraig’s imagination, his ability to see the good in people and the potential for good in all situations. “…there are always moments when goodness makes its own way to the centre, despite out best efforts” (p25). Pádraig sees ordinary, everyday moments as potential gifts of grace, moments of truth.

The author was raised a Catholic in Ireland. After training for the priesthood, Pádraig was confronted with the conflict between his church’s attitude to homosexuality and his identity as a gay man. He left the priesthood, moved away from home and lived in Northern Ireland, England, USA and Australia.

Working as a chaplain with the Uniting Church in Melbourne, he organised retreats for school children and adults. His book describes teaching experiences at these retreats, as well as his own learning from the students.

Pádraig’s website states that his main interests are in storytelling, theology and conflict. This is certainly true. However, what appeals to me most about Pádraig’s book is his curiosity and genuine interest and love for all people.

 Jo Jordan, South Australia and Northern Territory Regional Meeting

In the Shelter: finding a home in the world by Pádraig Ó Tuama published by Hodder & Stoughton, 2015. ISBN: 9781444791709



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